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.
Bethlehem, December 13th 2013
The Interfaith Visits group, together with the Mt. Scopus Students group, met to visit Bethlehem before Christmas.
We were four Israelis and two Palestinians who met at the Rachel check-point and drove together to the Nativity Church plaza. We set in a café and spoke about Christmas and other issues.
We began by introducing ourselves and continued talking about the snow and how we coped with it. We spoke about Christmas, even though we were only Jews and Muslims, unfortunately without Christians this time. We held a short visit to the plaza, including a visit to an exhibition in the Peace Center, with impressive political exhibits.
January 27th 2014
The people of the Interfaith Visits group met at Netta's home in Jerusalem to watch a documentary dealing with the big fire on the Carmel and with a Palestinian team of fire fighters that came to help.
Most of the people were new – some knew each other from before and some didn't. they were of all ages – from a 4-year old kid to a 60-year old woman…
The 42-minute film was not easy to watch. We held a discussion with the film producers, from the Palestinian news agency Ma'an and the organization Search for Common Ground. Among the questions that came up were: is the film biased to one of the sides? Does it present the variety of views about what happened with the fire or only a particular view? How would we act in such a situation?
It was a very successful encounter and we very much want to invite the new people to join other encounters of the group!
June 6-7: Trip to Tel Aviv and Encounter in Jerusalem
After much planning, and with the help of IEA in securing permits for our Palestinian members, our group finally had our long-anticipated trip to Tel Aviv, followed by an overnight stay and encounter in Jerusalem, on June 6-7. We started in the morning, picking up our Palestinian friends at the Bethlehem checkpoint, and met our two new Tel Aviv members, Mariel and Anna, at Shuk haCarmel (might add that we would have been lost without Mariel’s knowledge of Tel Aviv and her ability to figure out exactly where the4 bus driver had dropped us off.) We walked briefly through the Nachalat Binyamin area and stopped for a leisurely early lunch/coffee on the way to the beach. From there we walked to the Hassan Bek Mosque, and although we weren’t able to tour the inside, it did begin a series of informal conversations we had throughout the day about the history of interreligious cooperation in the Tel Aviv/Yafo area. After that we continued along the beachfront promenade to Jaffa, stopping for a swim (which was especially appreciated by our Palestinian members!) and ended up with a walk through Jaffa and dinner before heading back to Jerusalem. (We had planned to also visit the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa but it proved to be not possible, time-wise.) We did, however, talk quite a bit about the multifaith history of Jaffa, and pointed out many churches, mosques, and synagogues that we passed.
When we arrived back in Jerusalem we had dinner at the Austrian Hospice and then the formal part of our encounter. We had planned to discuss the issue of creation of the world (including evolution) and cosmology in each faith, and while we did indeed devote much of the meeting to that issue, an interesting thing happened: during the conversation one of our Palestinian members asked if he could briefly change the subject, and asked the Jewish members present (we unfortunately had none of our own Christian members present) and asked what we thought of issues such as martyrdom, and whether we consider someone like Baruch Goldstein to have been a martyr. This came out of the clear blue sky, and in another group, or perhaps if we all hadn’t just spent so much time together, it might have been a question which would have set people on edge, or at least led to potentially difficult topics of conversation, as members of each faith might have expected to seriously disagree with those of the other faiths present. As it happened, we all agreed with no hesitation whatsoever that Goldstein had been a murderer and certainly not a religious martyr, and as the conversation wound down, we found that we all very much shared the view that no one who deliberately attacks innocents is a martyr, or is beloved of God for those actions, or should be admired by believers. All in all – I think this trip, which had 11 of our members take part, really helped in solidifying us as a group, and we all expressed the hope to be able to have many more such trips in the future!
August 4, 2013
In attendance: Gary Cheryl, Gabi and Dan
Bob was away in the US for this meeting, and due to a logistical/communications problem, the meeting didn’t really take place as planned. Because our Muslim friends weren't there and because there was a large gathering inside the Everest, we sat at a table on the patio. During introductions Dan, a first time participant and an Orthodox Christian, recounted that he was missing a family Sabbath dinner to join us. That launched us into a discussion of Christian and Jewish Sabbath observances (along with Dan's request that we not meet on Sunday in the future.) Note from Bob: We have of course acceeded to his request!
Reported by Cheryl, with some additions by Bob
The subject of this meeting was “Adam & Eve in Each Faith.”
The Jewish presentation began with a text from the Talmud which reads as follows:
"Why was only one single man created first? (surely God could easily have created thousands of human beings, or at least a man and woman together.) To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world; furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, 'Our father is greater than yours,” since we all descended from Adam and are equally holy. In later Rabbinic thought there is a view which says that this idea is the main principle that underlies the entire Torah – we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, but the reason why our neighbors, and all human beings, have moral claims on us is because they are all God’s Image.
