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by Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)
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Some participants
Some participants

We were fortunate to host Dr. Mitchell Abrams, a Canadian radiologist and an associate professor at Michael G DeGroot medical school, who led us through a very special workshop, combining his passion for music and medicine.

After singing a song with his guitar, Dr. Mitch presented academic studies that explain the convergence of the Western hard sciences with the soft science of spirituality, allowing us to reconcile our individuality with our inherent connectedness. By bridging this gap, a new frontier in healthcare, community engagement and our collective evolution is quickly emerging. Dr. Mitch quoted academic papers that present the interconnectedness of all people and the ability to use it to support the emerging global community. 

Following the presentation we turned to an experiential activity of coloring mandalas to the sounds of Mitch's music. We ended with sticking the mandalas on Mitch's guitar.

Several mandalas
Several mandalas
Sticking mandala on the guitar
Sticking mandala on the guitar

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Hadassah opens
Hadassah opens

Nearly thirty people came on an early summer evening to this very special event of public poem reading and dialogue, in English, Hebrew and Arabic, jointly organized by Jerusalem YMCA and the Interfaith Encounter Association.

The event was the realization of a two-year vision of Hadassa – a poet herself and a very long-term participant in IEA groups. It opened with a welcome and introduction by Hadassah and an opening poem “Nowhere to Stand/Or?”, written by Hadassah, read in the three languages.

The reading part of the event included ten carefully selected poem from the anthology "Before There is Nowhere to Stand" of Israeli and Palestinian poets who respond to the conflict. The poems were divided into three parts: what unites us, what divides us and to what we aspire. Each of the poems was read in English, Arabic and Hebrew and after each part there was a pause and time was given to participants to write down their impressions and thoughts.

Finally participants divided into small groups where they shared their reflections and connected.

Hadassah
Hadassah
Reading poetry
Reading poetry
Small groups conversations
Small groups conversations

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Arriving
Arriving

Nearly 120 people came on Thursday, October 26th, to the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem, to celebrate the Interfaith Encounter Day. Among them were old and new group members as well as people new to the Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA), who wished to get to know the organization.

 

During the first part people held casual conversations around tables with refreshments. In parallel we held the monthly session of Praying Together In Jerusalem, an initiative of several organizations, including IEA, for monthly side-by-side prayers of Jews, Muslims and Christians.

 

Then we gathered in the main hall. We began with a short round of greetings by the IEA Executive Director Dr. Yehuda Stolov, who also briefly described the ways IEA use and its achievements since the last Interfaith Encounter Day – with 14 new groups throughout the country. Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa, Chair of the Board, presented a few new initiatives for incorporating multi-media in encounters. After them, two young coordinators – Rahhal Rahhal and Elgad Shoham – described the groups they lead and how they work.

 

During the next part the people set in conversation circles, with people that most of them they don't know. They presented themselves, held an activity where they were looking for things they have in common and shared the nature of their groups and how they work, or what drew them to come today and meet IEA.

 

We ended with light supper and continued informal conversations.

Praying together
Praying together
Greetings
Greetings
Conversation groups I
Conversation groups I
Conversation groups II
Conversation groups II

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The audience
The audience

On 12th and 13th of July, the Interfaith Encounter Association joined the international Forgiveness Institute, funded by Prof. Robert D. Enright, and other organizations and a conference on the subject of forgiveness was held in Jerusalem. Two intense days of presentations, conversation circles and testimonies were dedicated to reflect on the value of this concept and its implementation in our lives. Around two hundred people participated in each of the days – Jews, Muslims and Christians; Israelis, Palestinians and internationals. The conference took place at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, under the slogan “Rising above the storm clouds”.

Speakers were Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (by video); Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; Prof. Adamou Ndam Njoya of Cameroon; Rabbi Yuval Cherlow and Bishop William Shomali of Israel, and Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash.

On the second day, speakers from Israel, Northern Ireland, the United States and the Philippines focused on forgiveness education in their countries.

Dr. Enright
Dr. Enright
Rabbi  Cherlow
Rabbi Cherlow
Bishop Shomali
Bishop Shomali
Prof. Njoya
Prof. Njoya

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The panel
The panel

On Thursday, 23.3.17, activists of the Interfaith Encounter Association in Shoham organized a seminar under the title of "Religion as a bridge".

The main part of the evening included a panel with the participation of Rabbi David Stav, Rabbi of Shoham and chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization; and Emir Sheikh Mohammed Sharif Ouda, head of the Ahmadi community in Israel. The panel was led by Ms. Tali Farkash, YNET.

The first question the speakers were asked to address was whether and how religion can serve as a bridge between people from different communities. The Sheikh began by saying that it absolutely can because after all religion calls for peace and love. The Rabbi responded by saying that it's not that simple because religion can also be a source of conflict. For it to serve as bridge, working through common ground is needed, like faith, kindness, family, etc. The Sheikh reiterated that it's also important to interpret the religion in the light of reliable commentary. For example: Jihad in the Quran means effort, especially in studying and implementing the Quran itself. There's no verse that presents jihad in context of war.

In the next section, the speakers were asked to share with the audience a personal experience related to meeting the other. The Sheikh began to say that he lives in Haifa, where members of the various communities live in harmony. His first encounter was when his father hosted an immigrant from Russia who was recovering from heart surgery. Another step was when he first met settlers in Otniel and Gush Etzion and saw that there were warm and good people among them. These experiences reminded him of the fact that the prophet himself hosted a Christian delegation for a prayer at his mosque in Medina.

The Rabbi described how, in his youth, his mother, who was a department manager at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, was loved by her employees who would invite her to their celebrations. He remembers how the entire family would travel to various villages around Jerusalem. The rabbi emphasized that he has been engaged in interfaith dialogue for many years and that he encounters situations again and again in which issues that are fundamentally religious are addressed by a secular-political approach that ignores religion, and therefore they can't get promoted.

In response to the question of what are the challenges of interfaith dialogue in Israel, the Rabbi said that nowadays the discourse with Muslim religious leaders is mainly political and not religious, and when you succeed in getting out of the political boundaries, you reach amazing places of unexpected cooperation. The Sheikh added that there is a problem with the fact that religious education is not open to others and that it is important to correct this point. The key to improvement is understanding that our job is to care of everyone, not just ourselves.

Finally, the speakers referred to a way to expand the circles of discourse and make them more meaningful. The Rabbi stressed that the challenge is not to bring together religious leaders. This happens but fails to seep into the educational consciousness. The challenge is to bring the encounter to the field, to the youth, to the places from which the new leadership grows. Religious leaders can produce joint position papers on social issues that are non-political. The Sheikh agreed, adding that in light of his experience with the Ahmadi community, many radicals have changed as a result of the meetings.

This was an excellent point to finish the panel and move on to a meeting with the association's activists who are doing just that: A meeting in the broad avenues, a meeting that exposes the other and changes radicals as well. Ibrahim, Dvir and Elgad shared the audience about their actual jobs and described how they arrived to the association and how the groups they coordinate are working.

The audience
The audience
Another angle
Another angle

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Organization Information

Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

Location: Jerusalem, Israel - Israel
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @interfaithea@
Project Leader:
Dr. Yehuda Stolov
Executive Director
Jerusalem, Israel

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