Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

The IEA works to promote real coexistence and human peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East through interactive inter-religious dialogue. We believe that, rather than being the cause of the problem; religion can and should be a source of solution for conflicts in the region and beyond. We do not believe in blending all traditions into one undifferentiated group, but in providing a table where all can come and sit in safety and ease, while being fully who they are in their respective religions
Jan 8, 2014

Four encounters of Circle of Light and Hope group

June 6-7: Trip to Tel Aviv and Encounter in Jerusalem

After much planning, and with the help of IEA in securing permits for our Palestinian members, our group finally had our long-anticipated trip to Tel Aviv, followed by an overnight stay and encounter in Jerusalem, on June 6-7. We started in the morning, picking up our Palestinian friends at the Bethlehem checkpoint, and met our two new Tel Aviv members, Mariel and Anna, at Shuk haCarmel (might add that we would have been lost without Mariel’s knowledge of Tel Aviv and her ability to figure out exactly where the4 bus driver had dropped us off.) We walked briefly through the Nachalat Binyamin area and stopped for a leisurely early lunch/coffee on the way to the beach. From there we walked to the Hassan Bek Mosque, and although we weren’t able to tour the inside, it did begin a series of informal conversations we had throughout the day about the history of interreligious cooperation in the Tel Aviv/Yafo area. After that we continued along the beachfront promenade to Jaffa, stopping for a swim (which was especially appreciated by our Palestinian members!) and ended up with a walk through Jaffa and dinner before heading back to Jerusalem. (We had planned to also visit the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa but it proved to be not possible, time-wise.) We did, however, talk quite a bit about the multifaith history of Jaffa, and pointed out many churches, mosques, and synagogues that we passed.


When we arrived back in Jerusalem we had dinner at the Austrian Hospice and then the formal part of our encounter. We had planned to discuss the issue of creation of the world (including evolution) and cosmology in each faith, and while we did indeed devote much of the meeting to that issue, an interesting thing happened: during the conversation one of our Palestinian members asked if he could briefly change the subject, and asked the Jewish members present (we unfortunately had none of our own Christian members present) and asked what we thought of issues such as martyrdom, and whether we consider someone like Baruch Goldstein to have been a martyr. This came out of the clear blue sky, and in another group, or perhaps if we all hadn’t just spent so much time together, it might have been a question which would have set people on edge, or at least led to potentially difficult topics of conversation, as members of each faith might have expected to seriously disagree with those of the other faiths present. As it happened, we all agreed with no hesitation whatsoever that Goldstein had been a murderer and certainly not a religious martyr, and as the conversation wound down, we found that we all very much shared the view that no one who deliberately attacks innocents is a martyr, or is beloved of God for those actions, or should be admired by believers. All in all – I think this trip, which had 11 of our members take part, really helped in solidifying us as a group, and we all expressed the hope to be able to have many more such trips in the future!


August 4, 2013 

 In attendance: Gary Cheryl, Gabi  and Dan

Bob was away in the US for this meeting, and due to a logistical/communications problem, the meeting didn’t really take place as planned. Because our Muslim friends weren't there and because there was a large gathering inside the Everest, we sat at a table on the patio. During introductions Dan, a first time participant and an Orthodox Christian, recounted that he was missing a family Sabbath dinner to join us. That launched us into a discussion of Christian and Jewish Sabbath observances (along with Dan's request that we not meet on Sunday in the future.) Note from Bob: We have of course acceeded to his request!

Reported by Cheryl, with some additions by Bob


Date: 9-9-2013 

The subject of this meeting was “Adam & Eve in Each Faith.”

The Jewish presentation began with a text from the Talmud which reads as follows:

"Why was only one single  man created first? (surely God could easily have created thousands of human beings, or at least a man and woman together.) To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world; furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, 'Our father is greater than yours,” since we all descended from Adam and are equally holy.  In later Rabbinic thought there is a view which says that this idea is the main principle that underlies the entire Torah – we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, but the reason why our neighbors, and all human beings, have moral claims on us is because they are all God’s Image.