The Islamic presentation began with the idea that the name “Adam” is from adim, meaning “earth” – this is the same in Hebrew, the word for “earth” being “adama.” Similarly, Hawa (in Arabic) and Chava (in Hebrew) both relate to the root that means “life” and is taken to mean that Eve/Hawwa/Chava was the mother of all humanity. In the Koran, both Adam and Hawwa ate of the forbidden fruit, unlike the Torah where it was only Chava. In the Koran, both Adam and Hawwa were forgiven by Allah, therefore there is no doctrine of Original Sin in Islam as there is in Christianity. The Koran 4;1 states as follows: “And God said: ‘O Mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from Him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women.’”
While there are some differences between the stories as told in the Koran and Torah (such as the snake, who is present only in the Torah’s version) it was very clear to all of us that the moral lessons which we are intended to draw from the stories of Adam and Eve/Hawwa/Chava are very much the same.
Topic: Non-Abrahamic faiths in the eyes of Judaism, Christianity, & Islam
Taleb (our Muslim co-chair) began the discussion by saying that Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as “People of the Book” and also stated that there is an aya in Koran which says that the nearest people to Muslims are Jews and Christians, since they say that there is one God. Further, a believer is not allowed to coerce anyone to enter Islam; doing so is a sin. Of course this teaching does not refer to non-Abrahamic faiths, however, one of the last Abassid caliphs rules that a Muslim must respect other faiths as long as they have an unchangeable book at the heart of their faith, with rules and teachings that are not infinitely malleable. A discussion ensued at this point about the status of some non-Abrahamic faiths that worship animals or inanimate objects; it was pointed out by Taleb that such faiths do not really regard the animal or object as a god; rather they consider it as a symbol of God, who is in all things (on the Jewish side, Maimonides also made a very similar point, though it must be stressed that this certainly does not mean that it is permitted for a Jew to worship anything but God, a point which was also echoed by Taleb – Muslims worship God alone.)
At this point we discussed a quote by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as follows: In Hinduism… “there are many gods. But the theological principles that guide belief and provide a uniformity of moral standards assume that all the deities revered in India and elsewhere are forms of, expressions of, or names for, the One True God.” In light of this, which I think all of us at the discussion believed to be true, it is possible to find a model in which the Abrahamic faiths can consider many if not all non-Abrahamic faiths that exist today to be essentially monotheistic, and in my own personal experience I think this is true for most native religions as well. We also discussed Buddhism, which does not speak in terms of God, but nonetheless falls under the above rubric in that it speaks of perceiving a deeper underlying reality which is fundamentally a Oneness. (None of us present had any real direct experience with Buddhism, but this was our general impression.)
Please find below an update from a recent encounter of our East of Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter group, which brings together Yeshiva (=religious Jewish academy) students and young Palestinians. This is another encounter that was made possible thanks to you to your caring and helpful donation. We kindly ask you to continue partnering with us and consider giving some of your end-of-the-year donations to support these rare and essential encounters.
East of Jerusalem Interfaith Encounter group
Friday, November 15 2013; between 9:30 – 11:30
Jerusalem, Damascus Gate
We dedicated this encounter to the Holidays seasons in Islam and Judaism. In Islam we dealt in length with the Month of Ramadan and New Year. The Muslim participants began the explanation of the Holidays by explaining the Lunar calendar and how it works and the fact that unlike the Jewish calendar it is not adjusted to the seasons of the year through leap years.
Followed, the explanation of the Islamic New Year, its origins in the Koran and the ways it is celebrated (including going to each of the female members of the family and giving gifts to each of them). The main part of the conversation was dedicated to the Ramadan – its sources in the Koran and its meaning as the month of the giving of the Koran. We learned that Ramadan is the month in which according to the Koran Muhammad started receiving the book. As a manifestation of subjugation of the believer to the Koran – Muslims fast on this month. The description was accompanied by many stories from the Koran and explanations about its current meanings.
During the long description we, the Jewish participants, were very impressed by many stories and rules that are very familiar to us from Judaism, but also impressed by the differences – in the character of the calendar, the place and nature of the New Year, and of course the different way we celebrate Shavu'ot, the Holiday of the giving of the Torah. We focused the next part of the encounter to describing these Holidays. We began from the calendar, stressing that we too use the Lunar calendar but we adjust it to the Solar one. We continued to the Jewish New Year, describing it as part of the sequence of the month of Elul, the Day of Atonement and Sukkot. We explained that these are days of repentance in Judaism – in which each person takes responsibility for his/her deeds and that when they end, after we worked very hard to repent, God forgives us for our sins. Finally we explained that we too have a Holiday to celebrate the giving of the Torah however we do not fast in it but celebrate happily.
As the encounters unfold we gradually discover that indeed we are all God seekers and wish to follow God's path. At the same time we discover that the two religions have very different ways in doing so. Despite the huge resemblance we are different and each religion has its own path to the truth. One of the participants added that we do not fight due to religion but due to our human nature and it is our task to learn how to do it constructively, how to not heart innocent people and how to direct the religious energies so that they are not hurting and offending but joint uplifting spiritual strengths.
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