Training 80 Youth Encounter Leaders

 
$4,350
$8,400
Raised
Remaining
Time left to give:
Jun 9, 2010

Nabi Yussuf/Joseph - 28th retreat

A group conversation
A group conversation

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.

Two in exchange
Two in exchange
Eating dinner together
Eating dinner together

Links:

Nov 30, 2009

"JOSEPH" - 27th Israeli-Palestinian Retreat

Group in conversation 1
Group in conversation 1

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.

Group in conversation 2
Group in conversation 2
Sep 25, 2009

Our Father Abraham

Conversation in a smalll group
Conversation in a smalll group

Our Father Abraham – Father of Monotheism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

A joint retreat of Palestinian Peace Society and Interfaith Encounter Association

The 25th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter started on Thursday, July 16, 2009, in the charming and tranquil guesthouse of the Austrian Hospice, at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. We were a highly mixed group of Israeli Jews of different levels of practice, Palestinian Muslims and International Christians of different denominations – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. We began by introducing the two organizations – by their directors: Dr. Taleb Al-Harithy of the Palestinian Peace Society and Dr. Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Association. We also introduced the program and the guiding principles for the retreat. Then we briefly introduced ourselves in the plenary and split into small groups for more in depth personal introductions. Beyond the sharing biographical details we also shared with each other ways in which Abraham is meaningful and inspiring to us, as a way to deepen the way we get to know each other and at the same time start the conversations about the theme of the retreat.

The first session focused on the Jewish perspective. The short presentation was delivered by Dr. Yehuda Stolov, who used the nice summary of Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky. Abraham was born in the year 1948… to the Hebrew calendar (on which now the year is 5760). He was born and raised in Mesopotamia, in a society that heavily worshiped idols. Abraham thought from an early age that this could not be the real worship and made a lot of intellectual and spiritual effort to discover the real God, until finally God revealed himself to him. His love to God derived love to all his creatures and his main way to bring people closer to God was through his amazing hospitality, open to all. After the person ate, drank and rested and wanted to thank him – he would direct them to the real source of the good things they got, God. For Abraham – belief in God was the ultimate key for peace, as no nation would attack another if they really understood that God is the real source of what they will have. Abraham became a famous leader in his generation and it is interesting to note that according to Philo of Alexandria, Abraham invented writing. After he discovered God he started to combat idols and promote the worship of God. His father Terah had an idol shop and when he left it under Abraham's care – he smashed all of them but the biggest, and put the stick in his hand. When his father returned he said the big idol smashed the others. This was told to Nimrod the king and he through him to a burning oven – but God saved him. God ordered him to go to the land that at that time started being invaded buy the Canaanite tribes. Hi relations also with them were very good and when needed he protected them – both his sward, for example when the four Mesopotamian kings captured his nephew Lot; and by his prayer, when God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. His 100th year was eventful: at 99 he was ordered to circumcise himself and Ishmael, argued with God trying to save Sodom and Gomorrah and had his second son Yitzhak, who was the main continuation, according to the Jewish tradition, of Abraham.

Following the short presentation, participants went to their small groups for a more personal and in-depth conversations around the theme and derived issues, as they did in the following sessions. These group conversations are the heart of the retreat's experience and process.

In the morning Dr. Karam Nasreddeen presented the Muslim perspective. Most of the stories were exactly the same as the Jewish stories. He added the description of Abraham's way to Monotheism. He saw a star and said this is the God to worship but then the star disappeared so he knew it was not. This repeated with the son, the moon etc. until he realized the God who created all of them. Abraham was born in Iraq and then lived in Arabia with his wife Hagar and their son Ishmael. He left both of them in the desert without explanation and in the fourth day Angel Gabriel knocked with his foot on the ground – and Ein Zamzam started to give water, and still does so today. The tribes around came to Hagar for the water and she allowed them to use the spring in return to their protection. Abraham and Ishmael built the Qaaba in Mecca. Abraham wandered to southern Syria (=the Holy Land) and lived between Beer Sheba and Hebron. Lut's people lived not far in 7 towns and the three angels came as men dressed in white to inform Abraham about God's decision to destroy the area. Abraham is most important in Islam. One of the biggest Suras of the Quran is dedicated to him and he is called the father of all prophets.