The Islamic presentation began with the idea that the name “Adam” is from adim, meaning “earth” – this is the same in Hebrew, the word for “earth” being “adama.” Similarly, Hawa (in Arabic) and Chava (in Hebrew) both relate to the root that means “life” and is taken to mean that Eve/Hawwa/Chava was the mother of all humanity.  In the Koran, both Adam and Hawwa ate of the forbidden fruit, unlike the Torah where it was only Chava. In the Koran, both Adam and Hawwa were forgiven by Allah, therefore there is no doctrine of Original Sin in Islam as there is in Christianity. The Koran 4;1 states as follows: “And God said: ‘O Mankind!  Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from Him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women.’”


While there are some differences between the stories as told in the Koran and Torah (such as the snake, who is present only in the Torah’s version) it was very clear to all of us that the moral lessons which we are intended to draw from the stories of Adam and Eve/Hawwa/Chava are very much the same.


Date: 10-8-2013

Topic: Non-Abrahamic faiths in the eyes of Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

Taleb (our Muslim co-chair) began the discussion by saying that Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as “People of the Book” and also stated that there is an aya in Koran which says that the nearest people to Muslims are Jews and Christians, since they say that there is one God. Further, a believer is not allowed to coerce anyone to enter Islam; doing so is a sin. Of course this teaching does not refer to non-Abrahamic faiths, however, one of the last Abassid caliphs rules that a Muslim must respect other faiths as long as they have an unchangeable book at the heart of their faith, with rules and teachings that are not infinitely malleable.  A discussion ensued at this point about the status of some non-Abrahamic faiths that worship animals or inanimate objects; it was pointed out by Taleb that such faiths do not really regard the animal or object as a god; rather they consider it as a symbol of God, who is in all things (on the Jewish side, Maimonides also made a very similar point, though it must be stressed that this certainly does not mean that it is permitted for a Jew to worship anything but God, a point which was also echoed by Taleb – Muslims worship God alone.)


At this point we discussed a quote by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as follows: In Hinduism… “there are many gods. But the theological principles that guide belief and provide a uniformity of moral standards assume that all the deities revered in India and elsewhere are forms of, expressions of, or names for, the One True God.” In light of this, which I think all of us at the discussion believed to be true, it is possible to find a model in which the Abrahamic faiths can consider many if not all non-Abrahamic faiths that exist today to be essentially monotheistic, and in my own personal experience I think this is true for most native religions as well.  We also discussed Buddhism, which does not speak in terms of God, but nonetheless falls under the above rubric in that it speaks of perceiving a deeper underlying reality which is fundamentally a Oneness. (None of us present had any real direct experience with Buddhism, but this was our general impression.)


Dec 23, 2013

International Day of Human Rights - December 10th

Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Jacobovits
Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Jacobovits

Dear Donor,


Please find below an update and photos from an especially successful evening we held nearly two weeks ago on the occasion of the international day of human rights.


This is another encounter that was made possible thanks to you to your caring and helpful donation.


We take the opportunity and wish to all our Catholic and Protestant Christian friends:


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Finally we wish to kindly remind you our request to include the Interfaith Encounter Association in your end-of-the-year giving. You can find information on tax-deductibility and ways to do that on:


Yours, Yehuda



Some 130(!!) Hebrew University students came on a winter evening for a special evening marking the International Day of Human Rights. The event was organized by IEA's local students group on campus: "Interfaith Encounter", in cooperation with the Department of Comparative Religion, under the title: Human Rights in Religion.


The evening was moderated by Ms. Yael Gidanyan, Chair of IEA Board, and Mr. Salah Aladdin, IEA's Assistant Director.


The first speaker was Dr. Yehuda Stolov who presented the Interfaith Encounter Association and its works to promote genuine coexistence and sustainable peace, through joint community building on the grassroots level, using interactive interfaith dialogue as its vehicle. The apolitical and all-inclusive approach of the organization and its activities enable it to successfully recruit a very wide range of participants and thus to continuously build a true grassroots movement which constitutes the human infrastructure for peace in the Holy Land. He also stressed that in the spirit of IEA the focus of this evening will be different. Many times such evenings focus on what's wrong with someone and what THEY need to do in order to improve. Tonight we will focus on understanding the imperative to respect human rights and hopefully go out with higher commitment on what WE should do to improve.


