On Thursday, December 29th, we held an encounter of the Interfaith Visits group in Ramallah. I must say that this was one of the most successful encounters the group had.
From the Israeli side we were four members (since Ahmed, who hosted us, preferred that we have a small group so that we can have a more intimate encounter). In this way we could fit into Ahmed's car and go all together.
On the Palestinian side we also had four members – two boys and two girls. The girls joined us for the visit but could not stay for the following conversation as it became late (one of them lives near Hebron and had to go back home). Being a small group of special people helped us hold a dialogue which was amazing in its sincerity and in the understanding of both sides of each other.
We reached the Qalandia check-point at 3:30pm and crossed easily, with no one asking. Ahmed picked us at the Palestinian side of the check-point and we rode to the city center. We walked in the area of Al-Manara Square, saw the chair that was put there after the declaration on the Palestinian state and took many pictures. After an hour of walking around the city we set down in an amazingly beautiful café – Akasha – for the conversation.
The Jews chose to speak about Hanukah and Eldad shared about the Holiday in the views of religious Jews and non-religious Jews and what each group prefers to stress in this Holiday. Eldad himself, as a non-religious guy, chose to emphasize the aspect of rebellion against a foreign conqueror who forced Jews to worship idols. The conversation then flowed to the issue of the Temple and its location. The Muslims in the meeting found it hard to accept the version that the Temple was on the Temple Mount and said that as they know it was in Silwan. This was very hard for the Jews to hear and after some discussion we reached the agreement that each side has its own understanding and narrative and that we agree to listen and respect but not necessarily to accept the narrative of the other side.
The Muslims chose to speak about the importance of the Dome of the Rock in Islam and from there the conversation went to the differences between Suna and Shia.
The dialogue was fruitful as well as challenging and I think this was the encounter with the deepest dialogue I ever had in the Interfaith Encounter Association.
At 7pm we left Ramallah for the Qalandia check-point, which we then crossed by foot. We expected to have difficulties with the soldiers and that they will be astonished (as usual) to see Israelis coming out of a Palestinian city with a strange permit. They were indeed shocked but did not hold us, just asked out of curiosity what we were doing there, on which we answered: visited…
We returned to Jerusalem happy and satisfied.
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