During the last eight months, we have been planning and working on the development of a new group of the Interfaith Encounter Association. This is a group of students from Bethlehem University and from the Hebrew University.
We first had a few encounters for a core group of 6-7 people. During the months February-April 2010, this group met five times in different places: at the Everest Hotel located in Beit Jalla, in Talitha Qumi and in Jerusalem, in order to plan the first meetings of the larger group. During those meetings, we developed a close connection between the members of the core group. We became friends and meet regularly. We faced several problems while trying to create the group, but it made us feel more acutely the need for this group.
In March we had a preparation meeting, at the Hebrew university, in order to prevent technical problems during the first group's encounter. Unfortunately, the first meeting of the whole group was canceled, after a few days of fighting and riots in the area. The students of Bethlehem were facing objection to the idea of meeting Israelis and we decided to postpone the first meeting.
A month later, we called another meeting and set everything for it to succeed. When Nour, the Bethlehem coordinator, went to bring the permits from the Civil Administration, we faced a technical problem: For some reason, we got the permits for the wrong hours of the day. The Palestinians couldn’t make it to the meeting, so the Israelis met for a short time and talked about their expectations from the encounters.
The coordinators met each other once more, and finally we had the first meeting of the Bethlehem-Jerusalem group on May 23rd, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
After enjoying the refreshments, we introduced each other and had some warm-up games. Later on, the group split into two groups, and we decided about the topics we would like to discuss on the next meetings.
By the end of the encounter, we had a wonderful tour around Mount Scopus Campus. We saw the beautiful views of Jerusalem and the mounts of Jordan, and also visited the synagogue of the campus.
On the second time we also met at the HU in Jerusalem, on July 4th. Some of the Palestinian students couldn’t come, because their permissions were washed accidentally after being forgotten in the pants of the person who picked them up from the Civil Administration…
The topic was "our roots". Yif’at and Rahhal introduced a short presentation about the Palestinian history and about the Jewish history.
Afterwards, every person shared his or her family story.
The meeting was very moving and we were excited to share our stories and to listen to others’ stories.
After a few days the coordinators met again and had a nice walk along the road of Ein Lavan Spring (near Walaje)
Our third encounter took place in Bethlehem! This was the first time since the formation of IEA that we were able to obtain permits for Israelis to go into a Palestinian city and we were very excited about it! The report from this encounter will be circulated soon.
This new group was created thank to the work ofYael, Henri, Nour, Noy and Ward from the IEA.
The 30th retreat of Israeli-Palestinian interfaith encounter took place on Thursday and Friday, June 10th and 11th, in the charming guest house of the Austrian Hospice, at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. We are grateful to them for their wonderful hospitality. The retreat was jointly organized by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Palestinian Peace Club from Yata (south of Hebron). The theme was: marriage.
The retreat did not start on time. Technical difficulties resulted in late receipt by the Palestinian participants of their entry permits to Jerusalem. So we first met each other during dinner. After dinner we squeezed two sessions into one: we briefly introduced the two organizations and the guidelines for our conversation during the retreat. Then we quickly introduced ourselves and heard a short presentation of the Jewish perspective by Ms. Shirel Guez. All this briefness left us nearly an hour and a half for good conversation in small groups – including more detailed self-introduction, sharing by each of us of a marriage story that moved us and a conversation following on the Jewish presentation. Conversation continued long after the session officially ended.
The morning started with the Muslim presentation by Mr. Raed Abu Eid and the Christian presentation by Ms. Raffaela Corrias. Participants then went back to the small groups to continue the conversation, for about an hour and a half, until they broke for coffee and cake.
After the break we gathered together for the closing circle, in which each of us shared a short sentence about what he or she is taking back home from the retreat. We went down for lunch and then fare welled warmly from our new friends.
The Interfaith Encounter Association
P.O.Box 3814, Jerusalem 91037, Israel
Ms. Evelyne Savir (Chair)
Dr. Shlomo Alon
Ms. Nadia Tutunji-Nuseibeh
Ms. Saheer Siam
Mr. Rizk Azam
Ms. Randa Zreik-Sabag
Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director
Mr. Salah Alladin, Assistant Director
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THE INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION. SUPPORT ONE OR MORE OF OUR PROGRAMS AND JOIN US AS A MEMBER IN WORKING FOR INTERFAITH UNDERSTANDING AND PEACE.
All contributions are welcome, small and large!
You and others are welcome to join our e-mailing lists by sending a blank message to:
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Please note that the reports we send out do not necessarily represent the views of the Interfaith Encounter Association or even of the people who wrote them. The reports represent the views of the people who attended an encounter and their primary purpose is to give you a glimpse of what happened in the encounter.
On the weekend of February 19-20 2010, the Gush Etzion Interfaith Encounter group held a retreat in Nes Amim, with 15 Palestinians and 17 Jews who came with their children to talk together about "Happiness and Joy" in the religions.
Before reaching Nes Amim we stopped at the beach north of Acre and then we began to get to know each other better and learn more about the Interfaith Encounter Association that organized this encounter.
Then we went to Nes Amim and talked about happiness in the Jewish religion. Rabbi Elhanan said that the Jewish religion encourages us to bring happiness into the souls of people, especially in the Holidays.
On the second day, Ribhi – one of the group's coordinators – talked about happiness in Islam and said that the Muslim religion also encourages making people happy, especially in the Muslim Holidays and special occasions like birth and marriage. Also in everyday life and especially to make the children happy.
The group divided into two groups that discussed the theme of happiness according to every one's view and interpretation. Participants also talked about bringing to religions together on the theme of happiness.
