Project #1520

Training 80 Youth Encounter Leaders

by Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

On the weekend of October 14-15 we went to harvest olives in the village of Jayus, near Tsofim and Matan, fine minutes east of Kfar Saba.

The village itself is east of the security fence, but many of its land are west of it. Consequently, most of the village's farmers do not have access to their lands, since they do not have entry permits, and their ability to harvest their olives depends on volunteers.

After leaving the road we took a dirt-road between different fields and stopped near the plantation of Nafouk family, where we joined them for the work. Ali, sports' teacher, his wife and their two children explained to us what to do and offered steaming Sage tea.

Work was pleasant. We used Plastic rakes to bring down the dark olives to the Canvas sheets, and from there into the sacks. The sun warmed us gently and the afternoon breeze from the west kept our weather and spirit in excellent conditions.

During the field lunch we had a spontaneous interfaith encounter. Ali told us about a fable related to Moses, who according to Islam was the only prophet who could speak directly with God. The moral of the story was that the one who keeps well what he has – gains richness.


The group in conversation
The group in conversation

Launch encounter of Interfaith Visits Encounter group – 28 October 2011


We met on Friday, October 28th, at 10am, ten Israelis in the Rahel Crossing. After a forty-minute delay we entered by foot into the city of Bethlehem. After the crossing we took taxis and went to the Nativity Church Plaza. There we met our Palestinian friends – most of them new to IEA activity.


We visited the city center, the Nativity Church and the market area. We experienced the atmosphere of Friday during the Jumaa prayer. Then we set in a nice café and talked about the sanctity of Shabbat in Judaism and of Friday in Islam. We shared knowledge about customs and traditions related to these special days and how they are implemented in our daily lives.


We celebrated the birthday of one of the new Israeli participants – Shoshana. We also celebrated the birth of the daughter of one of the new Palestinian participants – Abd-el-Majid.


The encounter was experiential and enriching both from the perspective of getting to know the city and from the perspective of our interfaith conversation.

Breaking bread together
Breaking bread together


Muslim presentation
Muslim presentation

The 33rd Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter was jointly held between 21-22 July 2011 at the beautiful Austrian Hospice in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Palestinian Peace Club from Yata (south of Hebron). The theme was: "Who Can't We Marry?" and it brought together people from Yata, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramalla and Jericho in the Palestinian Authority, and from Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Arad in Israel.


After a brief welcome and introduction by the directors of the two organizations, Mr. Raed Abu-Eid of PPC and Dr. Yehuda Stolov of IEA, and a round of getting acquainted, we went straight to the theme of the retreat: "Who Can't We Marry?"


The Jewish perspective was presented by Rabbi Bob Carroll. The conversation this time was weaved into the presentation, with people asking and commenting.

Some of the points touched were:

  • ·        Marriage with member of another religion is forbidden but no problem to marry someone who converted to Judaism from any religion (except for a Cohen, who is also forbidden to marry a divorced woman);
  • ·        A "Mamzer": a child born as a result of adultery is forbidden to marry at all, in theory. In practice – every effort is made to not declare anyone as a Mamzer;
  • ·        It is forbidden to marry any of the close relatives but allowed to marry a first cousin.
  • ·        A woman whose husband disappeared or refuses to give her the divorce certificate, the Get, is an Agunah and is bound by her marriage and can not re-marry. There are mechanisms in the Jewish law to deal with these situations but they are under-used. A man is such a situation has it easier since he has the option to use the complicated procedure of getting the 100-rebbis-permit to marry a second wife (usually used when the wife is insane so can not consciously receive the Get).
    This is easier in Islam as the religious court has the authority to make the divorce.
  • ·        It is forbidden to re-marry your ex-wife if she was married to someone else after you divorced her.
    In Islam it is the opposite: you can only re-marry your ex-wife if she was married to someone else in between.


