Oct 28, 2020

Annual Iftar

Since 2005, the Interfaith Encounter Association holds its own annual Iftar - the breaking of the fast on Ramadan. This year, because of the coronavirus crisis, we collaborated with the Tower of David Museum to organize an inspiring Online Iftar. The event was hosted by Ms. Eilat Lieber, Director of the Tower of David Museum and Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director of the Interfaith Encounter Association.

Dr. Taleb Al-Harathi, member of the IEA Board and group coordinator, said the blessing for the breaking of the fast and for the end of the pandemic. 

Next, Father Rafik Nahara talked about the Ramadan central pillar which is a common principle for the 3 religions: the concept of charity and mercy. By fasting, one tries to get closer to God and also to those who are suffering. In order to have his prayers heard and to receive mercy, one should hear his neighbor’s prayers and show mercy towards him. He also added the Holy Father prayer in Arabic.

The second interfaith guest was Rabbi Yacov Nagen. Unfortunately, because of technical issues, his message could not be broadcasted, but we have published in our Facebook page together with the Iftar’s video. Rabbi Nagen told a story about an Iftar he attended years ago, in a day when Jews were also fasting, when all the Muslims present waited until the Jews could eat (20 minutes after the sunset) so they could break the fast together. He also explained how this act of generosity lead to other similar acts. He too said a prayer for the end of the pandemic.

Last, Sheikh Hafiz Abdullah Muhammad from London delivered a short talk explaining the principles of Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. He mentioned many spiritual sources for this commandment- in order to empathize with the needy, developing self control and  gratitude to Gods. Muslims eat a meal called Suhoor before the dawn and break the fast during  a celebrative Iftar at sunset. Afterwards, Muslims generally pray an additional prayer for Ramadan called Tarawee. In the end of Ramadan, they commemorate  Eid al Fitr- a celebration for having completed the days of fasting.

The event was accompanied by beautiful oude performances by Gal Hever.

The video of the event has been viewed by more than 1500 people all over the world!


Oct 28, 2020

Empathy Storytelling

The goal of this project is to demonstrate that through an empathetic, respectful approach, a topic like Refugees need not be divisive, and can in fact build solidarity and deepen friendships between young Jewish and Palestinian citizens in Israel. These leaders can then inspire and impact others.

 The topic of refugees has been considered extremely polarizing, one of the issues left for future discussions at Oslo, and virtually taboo. We turn that on its head by using the topic to foster solidarity and deepen friendship. The educational center at the Anne Frank House in particular was so impressed by the project that we were the first group ever invited to present in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To the best of knowledge this is the first attempt at having Israelis and Palestinians share one another’s stories of being refugees.


There are 8 students participating:

 Luna, 14 years old from Sakhnin, a city in the north of Israel. She is a Muslim Palestinian Arab Citizen of Israel. 

Her grandparents were born before the establishment of the state of Israel. 

Luna speaks Arabic, Hebrew, and English. She studies at Albshaer Private School, and she is passionate about diplomacy, science, and languages. She is a violinist too.


Snabel is 19 years old and Muslim from Rahat city.


Yoad - 18 year old from a small village in the Municipality of Be’er Tuvia. Yoad graduates from High school in 2020, and will start his military service in December 2020. He speaks English, French and Hebrew. His family has long roots in Europe and North Africa. Yoad comes from a Jewish- Atheist background.


Oren, 17 years old- Oren is Jewish Israeli, he lives in the city of Netanya, and he has Persian roots.


Mihal is a senior from Caracas, Venezuela. She is Jewish and Spanish, and attends a boarding school in Even Yehuda.


Tal is a Jewish Israeli and Zionist student from petah tikva. her family is from Yemen and Poland.

She loves studying diplomacy and international relations. In school she is specializing in medicine and chemistry.


Amir is 15 years old, from Taybie. Amir is Muslim and a Palestinian Israeli citizen


Saed is Palestinian and graduated from high school. Saed lives in Nazareth and is of Christian background

We held several weeks of meetings, and are now in the stage of presenting the stories (via Zoom)


Meeting 1: Empathy circles discussion-- we had a 90 minute discussion among the group using the Empathy circles framework (April 25)

Meeting 2: Discussion with Corey Gil Shuster (Ask an Israeli/Ask a Palestinian youtube channel) on empathy and lack of empathy in the context of the conflict (May 4)

Meeting 3: Transitional Justice with Professor Monroy-Santander (May 13)

Meeting 4: Jacob McCleland (US Embassy): How to be a Journalist? What questions to ask.  (May 18)

Meeting 5: Eddie Ashkenazie (Diarna) : exploring heritage; looking for clues. (May 25)

We spent 3 weeks researching stories with partners   (Mihal and Luna; Snabel and Tal; Saed and Oren; Yoad and Ameer)

Meeting 6: Storytelling with Rebecca Zafrani (June 24)

July: we held several different meetings to practice the storytelling, first with smaller groups of friends and family, then for teachers.

In August we will keep presenting to larger audiences

September 10-16- travel to Belgium to present there


Oct 28, 2020

Interfaith Encounter group of Religious Leaders

Interfaith Encounter Group  of Religious Leaders in Gush Etzion met to discuss the issue: the ability to change interpretation of religious texts and laws in light of today's reality.

Khaled explained the essence of interpretation in the Qur'an. He said there is a debate as to whether the words in the Qur'an are part of God. If the words are not part of it, it is still impossible to change but more likely to give different interpretations. According to him, a claim of traditionalism of "this is what our ancestors did" - this is exactly what previous polytheists said, the Koran is a reaction to this logic. He also claims that the younger generation supports renewing the interpretation, not sanctifying the previous interpretation. Hajj added that there are laws that there is nothing to think about changing, but in cases where reality have changed one has to take reality into account.

Regarding the question of the connection between God and the text in Judaism, Rabbi Yaakov gave some examples of approaches in Judaism that offer different opinions - "The Torah has 70 faces (interpretations)" or "(both) these and these are the words of the living God." Reuben added that according to tradition, Torah preceded the world, and its meaning goes beyond words and interpretations.


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