The theme of the IEA retreat held at the Biankini Resort from Thursday, Nov 20 to Friday, Nov 21 was “Spiritual friendship across boundaries.” The retreat combined an introduction to and practice of Zen meditation with conversations on the theme of spiritual friendship in the Muslim and Jewish Traditions.
Participants were Yeshiva (=religious Jewish academy) students and young Palestinian Muslims.
Imad gave the Muslim perspective on the topic– telling the story about the person of another religion who abused and cursed the prophet passing by his house every day, until one day the person was nowhere to be seen. The prophet inquired about him, found out that he was sick and went to give him his best wishes, which led to dialogue and changed the negative attitude of the other person. This attitude of forgiveness and readiness to help even the person who abuses you is a model for relating to the religious Other.
Killing another is forbidden – according to the Sunna –killing another person it is as if you destroy the temple.
Diversity is encouraged – God created the different nations so that they compete with each other in good deeds and serving God.
The mention of the temple triggered an engaged discussion on the recent events at the Temple-Mount – since Rabbi Yehuda Glick who advocates prayer for all at the Holy Site and was severely wounded when recently shot teaches at Otniel.
Imad emphasized that prayer for all at the site is a religious act only after the existence of a Palestinian state. Before that it is a political act.
The Jewish perspective, prepared by the entire group:
Genesis is the story of all humankind, not just of Israel. We should go back to the original condition where all were connected. Before the tower of Babel, all spoke one language. Diversity is in the divine plan because of its richness, but we have to work towards oneness from diversity. Many people mistakenly think that only they are created in the image of God – which leads to hate and friction. We have to learn to be in God`s image, work as a symphony in the name of God and transform hate into love. The challenges are doing justice, to love and have patience with our neighbor, to walk humbly before God.
Avraham is the father of many nations, and Isaac and Ismael buried their father together. God is our father, we are the children. On the last day, all nations will come to the mountain of the Lord, they will be judged, make their spears into ploughs, there will be peace (Isaiah 2, Mica 4). After each nation fulfills its task they will all come to the Holy Mountain – the one place to bring life and to heal the world.
This triggered further discussion on the Temple Mount. According to some Muslim understanding, Isaiah`s prophecy is about the end of the world, the mountain is the judgment place, Issa (Jesus) will coma as Messiah, there will be a great tribulation and then the establishment of a World Caliphate. In Jewish understanding, the Messiah does not necessarily have to be a person – it can be a new way of existence, a new age.
It was pointed out that in Islam, we are not called children of God, but servants, slaves. God is not addressed as father, only as King.
This triggered discussion on judgment and forgiveness. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at days of judgment, you may be judged like a servant, but forgiven and loved as a son, if you repent and atone.
All participated in the meditations between the discussions, returning from words and arguments to breathing together in silence. At the end, we all joined in friendship in a simple song in Arabic offered by Imad. In the final sharing, participants shared how these meetings are like lighting a candle in the present darkness, how the dialogue is “the first step on a ladder out of a dangerous situation”, how the meditation clears up the “bad things” and gives rise to the “good things”, how it is safer to disagree when you know that you have so much in common, how they want to continue learning about the other – about the stories of the prophets, the notion of judgment (din) and last days in particular, how they are aware that the media splits us apart, but how they want to continue these meetings: “if you stay away from my eyes, you stay away from my heart. When we sit together like this, our hearts stay close.”
August 7th 2014
We met at seven o'clock in the café in entrance to the cinema and we were five Palestinians and two Jews. Also participated the encounter Yehuda and Salah, directors of the Interfaith Encounter Association.
The subject of the encounter was the laws of war in religion. At the beginning of the meeting, we talked about various subjects related to the theme. Then Itamar began to talk about the subject from the Jewish perspective and we were asking them questions. Then we took coffee and cold drinks and I Moatasem spoke on the subject from the Islamic perspective.
At the end of the encounter the conversation flowed to what was happening in Gaza from the religious perspective, to both sides. At ten o'clock we closed the encounter and went wandering in the area together.
The group of Rabbis and Sheikhs met again on 16th November with four Jews and four Muslims.
First we got to know the new people and reviewed several media articles that mentioned the group (the two versions of the YNET article got almost 5,000 likes!) and the meeting of the rabbi and sheikh coordinating the group and IEA director with the Special Advisor to US Secretary Kerry on Faith-Based Initiatives.
Then we moved to talking about the theme of the encounter – Sanctity of Life. Rabbi Yacov started by presenting several key Jewish texts on the theme: Bible, Genesis 1: 27: "God created Humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created them"
Rabbi Akiva, Mishna Avot 3:14: "Beloved are Humans who are created in the image of God"
Rabbi Akiva, Sifra: "love your neighbor as yourself" this is the essential principle of the Torah"
Rabbi Abraham Kook Chapter 1 "For the Perplexed of the Generation":
"That Humanity is created in the image of God, this is the essence of the entire Torah" Bible Genesis Chapter 18
17 And the LORD said: 'Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice.
Then Sheikh Abu Wisam presented the Muslim perspective. The Quran respects others, especially Jews and Christians, and we know that this is also true for Judaism and Christianity. But unfortunately sometimes political issues cause separation between the people, with conflicts that are only between the political leaderships, not between the people. People want security and stability in their lives and for that we should live in mutual respect. There are indeed groups that seek power and wealth and political, not religious, goals, and misuse Islam to justify terrorism. These groups bring bad name to Islam and when we will return to the true Islam they will vanish. We should work together to rebuild the relations between the communities and put aside the mutual harms done. The original situation was good but the British imperialism deteriorated our relations. When we advance in restoring them – we could live in harmony together.