The Muslim perspective was similarly studied.  Mr. Raed Abu-Eid presented the Muslim relevant laws and comments and questions by all participants were part of it. Points that were discussed included:

  • The list of women forbidden to marry is very similar to the Jewish list. It includes: married woman, mother (including all lineage: grandmother etc.), daughter (including all lineage: granddaughter etc.), sister (including half-sister) etc etc.
  • Also: if a boy and a girl were nursed by the same woman – they can not marry each other. On two conditions: that each was nursed for at least five times and that it was in the first two years of their lives.
  • A Muslim man can marry a Jewish or Christian woman (only - from among the "people of the book") and the children will then be Muslim. A Muslim woman can not marry a non-Muslim man, unless he converts to Islam.
  • The women forbidden due to their family relation to the wife (her sister, maternal aunt etc), are allowed if she dies or divorces.


Then came the time to go deeper and more personal. Michelle Friedman introduced the following question to the group: since most of us are married – let's create a list of the things that sustain our marriages. Here are some of the points that were mentioned:

  • Mutual respect (including respect for the family, friends and all life components of the other);
  • Willingness to come towards each other and to work on the relationships;
  •  To want the best for each other;
  • Mutual trust;
  • The understanding that there are no ideal marriage;
  • Facing problems and dealing with them (not hiding or avoiding them);
  • Allowing private spaces for each other;
  • Dialogue: talking with each other and being able to listen to each other. While doing so: making sure we understand well what the other really said.
  • Nice words.


One of the participants shared a Muslim story: Prophet Mohammad gave a coin to each of his wives and asked her not to tell anyone. Then he declared to all his wives that he loves most the one who has the coin…


Finally we held a concluding circle in which everyone shared their reflections of the retreat. After having coffee or soft drinks in the lovely garden of the Austrian Hospice, we fare welled, already looking forward to the next retreat.

In conversation
In conversation


The Jerusalem-Yata Youth Interfaith Encounter group renews its activity!


First we thank those who joined the first encounter of the renewed group.

We apologized to the Jews who came during the fast day of Taanit Esther – we will not do that again.


The encounter was VERY nice. We started with general acquaintance of the old and new members.

Then the Jewish members explained about the Holiday of Purim, the Megila story and the meaning of the fast.

The Palestinians made sincere efforts to follow the curves of the plot…


For the last several years, the Circle of Light and Hope, one of the IEA’s 37 ongoing dialog groups, has been discussing a very wide range of religious topics at our monthly meetings and retreats. Meetings take place in either the Gush Etzion or Har Gilo/ Beit Jalla area, with retreats being either at the Everest Hotel near Har Gilo or at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem. Recently, subsequent to the attack on a Mosque in the town of Beit Fajar, it was decided to discuss the idea of “Sacred Space” in each religion. At the end of this meeting, several of the Muslim members of the group asked if it might be possible for them to visit a synagogue at some point. Several of the group’s Jewish members, including myself, are members of Kehilat Yedidya in Baka, a Modern Orthodox synagogue which is both geographically convenient (walking distance from the Bethlehem checkpoint) and which regularly welcomes groups of non-Jewish visitors. So with warm encouragement from the synagogue's leadership we decided to arrange a visit.

The group of 6 Muslim members of the Circle of Light and Hope arrived, on Friday Nov. 26th, at about 3:30 PM, about an hour before the Sabbath began, in order to meet with the Jewish members who were present and spend a little bit of time learning about the structure and content of the Kabbalat Shabbat (Receiving the Sabbath) prayers. They were also given copies of the entire Kabbalat Shabbat prayer and much of the Maariv (evening) prayer in both English and Arabic. While we were studying the text of the prayers and customs/actions related to the prayers together, Drs. Yehuda Stolov and Taleb al-Hariti, the Muslim co-chair of the group, were interviewed by reporters from an Italian TV station. We then joined the synagogue members for a lovely, melodical and very peaceful Kabbalat Shabbat service.  

The impact this visit had on all of us truly cannot be overstated; indeed it may have been the first time that Palestinian Muslims were welcomed into an Orthodox synagogue. We sincerely hope to be able to arrange more such visits to each other’s houses of worship in the very near future, in order to continue to break down walls of misunderstanding and build trust, friendship and respect.



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Organization Information

Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

Location: Jerusalem, Israel - Israel
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Dr. Yehuda Stolov
Executive Director
Jerusalem, Israel

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