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.