Project #1521

Community Building for 1000 Jews & Muslims 2014-16

by Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA)

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...



The length of time between these two encounters was longer than usual, due to the Passover holiday celebrated by the Jewish participants. Both encounters dealt with the same subject because one week wasn't enough to cover the matter. We covered concepts such as legends, myths, beliefs, folktales, horoscopes, astrology, magic, sorcery, fortune-telling, fate, destiny, science, wisdom and expectations. These topics are experienced by many people in various communities, cultures, sects, and religions. Each participant gave his/her opinion on these concepts, their application and the attention given to them. Some participants talked about the degree of agreement or opposition to each of these concepts in their religion. The debate covered many different ideas, and around participants’ curiosity to explore them from various angles and backgrounds.


The encounter was conducted in Arabic and Hebrew. We had some refreshments. The time passed quickly, the encounter ended at 20:00.


The table below gives translations of the terms used in the report:



Legend or myth



Fables, folk tales















Magic - Sorcery























On February 4, 2016, another encounter was held in Jerusalem, between East and West, in the lobby of the Dan Panorama Hotel on French Hill. It was attended by Yael, Shani, Shira and Eftikhar.

After a brief update, we talked about the head covering that Jewish and Arab women wear. We discussed its meaning, reasons, and the ability of a woman to choose to cover her head or not. Also we talked a little about the age of marriage, events and celebrations. The encounter was conducted in both Hebrew and in Arabic in an attempt to bridge the language gap and understand each other even when we are not proficient in both languages. The atmosphere was positive and we managed to hold a fascinating discussion.



In our morning session this week, we read the third chapter of the laws of Shema in the Mishneh Torah. We discussed the requirements of washing and cleanliness for prayer in Judaism and Islam. We compared how in both Judaism and Islam one can use dirt or other materials to clean their hands in the absence of water. We also talked about what speech is considered "holy" and thus not fit for being said in a bathroom or other environments. We read several ahadith from Bukhari discussing the importance of washing before praying and the spiritual benefits that is said to bring.

In the afternoon session we reviewed Chapter 3 of the laws of idolatry in Mishneh Torah as one of our regular members missed the previous session. We talked about the different ways and forms of worship used, and the Jewish and Muslim perspectives on monotheism and worship. We concluded with reading a few ahadith and discussing the attitude towards heresy and non-mainstream views in early Jewish and Muslim societies.



 Our group is in the process of becoming an official student group, and we've received a lot of support from the Cymbalista Jewish Center and the Arabic and Islamic Studies department to continue our project. This week we discussed the laws of Hanukkah. We read the description in the Mishneh Torah of the reason for the holiday and then the laws of lighting the Hanukkah lights and reciting the Hallel prayer. We discussed the differences between biblical and rabbinic holidays.


The group began as the initiative of a couple of yeshiva alumni and Muslim girls, all students at the Tel Aviv University, after we realized that both groups were interested in learning more about the other religion. From March-May 2015 (spring semester) we met weekly, for some ten times, for 60-90 minutes in a group of 3-4 students. Everyone involved really enjoyed the experience, and this year we decided to expand it to accommodate the interest of friends. This semester (October-January) we have two different groups that meet on Mondays, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each for 60-90 minutes, with 4 students in each group. Since the beginning of the semester we met for three times.

The encounters are text-based, and primarily involve studying Maimonides's Mishneh Torah and ahadith from the Sahih Bukhari collection, on similar subjects. Last year we studied principles of faith. This year the two groups are studying laws of prayer and laws of idolatry. The group is geared towards religious students who are comfortable with religious texts and concepts. We are happy to expand, but are only actively seeking students who would fit the group dynamic (usually having a religious background or familiarity--we are mostly yeshiva students or Muslim students from religious families). In addition to the regular curriculum, the meetings offer the opportunity for us to share and compare religious traditions and stories (for example about the creation of the world, or how prayer is carried out).



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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
$21,835 raised of $28,800 goal
437 donations
$6,965 to go
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