Ms. AnnMarie Micikas presented the Christian perspective. Abraham is mentioned 234 times in the Old Testament and 72 times in the New Testament. Abraham is in the middle of the faith chain. In Protestantism especially salvation is by faith rather than by action and Abraham is significant as he is the first person who was saved by faith. By having faith everyone can become the son of Abraham. He is also special for forming the covenant with God that does not depend on human deeds. For Christians the most important story is the sacrifice of Isaac as this is parallel to the sacrifice of Jesus. And the understanding of the great difficulty for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac makes us understand how difficult it was for God to sacrifice Jesus. Abraham did not finally sacrifice Isaac, but he did sacrifice his final decision of what's the right deed. Even though Abraham was not perfect and did make mistakes – still he is called the friend of God and the whole world is blessed through him.

In the moving concluding session many of the participants pointed out their surprise from how harmonious the conversation went. Many expected confrontation but the interfaith encounter approaches directed the conversation to be of dialogical nature.

In a presentation
In a presentation
Group photo
Group photo
May 25, 2009

PRAYER - 24th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter, April 30 - May 1, 2009

Playing the Oudi
Playing the Oudi

In the afternoon of April 30th we opened the 24th 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 a story of a personal meaningful experience of prayer.

Conversations were so alive that it was difficult to break for dinner and when we did – they continued during the meal. After dinner we had a joint social evening with happy songs led by Ribhi's oud for many hours.

The morning started with the Jewish perspective. The short presentation of prayer in Judaism was given by Rabbi Gideon Sylvester. Rabbi Sylvester shared a story he heard from his rabbi about a child taken by his father to the synagogue for the first time. He is so touched by the sincerity and intensity of the prayer that he feels overwhelmed with his wish to pray to God, but as he doesn't know to read he reaches to his whistle and blows it loudly. Many are upset but the rabbi says that all the prayers of the community were elevated to God thanks to the pure intention of this whistle. This story stresses the most important element – which is the heart's yearning to God. But one should also know the procedures and follow them. The guiding principle is to remain in connection with God all the time. There are three daily prayers – in the morning, afternoon and evening. They are coming from the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and also represent the sacrifices of the Temple. This represents the past. In the synagogue the praying are facing the ark, which contains the Torah scrolls so represents the present of the full commitment to the whole of the Torah and its commandments. The synagogue itself is directed towards Jerusalem, which represents the future with the Third Temple and the better world which will come with it for everyone. The presentation raised many points of interest and the conversations continued in the small groups. Following the groups' session we broke for the Jumaa prayer and lunch.

The afternoon was dedicated to the Muslim and Christian perspectives. The Muslim presentation was delivered by Mr. Samer Ghaboun. The presentation started with a brief idea about the Muslim prayer and its importance; which is considered the most important element among the five elements that Allah ordered the Muslims to do. Muslims should pray five times a day from sun rise to sunset. There is importance to the way of how to be prepared for the pray through purification ("alwodoo") and it is very important to clean the self before praying because people pray for Allah (God). Samer also spoke about the declaring for praying through alathaan (announcer) and that is to call by the loudspeakers in the mosques. He also explained the way of praying and what people shall say during the prayer.

The Christian presentation was given by Ms. Seren Ghattas. The presentation started with a brief introduction about Christianity and the Old and New Testament, which are the two parts – the old and the new – of the holy book in which the Christians believes. The prayer of Christians can be done any time, unlike Islam which has specific time for each pray. The presentation gave an idea about the bread Christians eat after the prayer, which represent the body of Jesus which is called communion.

In the concluding session many participants spoke to the high potential of interfaith encounter in the building of peaceful relations between the peoples. Many said the retreat helped them regain the hope they lost.

Dec 16, 2008

The Binding of Abraham's Son - the 23rd Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter

Small group
Small group's dialogue

The Binding of Abraham's Son

23rd Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter

The 23rd Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter took place on the 4th and 5th of December in the tranquil Everest Hotel in a remote area in the outskirts of Beit Jalla and very near Har Gilo, a location which made it easily accessible for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The retreat focused on "The Binding of Abraham's Son" and was jointly organized by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Hope Flowers School, with the generous support of the program Networking for Peace of the Canadian Government, to whom we are all most grateful.

The special success of this retreat manifested itself even before we began in two ways. First it was exciting to realize that so many of the participants were new faces. If this was for a minute sources for concern about how well will the conversations go, it soon became a source of further thrill when we saw spontaneous friendly conversation already starting among people from both groups who arrived early.