Then spoke Mr. Bill Van Esveld, senior researcher in the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch. He stressed the fact that their work mostly focus on the secular realm, reporting on and to governments who committed to respect human rights on issues where they fail to do so. He gave a few examples of the interface between his work and religion or religious communities. One example was the law in Saudi Arabia which is based on Sharia (=religious Islamic law) but did not develop clear criteria so two people who committed the same violation can be punished differently. Another example was the challenge to recruit support for a universal condemnation for suicide terrorists by all religious leaders in Iraq.


After the two openings we started the panel. The speakers were introduced by Yehuda Stolov and spoke according to the 'historical' order.


Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Jacobovits, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who is the son of Rabbi Lord Dr. Immanuel Jacobovits and Dean of the Torah Institute of Contemporary Studies. Rabbi Jacobovits said that there is no doubt that there are many sources in the Torah for the imperative to respect the "other": every human is valuable since s/he was created in the image of God, why was the first human created alone – in order for no one to be able to say to another 'my father is better than your father' and so on. However, it is important to note that besides the values of freedom and equality there are other values, such as faith, worshiping God etc. and that the challenge to balance all of them. Those who choose to give highest priority to the values of freedom and equality have to respect others, who organize their values differently, in order to prevent the danger of clashes.


Fr. Dr. Peter Madros from the Latin Patriarchate, a Scholar on Christian Theology and New Testament Science who speaks 11 current languages as well as 5 ancient ones. Fr. Madros agreed with the rabbi that religion put more emphasis on duties than on rights, although they are two sides of the same coin as your rights are my duties. For example: in the religious law it is allowed to stone some sinners and it stronger than their right to life. However, the right for life is important as it gives the possibility of repentance. In Christianity there is no capital punishment for religious violations but Jesus puts the responsibility on the emperor to deal with the crimes in society. In Christianity there is the right to freedom and self defense but the Apostles say that freedom should not be an opening for the lasts of the flesh and not shelter for injustice.


Sheikh Dr. Raed Fathi, was the Head of the Islamic Council for Fatwas (=religious ruling) and is lecturer in the Dawa and Islamic Studies College in Um el-Fahim. Sheikh Fathi said that after the death of Prophet Muhammad we have no prophets and every conversation between people is a conversation between equals. An important value in Islam is humanity: every person is born without sanctity or original seen. They can do great things as well as make mistakes. And they can repent for mistakes and haste. The basic approach is that the human is totally free to do what they wish, unless there is an explicit text that limits them and there are only some 1200 texts of "do" and "don't do" – much less than in the civil law. There are three principles of equality: all human were created in an equal way, we were all created to worship the one God, and we will all die and stand in front of God. An important principle in Isla is justice – not only among Muslims but among all people, even enemies.


After the three presentations, a very lively conversation took place between the audience and the speakers. Even after we officially concluded the evening, some two and a half hours after it started, many stayed and continued discussing. Many of the people attending signed up to join IEA groups and we hope that in the coming weeks we will find suitable groups for each of them.



The Interfaith Encounter Association

P.O.Box  3814, Jerusalem 91037, Israel

Phone: +972-2-6510520

Fax:     +972-2-6510557




  Ms. Yael Gidanyan (Chair)

  Mr. Morad Muna

  Mr. Moshe Jacobs

  Mr. Imad Abu Hassan



Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director



Mr. Salah Alladin, Assistant Director



All contributions are welcome, small and large!


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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.



Groups listed from north to south: 


