After being postponed four times due to different reality constrains, the 15th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter, jointly organized by the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Hope Flowers School, finally took place in the beautiful guest house of the Austrian Hospice, at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, on 22-23 March.
This time too faced challenges. Starting seemed promising when all Palestinians who applied for permits got them very quickly. But when they came to collect them, on the morning of the retreat, a computer failure caused that only a handful of them were able to actually get the permits. After dozens of phone calls it became clear that we will not be able to improve the situation and that most of the Palestinian participants – including the Muslim speaker – will not be able to make it to the retreat. Hesitation was short and we agreed that holding a small-scale retreat is better than not holding it at all. For the sake of perfect equality we cancelled the Jewish speaker.
And we never regretted our decision. The resulting retreat was a very intimate one, with one small conversation group of Jews, Muslims and Christians having one of the best conversations about food and food traditions – mainly in Judaism and Islam as the conversation was so vivid that we hardly managed to touch on Christianity.
Some points that were discussed:
--In Islam all animals and birds are allowed to be eaten, except those who eat other animals. In Judaism the rules of eatable animals make the list narrower while eatable birds are only those who appear in the explicit list;
--In Judaism (as well as in Shiite Islam) only fish that have fins and scales can be eaten. In Sunni Islam everything that comes out of the sea can be eaten.
--In Islam alcohol is strictly forbidden, out of the fear that people will pray drunk. In Judaism a drunk also can not pray but alcohol is not forbidden and in some occasions (Purim, Pesach, sanctifying the Shabbat) drinking of wine is even recommended.
Each point led to many other associated issues such as faith, reasoning, interpretations traditions and more.
We concluded the retreat with a lot of satisfaction and hopes that in the next one we will be able to take enough prior steps so that we ensure participation of all who wish to do so.