East of Jerusalem Interfaith Encounter
Second encounter – February 1st 2013
The second encounter we held, unlike the first, in Almog Junction. Since there were delays in receiving the permits we could not hold the encounter in Jerusalem and agreed to hold it in Almog Junction. This was indeed more comfortable for those who live in Jericho but several participants who live in Nablus could not join.
The "official" theme was the holy day in Islam and Judaism – Shabbat for the Jews and Friday for the Muslims. We asked the participants to describe the details of the day, its obligations and commandments as well as the idea behind.
We began with presenting Friday in Islam. There is no prohibition to work on Friday but the day is dedicated to rest, family and prayer. The central prayer takes place at noon and includes prayers and sermons.
We then spoke about the Jewish Shabbat. Shabbat is a day of rest but there is emphasis on avoiding productive work, such as writing, building etc. In the modern time the prohibition also includes switching lights on and riding a car.
This statement that the prohibitions of Shabbat include daily issues as riding a car, spurred wonder among some of the participants. Therefore the conversation continued to flow in this direction – are these actions forbidden in any case? Even when needed for work? These questions led to discussion on the quality of the Divine command – do we need to understand the rational behind it or are there things we do just because God commanded? Answers were varied but we agreed that many of the actions we do because we were commanded to do them and we believe in the one who commanded us.
This discussion about the quality of the commandments led to a conversation about the different ways to interpret the Torah and especially about the fact that the commitment in Judaism is not only to the Torah as it is written but also to its interpretations by the sages along the generations. We agreed to return to this subject in the future for a longer discussion.
The conversation continued and following the question of the relations between the written Torah and its interpretations we started to talk about the way the Jewish Torah is perceived in Islam. Some of the participants were surprised to discover that many Biblical events are mentioned in the Quran and that it explicitly refers to the Jews and their Torah. It was explained that the Quran does not annul the prophets before it – Moses and Jesus – and its aim is to unite these religions. The revelations that preceded Muhammad and their teachings are also holy and important. After a short discussion about these statements and their meaning we understood that Islam accepts the Jewish Torah but not all the interpretations that were given to it during the generations, believing that some of them include some errors. We decided that in one of the coming encounters we will bring a detailed resource page with references of the Quran to the Torah and the Jews.
Encounter on November 5th: Religious and Secular
We met at 6pm at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem.
We set in a circle of 14 people and started by introducing ourselves to each other. We spoke about the mutual attitudes between religious and secular people in both contexts. At 6:30pm Moatasem started by presenting the issue from the perspective of Islam and then Moshe presented it from the Jewish side. Following the presentations we had a lively conversation about the theme, including many questions about each other's society and answers to them.
Finally we received coffee and cake. We concluded and fare-welled at 8pm.
Encounter on January 21st: Leadership in Religion
The encounter took place at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem. It started at 5pm – with the Muslim group, the Jewish group and several IEA guests.
The theme of the encounter was leadership in religion. First we held a round of acquaintance and then Moshe started by presenting the theme from a Jewish perspective, until 6pm. The discussion began, questions were asked and then we broke for coffee. Returning from the coffee break Moatasem presented the theme from an Islamic perspective from 6:30pm to 7pm. Again a conversation started and questions were asked and answered. At 8pm we finished the encounter.
This amazingly unique group of Yeshiva students from Siach Yeshiva and Palestinian students from Hebron met again on September 24th.
It was planned to take place in the Austrian Hospice in East Jerusalem but as some of the Palestinian friends did not receive permits we moved it to English Cake Café on Gush Etzion junction. We met at 6pm and were 5 Palestinian friends and 4 Jewish friends.
The theme of the encounter was prayer in both religions. First we introduced ourselves and the Moatasem presented the theme of prayer in Islam. Then people asked some questions and made some comments and then we broke for coffee and cake.
After that Moshe presented the theme from the Jewish perspective. We asked him some questions and after a while we concluded and went home.
On Wednesday, August 29th 2012, we had a great encounter at Ein Walaje, known also as Ein Hinia.
We met at 5pm, seven Palestinians and six Israelis. Everyone was asked to bring with them refreshments and we had a wonderful dinner, which included pizza, majadara, salads, cookies, fruit and more.
We talked about Ramadan and Eid el-Fitr and about the social significance of these Holidays. We also talked about the coming Jewish Holidays – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth. The conversation was free and flew also to other directions.
Salma, a member of the group who is a tour guide, guided us through a short tour in the area where we saw the spring itself as well as abandoned houses from before 48/67 that used to belong to the Walaje village. The conversation went a bit to politics and history and it was very interesting. The next encounter will probably take place in Jerusalem.
On July 29th, we gathered to have together an Iftar dinner that ended one of the days of Ramadan, for the Muslims, and Tish'a be-Av fast of the Jews.
We met at the Barbara restaurant in Bet-Jala, 49 people from 6 different youth groups of IEA!
The dinner was a great opportunity for us to get to know other groups in IEA, to meet new people and to celebrate together, after a hard day of mourning and fasting. In every table there was a talk about Ramadan and the aims of fast in Islam, and about Tish'a be-Av fast and the reasons for it. The beginnings of discussions were led by Ofek Birnholz, a devoted member of IEA youth groups.
It was a great evening for us all, and a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences, to meet new people and to enjoy with our old friends.
This is not the first time that we are having a joint Iftar meal, and we are hoping to continue this tradition in the next years.
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