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Feb 19, 2019

Bar Ilan U. group upgrades!

Bar Ilan University is often stereotyped as “The Religious University”, but what people don’t know is that the student body is, in fact, significantly diverse in its religious identification and affiliation. Students on Bar Ilan Campus are very aware of the diversity on their campus, but little opportunity presents itself for any sort of significant interaction beyond the classroom setting. This, however, is no longer the case.


In March of 2018, two students in the Bar Ilan University BA Program, Ms. Sariba Feinstein and Ms. Fatima Amer, launched a monthly dialogue between students of all faiths on Bar Ilan Campus with the vision of changing perceptions, building bridges and creating friendships. Structure of the dialogue followed Gordon W. Allport’s Contact Hypothesis: Equal status between members, ongoing/intimate contact, cooperative goals, institutional support, and finding commonalities with the other. The dialogue was developed according to the model of the Interfaith Encounter Association, encouraging discussion related to religious beliefs, traditions and observances, where it has determined the most common ground can be found. The IEA @ Bar Ilan University was approved as the official chapter on Bar Ilan Campus, and maintained a steady attendance and increased level interest among its participants throughout the remainder of the year.


The IEA @ Bar Ilan University returned in October of 2018, this time as a credited academic course under the auspices of Dr. Ben Mollov of the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences and the Graduate Program in Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University, and with the assistance of Ms. Sariba Feinstein and Ms. Fatima Amer, the dialogue's original founders. Class registration surpassed the initial 20 student limit and was extended to accommodate an additional 10 students. There remains a waiting list of students who applied to the course, but in order to maintain an environment of intimacy, were unable to be accepted for the current academic year.


During their first encounter, students introduced themselves, clarified the meaning of their names in their respective languages, identified their religious faith/affiliation, and shared a part of their culture/religion/ancestry of significance to them.


The course, titled “Jewish-Arab Religious Dialogue” will maintain weekly attendance and feature intensive discussion between members, guest speakers, field trips to various religious sites, and holiday celebrations throughout the year.  

Among the thirty registered students, here is an incredible international representation including but not limited to students from China, Taiwan, Italy, France, the United States and Columbia. The religious affiliation of the dialogue’s members varies greatly, featuring those of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith, as well as students who identify as atheist, non-affiliated and with the philosophy of Confucius. Student feedback is overwhelmingly positive.


Feb 14, 2019

Awareness Day- Bearing witness day

About 15 Israelis from all over Israel and one Vietnamese Zen teacher gathered to come and hear from the people living on the other side of the fence, in the occupied territories.

We met two young men who lived in a small, quiet village in the heart of the mountains and heard about their lives, how much they loved life, cared about the earth and about humanity. Despite difficulties in their lives, their hearts are not bitter and full of hatred. They just want to continue living well. In another village, we had lunch and heard the life story of an older man. He experienced in his life few demolitions. As a child he suffered greatly from repeated uprooting and episodes of violence in all its forms. The hardships he described led many of us to tears and feelings of suffocation.

We then went to another village in the heart of the mountains and sat in a welcoming home. Two young family members opened their hearts to us and to life. They spoke of their desire to live in peace with their neighbors and to get know them.

These experiences shook up some of our group, but there was also something balanced about the possibility of containing both sides of the equation without deciding which side was right.

In the evening, one of the young men called me and told me how excited he was that members of our group listened to him. That was very meaningful to him.

They all received flower plants gift, and after a week, I visited the flower and the people who blossomed in their hearts.

A few days later, a friend who joined me, summed up his experience with these words:

"Yesterday I submitted myself to the kind leadership and hosting of a friend, and had a wonderful day in many ways. Two moments out of thousands: 1:30pm - making funny faces with 3 children in a tiny village and then discussing comic books with their older brother.1pm - playing domino with 5 children in a tiny village and then playing hand games with their little sister. All children were huge and gorgeous souls with beautiful windows of eyes. Some are defined by some adults as Palestinians, some as Jews, some as settlers, some as Muslims, some as Israelis, some as illegal, some as traitors...But I saw neighbors, huge and gorgeous souls with beautiful windows of eyes, souls and eyes so powerful I had to look away after a few seconds. Thank you my friend, thank you kids."


Jan 3, 2019

Acceptance & Forgiveness - workshop by Clara Naum

Clara started with an exercise in which participants were asked to go around the room and when meeting someone look them in the eyes for a few moments. The goal was both for people to get out of their comfort zone and to connect with other people.


Clara described four principles that reflect the perception that peace exists, therefore does not need to be built needs dissolving of its obstacles:

  1. Peace already exists
  2. Peace is an inner process
  3. Peace means ceasing the againstness – despite disagreement
  4. Peace is a choice – available in any situation

The idea is to accept what cannot be changed and live peacefully with what exists. It is fine to remain with resistance and disagreement, but give up hatred.


This led to a long conversation about the way to forgive without covering the disapproval of the act. One of the participans shared how she could forgive her father who abused her as a child. Lack of forgiveness leaves the act inside me and makes me punish myself.


Forgiveness has three stages: expressing anger at what happened, forgiving and freedom.


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