The theme of the IEA retreat held at the Biankini Resort from Thursday, Nov 20 to Friday, Nov 21 was “Spiritual friendship across boundaries.” The retreat combined an introduction to and practice of Zen meditation with conversations on the theme of spiritual friendship in the Muslim and Jewish Traditions.
Participants were Yeshiva (=religious Jewish academy) students and young Palestinian Muslims.
Imad gave the Muslim perspective on the topic– telling the story about the person of another religion who abused and cursed the prophet passing by his house every day, until one day the person was nowhere to be seen. The prophet inquired about him, found out that he was sick and went to give him his best wishes, which led to dialogue and changed the negative attitude of the other person. This attitude of forgiveness and readiness to help even the person who abuses you is a model for relating to the religious Other.
Killing another is forbidden – according to the Sunna –killing another person it is as if you destroy the temple.
Diversity is encouraged – God created the different nations so that they compete with each other in good deeds and serving God.
The mention of the temple triggered an engaged discussion on the recent events at the Temple-Mount – since Rabbi Yehuda Glick who advocates prayer for all at the Holy Site and was severely wounded when recently shot teaches at Otniel.
Imad emphasized that prayer for all at the site is a religious act only after the existence of a Palestinian state. Before that it is a political act.
The Jewish perspective, prepared by the entire group:
Genesis is the story of all humankind, not just of Israel. We should go back to the original condition where all were connected. Before the tower of Babel, all spoke one language. Diversity is in the divine plan because of its richness, but we have to work towards oneness from diversity. Many people mistakenly think that only they are created in the image of God – which leads to hate and friction. We have to learn to be in God`s image, work as a symphony in the name of God and transform hate into love. The challenges are doing justice, to love and have patience with our neighbor, to walk humbly before God.
Avraham is the father of many nations, and Isaac and Ismael buried their father together. God is our father, we are the children. On the last day, all nations will come to the mountain of the Lord, they will be judged, make their spears into ploughs, there will be peace (Isaiah 2, Mica 4). After each nation fulfills its task they will all come to the Holy Mountain – the one place to bring life and to heal the world.
This triggered further discussion on the Temple Mount. According to some Muslim understanding, Isaiah`s prophecy is about the end of the world, the mountain is the judgment place, Issa (Jesus) will coma as Messiah, there will be a great tribulation and then the establishment of a World Caliphate. In Jewish understanding, the Messiah does not necessarily have to be a person – it can be a new way of existence, a new age.
It was pointed out that in Islam, we are not called children of God, but servants, slaves. God is not addressed as father, only as King.
This triggered discussion on judgment and forgiveness. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at days of judgment, you may be judged like a servant, but forgiven and loved as a son, if you repent and atone.
All participated in the meditations between the discussions, returning from words and arguments to breathing together in silence. At the end, we all joined in friendship in a simple song in Arabic offered by Imad. In the final sharing, participants shared how these meetings are like lighting a candle in the present darkness, how the dialogue is “the first step on a ladder out of a dangerous situation”, how the meditation clears up the “bad things” and gives rise to the “good things”, how it is safer to disagree when you know that you have so much in common, how they want to continue learning about the other – about the stories of the prophets, the notion of judgment (din) and last days in particular, how they are aware that the media splits us apart, but how they want to continue these meetings: “if you stay away from my eyes, you stay away from my heart. When we sit together like this, our hearts stay close.”