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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