(JTA) — The elderly Jewish woman and Muslim man whose photo mourning together at a memorial to the victims of the Manchester attack went viral on social media say they have been good friends for over 10 years.
Renee Black, 93, and Sadiq Patel, 46, from Blackburn, Lancashire, one of the most deprived and racially segregated areas in Britain, are members of The Interfaith Forum, a group of volunteers devoted to promoting harmony among faiths and ethnic communities, the London-based Daily Mail reported.
The friends told the newspaper that they had intended to stop at Albert Square in Manchester to pay their respects and leave a bouquet of flowers, but first Black and then Patel broke down thinking about the young lives ended in the blast and remained at the site for a couple of hours, piquing the curiosity of passers-by.
“When I look at Sadiq, I don’t see a Muslim and when he looks at me he doesn’t see a Jew. He is one of my dearest and most caring friends,” Black told the newspaper. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.
“When we were walking through Albert Square I kept asking Sadiq: ‘Why is everyone looking at us?’ I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about us being there together. All I could think about was that poor little 8-year-old girl. God’s been good to me. I am at the edge of life now, while hers should have been spread out before her.”
Patel told the Daily Mail, “As a Muslim, I felt quite nervous about going to Albert Square. You are never sure how people might react to you because these radicalized terrorists have tarnished the Islam faith.
“I was worried we might attract attention, but I was surprised by how much. The atmosphere was so somber and quiet, and we both felt very emotional. Renee was really upset thinking about the poor children who died. For both us it felt incomprehensible that someone could take all those innocent lives in the name of faith. It’s certainly not a faith either of us recognizes.”
Patel, who is a devout Muslim, visits Black, a Sabbath observer, every few days and drives her to Manchester to purchase kosher food.