A long, friendly and vivid conversation followed the two presentations. Some of the points that were made were:
Jerusalem-Bethlehem U. YIE group – 6.6.14
On Friday, June 6th 2014 we met for the first time of the renewing Jerusalem-Bethlehem group. We met at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem on a busy Friday.
We had coffee together and got to know each other. Most of the group includes young women, except for Rahhal – the Muslim coordinator. Acquaintance was pleasant and interesting. Participants asked each other about Holidays that passed and approaching – Jewish Shavu'ot and Christian Pentecost. We also spoke a bit about future plans for the group and coming encounters. The encounter was moving and arose good expectation.
July 10th 2014
On the 10th of July we held the second encounter of the renewing Jerusalem-Bethlehem Youth Interfaith Encounter group, a group that is becoming a group of young women.
At the request of the Bethlehem participants, we visited the campus of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus. We went between the faculties, saw the wonderful views one can see from the campus, visited the synagogue and the mosque of the university and admired the view of the Old City.
Then we sat down at the café of Meirsdorf House, for a conversation about Jerusalem. During our conversation the sirens went off, so we had some experience of the war that is going on outside. But I think it wasn't only me who felt that we are in a pleasant bubble of sisterhood, friendship and peace, despite the events outside. With the hope that the next encounter will be held in a calmer atmosphere we fare welled.
Circle of Light & Hope, 5th February 2014, Everest Hotel, Beit Jala; 12 Participants
Topic: Economics in different faiths
As economy and financial topics were concerns of the people at all time, also religions deal with that topic. In Islam, the economy is very regulated by the Koran and other religious books. For instance, gambling is strictly forbidden.
Many banks in the Islamic world apply the religious rules on their business. These banks usually don't demand the money which they lend back, but they will be participating in your business. On the other hand, if people invest in Islamic banks they will not get a constant return, but a return depending on how the income of the bank was.
One of the five pillars of Islam is charity, every Muslim has to give at least 10% of his earnings for charity. Many companies have an account for these purposes.
The torah is not so strict as the Islamic economy rules, but gambling is also prohibited. There is also a discussion, if the community has to look for its (poor) members or everyone is responsible for himself.
Christianity do not really have laws regulating the economy. The bible and other religious literature are dealing with the topic of ethics in economy. One example is the story of Jesus banishing salesmen from the Temple.
There had been times, when the western church prohibited giving loans to other people. At this time European Jews started to advance money. In contrast, the crusaders have been the biggest bankers in the Holy Land.
As Judaism also the Christianity believe that poverty will be on earth forever and this problem will not be solved.
Dealing with this topic one finds two basic criticisms on how religions deal with topics on economy:
Circle of Light & Hope, 5th March 2014, Everest Hotel, Beit Jala; 9 Participants
Topic: Economics in different faiths, part 2
Last time we started to discuss the huge field of economics in religion. As we talked last time about Islamic banks, the question appeared if Islamic banks also serve Christians and members of other Islamic branches, as there usually each branch has its own banks. The answer is, that it depends on the clerk, who is serving the costumer, but usually they are treated the same way.Besides laws concerning loans, Islam and Judaism have rules regulating the selling process. In both faiths, people are not allowed the sell products with too high prices.Christianity doesn’t have such rules as the other two faiths mentioned before, but one has to respect the principle of honesty.As the issue of property is closely linked to theft, we finished this encounter with this topic.Compared to this, Islam has much stricter rules. The Koran has a phrase which allows to cut off the thieves hand, what was common at the time when it was written. Beside other regulations, the punishment depends on the amount which was stolen.
The bible also contains the principle of „eye for eye“, but this was interpreted by the rabbis of the Talmud to mean financial compensation.
Judaism has the principle that the theft have to give twice of the amount which he or she had stolen back to the previous owner. At this point Bob came up with a story about how he went to court in the US after the owner of the flat which he rented refused to give back the deposit. Eventually, the owner had to pay him twice the amount that she had wrongly taken.
Later a discussion about different branches of faiths started. Like Christianity and Judaism, also Islam has many branches and sects, the most known are the Sunni and Shiite. In all three religions many conflicts erupts along the central question who has the real faith.
With regard to real estate transactions, both faiths offer an option to the neighbor of the seller, in Islam also for the family of the seller with a right to get 10% off.
This brought us to the topic of loans in Judaism, where business loans and loans for people in need are treated differently for the purpose of charging interest. Unlike business loans, one cannot charge a person for a charity loan.
In Judaism, the jubilee year had a special impact on the ownership of the Land of Israel. Every fiftieth year the land felt back to its previews owner. However, this rule is not applied today.
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