The structured part of the program opened with introducing the two organizations, the program and the guidelines for the retreat. Throughout the retreat – it was jointly facilitated by Ms. Ghada Issa of the Hope Flowers School and Dr. Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Association. Participants were invited for a social game that led to their grouping in groups of six. In the small groups they each introduced themselves in greater detail than in the plenary. Then they were asked to share stories in which someone sacrificed something for them. The conversations were so lively that we had to invite the groups to continue them over dinner.

After dinner we had a social evening with joint singing in Arabic and Hebrew, joint informal chats and a few nargilas.

The next morning started with the presentation of Rabbi Yaron Durani of the Jewish perspective of the theme. The Binding is extremely meaningful in the Jewish tradition. The request of God from Abraham was especially terrifying from three aspects: a. A true believer is prepared to sacrifice himself for God, for example – in case when he is forced to act against the Torah. But it is much more difficult for him to sacrifice his son. And even more so when this son is the future of the whole nation; b. Abraham struggled his all life against idol worshipers who were sacrificing their sons. Now when he is already old and have a large crowd of followers suddenly he is told to act as an idol worshiper! This is a real danger for his life project and vision as well as to his faith; c. There is a contradiction between the promise to build the nation through Isaac and the command to sacrifice him. A regular person would recognize the contradiction and choose one of the options, perhaps the one more comfortable for him, while questioning whether the order to sacrifice his son did not come from the Satan. But Abraham was the greatest believer so he believed in both sides of the contradiction. Finally Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac as God stopped him in the last minute – because this act is immoral. But why then that God ordered him to do that? God did so as the believer should be willing to sacrifice anything for God. Willing, but not actually sacrificing as the Torah rejects totally the possibility of human sacrifice. In the first days of the Jewish year we blow the Shofar, made of a sheep's horn, in order to remember the Binding of Isaac and that God both wants us to be dedicated to him but also to refrain from sacrificing humans.

As we always do – following the short presentation, participants went back to their small groups (now bigger groups – each composed of two groups from the previous evening) and shared their thoughts and feelings following the presentation.

The next session was dedicated to the Muslim perspective, first presented by Ms. Fadila Eswed. Abraham faced many tests and difficult ones. Abraham saw a vision in his dream that he should sacrifice his son. He told Ishmael and consulted with him – without ordering him to accept. But his son the believer replied: you do what you were told to do and I will be obedient. Abraham went with Ishmael and prepared everything for the sacrifice but when he put the knife he brought to Ishmael's neck – the knife didn't work. Then God spoke to Abraham through the angel Gabriel: you proved to be a true believer and withstood the test. God sent to Abraham a sheep to be sacrificed instead of Ishmael – a big white sheep from Heaven. This was the day before the Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid el-Adha) and therefore it became part of the Suna to sacrifice a sheep before the Feast. As a reward for his withstanding the test – God gave to Abraham another son: Isaac, who was born later according to the Muslim tradition.

Again – participants retuned to the groups and continued their conversations until lunch.

After lunch we were privileged to host Eyal Davidov of the King David Drummers, who brought with him many drums and led a joint drummers' circle for more than an hour.

Before sunset we gathered to have the Jewish prayers for the receiving of Shabbat, followed by the Muslim and Jewish evening prayers, each conducted in it traditional way, facing opposite physical directions (as is the situation south of Jerusalem) but directed to the same God. With the similarities and the differences – this was a powerful experience for many participants who have never before witnessed the prayer of the other.

Following the prayers, the groups wrapped up and we all convened to the concluding session. Brainstorming about themes for future retreats the group suggested to focus on prayer, on Jerusalem and on different Biblical figures who are also mentioned in the Koran (Moses, Joseph etc.) Concluding the structured part was a short summary by each participant. For most of them this was their first encounter with the other and many noted how powerful and positive it was and how much they desired to have more such encounters.

The evening continued with dinner and informal conversations until late at night.

Groups
Groups' conversations
Drummers
Drummers' circle

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

donate now:

An anonymous donor is matching all new monthly recurring donations. Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $40
    give
  • $80
    give
  • $250
    give
  • $300
    give
  • $450
    give
  • $600
    give
  • $1,000
    give
  • $40
    each month
    give
  • $80
    each month
    give
  • $250
    each month
    give
  • $300
    each month
    give
  • $450
    each month
    give
  • $600
    each month
    give
  • $1,000
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Project Leader

Dr. Yehuda Stolov

Executive Director
Jerusalem, Israel

Where is this project located?

Map of Training 80 Youth Encounter Leaders