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.