On Friday, March 24th, a new and diverse group of Jews, Muslims and Christians was established.
The Arab participants came in full hands with baklavas and presents.
The encounter was so moving, loving and joyous, we wanted to hear about each other and get to know each other so much that we didn't have time to choose a name for the group and define its specific goals. We learned a little about each and every one. Pleasant and less pleasant memories, even violent ones, from personal encounters with the other side were brought up: Arab/Jewish, Jewish/Christian and Christian/Arab.
We were happy to be united around the belief that such encounters are very important and give great hope. We came to the conclusion that we have something in common, and that is the fact that we're all humans, that we all believe " " exists. I intentionally left a blank space inside the quotes because some call him "Allah", others "The Holy One, blessed be he", others "Heavenly Father", others "love" or "truth", etc… Doesn't matter what his name is, what matters is he's good and what unites us.
We also reached the conclusion that it is reasonable to assume that some people benefit from stirring up hatred, because the truth is completely different: We want to live together and in peace.
Tel Aviv U. Interfaith Encounter- March encounters
By Dr. Yehuda Stolov | Executive Director
In our first meeting of the semester, we began by discussing the practice of repeating statements of the Adhan. We then learned about how a second and third Adhan was added as the Muslim population grew during the caliphate of Uthman (the third Muslim leader following Muhammad's death). We found that this was paralleled in a Jewish practice of sounding the shofar three times before the beginning of Shabbat. Incremental warnings allowed time for people working the fields to return to the city, shopkeepers to close their stores, and households to finish last minute Shabbat preparations. We also read about the practice of pre-Shabbat candle lighting, and discussed its sociological origins within the conflict over rabbinical judaism. In between learning religious texts, we took a survey in which we rated each other on scales of 1-7. Were we nice? Were we active? Find out soon at an academic library near you...
We started learning the laws of Pesach in the Rambam. We learned about the prohibition of eating, owning, or benefiting from Hametz on Pesah. We talked about the different start times for the different types of prohibitions, which actually begin the day before Pesach.
In Bukhari we learned about the platform that the leader of the prayer stands on (minbar). This was shown through a hadith relating to the construction of this platform from wood.
We had a nice meeting with hummus and other goodies, celebrating some progress in our efforts to find a prayer space for Muslim students on campus. Afterwards we started learning hilchot pesach, before the upcoming holiday. We learned that the Biblical way to rid yourself of chametz is in fact a theoretical symbolic deceleration: the rabbis then instituted the practical aspect of rigorous cleaning. Afterwards we continued with jumaa studies, learning that the prophet would give his sermon (Khutba) while standing.
This was a very well-attended meeting with several new people that we held at Tantur in Jerusalem. We started by introducing each other and mentioning that Taleb and I are both avid fossil collectors (I am just an amateur but he is a professor of Paleontology.) So in fact it was our love of science that was one of the things that brought us together. I started off by mentioning the potential conflict between two sources of truth: revelation and and reason/science, and suggested that this is only a problem for those who believe that both are Divine – anyone who accepts only one as the final authority has no conflict. But the dominant trend in jewish thinking has been to affirm that if one understands both correctly then they cannot be opposed. Traditional Jews do believe that the text of the Torah is inerrant, but that doesn’t mean that it is trying to teach us science as such. Maurene mentioned the famous comment of Rashi that the text of Genesis doesn’t intend to teach us the exact order of creation; if it did, it would have used a different word. Ra’anan me ntioned the verse “A thousand years are as one day in Your sight” as proof that days in the creation narrative don’t need to be understood as 14-hour days; thus opening a possibility for belief in both the Bible and evolution. Meesh mentioned that in her experience, yeshiva students are not taught about dinosaurs, which is rather sad, as it means that some teachers think that their belief in Torah contradicts the findings of modern science; Ra’anan pointed out that the Torah in many places speaks of taninim, a type of sea monster, which were created before human beings.
In Islam, there are tensions – similar to those in Judaism - between those believers who see science as a threat to true belief and those who view it as an alternate path to discover truth. In fact Islam has a tremendous record of scientific discovery and of incorporating scientific knowledge; to a very great extent, it was Islamic scholarship which preserved a great deal of knowledge and promoted scientfiic inquiry during the middle ages when it was suppressed in Europe. Taleb cited a saying of the prophet Mohammed: “Anyone can say ‘I know’ until he says ‘I know everything.’ Once though someone says that, he is considered to be a fool and illiterate. In other words, we must be open, both in matters of faith and matters of science, to knowing that there may be a great deal that we don’t know. Mohammed also says: “Everything you know is like a finger in the ocean” – it is a tiny percentage of the whole truth. We all agreed that we should approach both science and faith fearlessly but also with tremendous humility.
In short, this was one of our more cerebral meetings, but it was very fascinated and engendered much spirited discussion!
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