The encounter began at 5:30pm on Thursday. We both, Jews from Jerusalem and the Muslims from Hebron, met at Al-Quds Hotel in Jerusalem.
We set together and dedicated some time to get to know everyone. First we introduced Moatasem the Muslim coordinator to the group and then he introduced to them Itamar, who is the new Jewish coordinator instead of Netta. Then each of the participants told the group a bit about him or her self.
Itamar told us about the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot, why it is celebrated, what the common customs are and what people's duties are in the Holiday of Sukkot – what do they have to do and where they should sit. After he finished Netta added a few points and then the group asked questions and for specific explanations.
Then Moatasem presented the Muslim Holiday of the Sacrifice (Eid el-Adha) – why we celebrate it, why is it called this way and what are the ceremonies performed during and around the Holiday, why do we slaughter sheep in the Holiday, how long does it last and what are its prayers. Then the members asked their questions and got answers.
We exchanged information, corrected mistakes we had about each other and learned each other's thoughts. Then we went together for a short tour and ended the encounter at 10pm.
First encounter of the Interfaith Encounter Israeli-Palestinian Teens group, Beit Jalla
The encounter was held on November 13th 2011, at 4pm in Beit Jalla. We were three Jewish Israelis and seven Muslim and Christian Palestinians and we met in the Barbara Restaurant in Beit Jalla.
Since this was our first encounter, at first it was embarrassing and also the two coordinators did not prepare the encounter so we needed to improvise. Finally we found themes for conversation, like Gilad Shalit or the daily resting day in each of the religions: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
We began with a round of mentioning our names so we can remember them and we also asked the Palestinians what were the responses of their families and friends to the encounter and they also asked us. The dialogue was managed with Netta, who mentors the group, translating for both sides, as in this way it was easier to express ourselves. Although this took longer – it was better as in this way every one could express themselves in the language in which they feel most comfortable.
Yehuda, the director of our organization, the Interfaith Encounter Association, joined us. He told us about the organization and directed our conversation and made sure we prepare the next encounter next month. Following the conversation we had we enjoyed and laughed and the ice broke. Finally we fare welled with the desire to meet again soon.
On the weekend of October 14-15 we went to harvest olives in the village of Jayus, near Tsofim and Matan, fine minutes east of Kfar Saba.
The village itself is east of the security fence, but many of its land are west of it. Consequently, most of the village's farmers do not have access to their lands, since they do not have entry permits, and their ability to harvest their olives depends on volunteers.
After leaving the road we took a dirt-road between different fields and stopped near the plantation of Nafouk family, where we joined them for the work. Ali, sports' teacher, his wife and their two children explained to us what to do and offered steaming Sage tea.
Work was pleasant. We used Plastic rakes to bring down the dark olives to the Canvas sheets, and from there into the sacks. The sun warmed us gently and the afternoon breeze from the west kept our weather and spirit in excellent conditions.
During the field lunch we had a spontaneous interfaith encounter. Ali told us about a fable related to Moses, who according to Islam was the only prophet who could speak directly with God. The moral of the story was that the one who keeps well what he has – gains richness.
Launch encounter of Interfaith Visits Encounter group – 28 October 2011
We met on Friday, October 28th, at 10am, ten Israelis in the Rahel Crossing. After a forty-minute delay we entered by foot into the city of Bethlehem. After the crossing we took taxis and went to the Nativity Church Plaza. There we met our Palestinian friends – most of them new to IEA activity.
We visited the city center, the Nativity Church and the market area. We experienced the atmosphere of Friday during the Jumaa prayer. Then we set in a nice café and talked about the sanctity of Shabbat in Judaism and of Friday in Islam. We shared knowledge about customs and traditions related to these special days and how they are implemented in our daily lives.
We celebrated the birthday of one of the new Israeli participants – Shoshana. We also celebrated the birth of the daughter of one of the new Palestinian participants – Abd-el-Majid.
The encounter was experiential and enriching both from the perspective of getting to know the city and from the perspective of our interfaith conversation.
The 33rd Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter was jointly held between 21-22 July 2011 at the beautiful Austrian Hospice in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Palestinian Peace Club from Yata (south of Hebron). The theme was: "Who Can't We Marry?" and it brought together people from Yata, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramalla and Jericho in the Palestinian Authority, and from Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Arad in Israel.
After a brief welcome and introduction by the directors of the two organizations, Mr. Raed Abu-Eid of PPC and Dr. Yehuda Stolov of IEA, and a round of getting acquainted, we went straight to the theme of the retreat: "Who Can't We Marry?"
The Jewish perspective was presented by Rabbi Bob Carroll. The conversation this time was weaved into the presentation, with people asking and commenting.
Some of the points touched were:
The Muslim perspective was similarly studied. Mr. Raed Abu-Eid presented the Muslim relevant laws and comments and questions by all participants were part of it. Points that were discussed included:
Then came the time to go deeper and more personal. Michelle Friedman introduced the following question to the group: since most of us are married – let's create a list of the things that sustain our marriages. Here are some of the points that were mentioned:
One of the participants shared a Muslim story: Prophet Mohammad gave a coin to each of his wives and asked her not to tell anyone. Then he declared to all his wives that he loves most the one who has the coin…
Finally we held a concluding circle in which everyone shared their reflections of the retreat. After having coffee or soft drinks in the lovely garden of the Austrian Hospice, we fare welled, already looking forward to the next retreat.
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