  • Ma'alot
  • Acre
  • Karmiel-Majd el-Krum
  • Restaurant
  • Sakhnin College
  • M'ghar – Sawa Rabina
  • M'ghar – Shibolot
  • M'ghar – Bridging
  • M'ghar – Lana
  • M'ghar – Green Light
  • Galilee Women's Interfaith Encounter (WIE)
  • Jordan Valley College (YIE)
  • Haifa WIE
  • Haifa University Youth Interfaith Encounter (YIE)
  • Gordon College I YIE
  • Gordon College II YIE
  • Gordon College III YIE
  • Gordon College IV YIE
  • Gordon College V YIE
  • Carmel City
  • Wadi Ara WIE
  • Living Together in Wadi Ara
  • Netania-Qalansawa
  • Non-Violent Communication
  • Tel Aviv University YIE
  • Petach Tikva – Kfar Kasem
  • Tel Aviv-Jaffa
  • A/Nahnu – Mt. Scopus YIE
  • Language Exchange I
  • Language Exchange II
  • Haredi-Muslim
  • East of Jerusalem
  • Abu Dis And Maaleh Adumim
  • Interfaith Encounter Tours
  • Prayer focused
  • IEA Reut-Sadaqa
  • Study and Dialogue
  • Jerusalem WIE
  • Jerusalem YIE
  • Jewish-Christian study of the Gospel of Mathew
  • Ein Karem – Health Equality for all People in Israel
  • Jerusalem Arabic Speaking group
  • Bibliodrama
  • The Future – Mothers and Daughters
  • Interfaith Visits
  • Hebrew U.-Bethlehem U. YIE
  • Teens YIE
  • Women's Empowerment
  • East of Jerusalem
  • Gush Etzion
  • Siach Yeshiva – Hebron Students YIE
  • Circle of Light and Hope
  • Midwives
  • Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders
  • Jerusalem-Hebron YIE
  • Jerusalem-Yata YIE
  • South of Hebron YIE
  • Eilat
Fr. Dr. Peter Madros
Fr. Dr. Peter Madros
Sheikh Dr. Raed Fathi
Sheikh Dr. Raed Fathi
Audience listening 1
Audience listening 1
Audience listening 2
Audience listening 2
Discussion continues after formal closure
Discussion continues after formal closure


Dec 12, 2013

East of Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter on November 15th

Dear Donor,

Please find below an update from a recent encounter of our East of Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter group, which brings together Yeshiva (=religious Jewish academy) students and young Palestinians. This is another encounter that was made possible thanks to you to your caring and helpful donation. We kindly ask you to continue partnering with us and consider giving some of your end-of-the-year donations to support these rare and essential encounters.

Yours, Yehuda


East of Jerusalem Interfaith Encounter group

Friday, November 15 2013; between 9:30 – 11:30

Jerusalem, Damascus Gate


We dedicated this encounter to the Holidays seasons in Islam and Judaism. In Islam we dealt in length with the Month of Ramadan and New Year. The Muslim participants began the explanation of the Holidays by explaining the Lunar calendar and how it works and the fact that unlike the Jewish calendar it is not adjusted to the seasons of the year through leap years.

Followed, the explanation of the Islamic New Year, its origins in the Koran and the ways it is celebrated (including going to each of the female members of the family and giving gifts to each of them). The main part of the conversation was dedicated to the Ramadan – its sources in the Koran and its meaning as the month of the giving of the Koran. We learned that Ramadan is the month in which according to the Koran Muhammad started receiving the book. As a manifestation of subjugation of the believer to the Koran – Muslims fast on this month. The description was accompanied by many stories from the Koran and explanations about its current meanings.

During the long description we, the Jewish participants, were very impressed by many stories and rules that are very familiar to us from Judaism, but also impressed by the differences – in the character of the calendar, the place and nature of the New Year, and of course the different way we celebrate Shavu'ot, the Holiday of the giving of the Torah. We focused the next part of the encounter to describing these Holidays. We began from the calendar, stressing that we too use the Lunar calendar but we adjust it to the Solar one. We continued to the Jewish New Year, describing it as part of the sequence of the month of Elul, the Day of Atonement and Sukkot. We explained that these are days of repentance in Judaism – in which each person takes responsibility for his/her deeds and that when they end, after we worked very hard to repent, God forgives us for our sins. Finally we explained that we too have a Holiday to celebrate the giving of the Torah however we do not fast in it but celebrate happily.

As the encounters unfold we gradually discover that indeed we are all God seekers and wish to follow God's path. At the same time we discover that the two religions have very different ways in doing so. Despite the huge resemblance we are different and each religion has its own path to the truth. One of the participants added that we do not fight due to religion but due to our human nature and it is our task to learn how to do it constructively, how to not heart innocent people and how to direct the religious energies so that they are not hurting and offending but joint uplifting spiritual strengths.



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