The Muslims watched the Shabbat prayer from its beginning to its end. The Jews saw the Muslim prayer and learned how many "Raqas" are there in each prayer, how each Raqa is performed in the five daily prayers, the time of each prayer and what is usually read from the Koran.
The retreat also included different types of encounters, according to its program, with interactions that bring the people of the two sides closer together.
The hospitality and food were very pleasant and both sides were happy with the retreat and thanked Nes Amim for the hospitality. We all hope to be able to have more such retreats and deepen the interfaith encounter of the two sides.
The 28th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter was dedicated to IEA's 30th on-going group – the Circle of Light and Hope, an Israeli-Palestinian group that resulted from the 25th retreat, which was also kindly hosted by the Austrian Hospice.
I hope you will all enjoy the update below, written by Rabbi Bob Carroll, who together with Dr. Taleb Alharithy of the Palestinian Peace Society coordinates this group.
The retreat was held at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem. While unfortunately some of us had to leave early because of a family member being hospitalized (we hope and pray for her full recovery!!), we nevertheless had some fruitful and engaging discussions on the theme, which was Nabi Yussuf/Joseph.
The Jewish presentation, which was given by Bob with many very good questions/comments from Taleb, consisted of a very short summary of the story of Joseph as it is presented in the Torah, together with some thoughts and questions. Bob mentioned that in the Jewish tradition, Joseph is primarily referred to not as “Joseph the Prophet” as he is in Islam, but rather as “Yoseph haTzaddik” – “Joseph the Righteous.” This is somewhat difficult to understand, as at many points in his life’s story, Joseph seems to be somewhat egotistical, perhaps even cruel. In rabbinic teachings, his description as a “Tzaddik” is often linked to his not succumbing to sexual temptation… but even in this regard the record is equivocal. While some did in fact feel that the title of “righteous” is greatly exaggerated in Joseph’s case, others felt that if one looks at the story closely, one sees that there is much going on “under the surface”. Specifically, God, in the Torah’s version, is not mentioned very often throughout most of the story, outside of Joseph’s assertion that his interpretations of dreams came from God. But at the end of the tale, when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, he realizes that everything that had happened, even including the things he himself had done as a young boy to arouse their jealousy and enmity, had come from God. It is this realization, that God had been acting behind the scenes all along, which causes Joseph to forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery. Perhaps it was this ability to see God’s hand in history, and to perceive that all that had happened was for good and was planned by God so that the Israelites might live, which indeed makes Joseph into a true Prophet and Tzaddik.
On Friday morning we had to cut our discussions short, but nevertheless had a wonderful informal conversation about interfaith work and the role of IEA, which included one participant sharing some liturgical texts that her synagogue (in the Jewish Reform tradition) had written, and which emphasize the Jewish commitment to the welfare of all people and peace between all people. We also briefly discussed some aspects of Sufi and Christian and Jewish mystical/Chassidic teachings and how they are often so strikingly similar, even in different religions. It was suggested that it might be a wonderful idea for IEA to host an event or retreat focusing on mystical poetry in the three religions, from people like (but not limited to) Rabbi Kuk, Rumi, San Juan de La Cruz, etc.
One participant wrote after the retreat: "Thank you so much for organizing the interfaith encounter at the Everest Hotel, November5th-7th.
It was a stimulating and exciting experience for me, and all the participants clearly felt likewise. It was a unique opportunity to bond with Palestinians across the national and religious "divide", and to learn about one another's respective traditions and culture.
Above all, it was a very significant reminder of the plain fact that we are all individuals, with similar hopes, dreams and concerns."
What actually happen at there retreat?
In the afternoon of November 5th we opened the 27th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter. It was again a joint retreat of the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Hope Flowers School, sponsored by Canada's Networking for Peace program – to whom we are deeply grateful.
We began by briefly introducing the two organizations and their activities, followed by introduction of the agenda for the retreat and its guiding principles. Then participants went into small conversation groups for a session of self-introduction. They first shared their life story and then they each shared with each other elements of the story of Joseph that inspire or move them.
After dinner we enjoyed a social evening with Palestinian flavor of the Oud and singing, followed by relaxed conversations into the night.
The morning of the second day began with the Jewish perspective. Unfortunately, Nachum – who was planned to deliver the Jewish presentation – could not come in the last minute so Yehuda replaced him. He presented the Biblical story from Genesis about Joseph being the son of Jacob's beloved wife, being favored etc.
As usual, after each of the presentations the conversation continued in the small groups.
After the Muslims returned from the Jumaa prayer, Yasser presented the Koranic story, which is nearly identical to the Biblical one. There are, though, a few interesting differences between the stories. According to the Koran Jacob suspected that the brothers plan to harm Joseph and did not agree he will go with them to the field until they swore to him that they will bring him back safely. Later – Joseph refused to go out of prison until it was proven that he was innocent. Joseph revealed himself to Benjamin already when they were together for the first time, but asked hin to keep it secret. The brothers did return without Benjamin but after Jacob became blind out of sorrow – they went back to ask Joseph to release Benjamin. Then Joseph revealed to them, they apologized and he gave them his shirt to put on Jacob's face in order to cure him.
Before sunset we all gathered for a prayers session. The Jewish participants gave a short explanation about the special prayer for the receiving of Shabbat and performed it with a lot of singing, Karlebach style. Then the Muslim participants explained the Muslim prayers and their preparations and performed the evening prayer. The conversations around prayers continued for some time. Then Chana shared a story, coming from the Jews of Afghanistan, about the search for justice, followed by personal reflections of participants.
Dinner was followed by relaxed informal conversations through the evening, which continued on Saturday with some of the Palestinians who returned to visit the Jews who stayed in the Everest Hotel until the end of Shabbat.
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