About a dozen participants-- Jews and Muslims, men and women, young and old-- gathered on Friday morning, April 15th 2016, at the Office of the Interfaith Encounter Association in order to establish the Jerusalem - Bethlehem encounter group. The atmosphere was just wonderful - with lots of laughs and questions to deepen our understanding of one another.
Since many participants were new, Yehuda began with introducing the Association and its ideals and activities. He talked about how this group arose from an integration of two groups that began just before the start of the violent events last October. Due to lack of experience with encounters, events caused some to lose their desire to participate, and therefore people from the two groups who were still interested joined together and began to recruit new participants.
Next we had a circle during which where each participant talked about him/herself, reasons for coming to the Association’s activities, and what brought him to the Association and to this group. We heard several reasons for participation:
- A desire to know the 'other' directly - not through books but through people
- Past experience, enjoyment of previous encounters
- Desire to try something new, by those who had never participated before
- A volunteer with Magen David Adom sees the discomfort when dealing with members of the ‘other’ community and wants a way to overcome this.
- Aspiration to make ‘the Other’ not be other any longer.
- One of the participants comes from a racist family and wants to prove to them that people can live together in peace.
- Another participant said that she comes to be more optimistic.
Satisfaction with the encounter was great, and even when the Muslim participants had to leave for Friday prayers, the conversation continued on and on...