REPORT: "Peace" - 13th Israeli-Palestinian conference, 3-4 February 2005
- Dear friends,
Please find below the report from our 13th Israeli-Palestinian interfaith retreat. Due to some technical problem, photoes are not included and hopefully will be added to the website within the next week.
I would like to take the opportunity and greet our Muslim friends for a wonderful new year.
13th Israeli-Palestinian interfaith retreat
The 13th Israeli-Palestinian conference took place in Jerusalem , around the theme of "Peace in Judaism, Islam and Christianity", on 3rd and 4th February with some 75 Jewish, Muslim and Christian participants from among the affiliates of the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Hope Flowers School . Many of the participants have never met "the other" before and for many of the Palestinian participants it was their first time in Jerusalem in four and a half years. Still, the interaction between all of them was very strong and very positive from the start and the dialogue was going so well that we had to remind them when it was time for meals.
We started with short presentations by Ibrahim Issa, Director of the Hope Flower School , and Yehuda Stolov, Director of the Interfaith Encounter Association. They started by thanking the funding institutions – the European Union, UNESCO and the US Embassy – and then presented briefly the organizations they are directing and the guidelines for our interfaith dialogue in the conference. Next we divided the participants into small mixed groups through a short ice-breaking game.
The first session focused on the Jewish perspective. It started with a presentation by Rabbi Ahiya Amitay, Rabbi of Sde-Eliyahu, who quoted his teacher Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, who opened his presentation of Judaism to a group of Lutheran Priests with the word SHALOM (peace in Hebrew). We know that a nation's language indicates the nature of that nation. Martin Luther in his introduction to his translation of the Bible stresses that in Hebrew there are many words for God. Shalom is one of these names of God (by the way: both these last facts are true for Arabic as well). SHALOM comes from the route of SHALEM – whole – and the wholeness is one of God's attributes. The human has to learn how to contribute to the harmonic wholeness of the world and then people will live in peace also with each other. When every one understands that they have their own task in this world and their own means for that task and every one finds his unique place in the divine wholeness, no one tries to get the means of another. As Zechariah says: "Love truth and peace" – when you truly live your own life, then you are in peace.
Following the presentation, and each of the other presentations, participants went to the small groups to reflect on the presentation and share with their mates how it resonates in their own religious understanding.
The second session dealt with the Muslim perspective. The presentation by Ms. Hala Issa, a Teacher for Islam in Terra Sancta School , started with the fact that SALAM – peace – is one of the first out of the 99 names of God in Islam. It includes inner peace and avoiding deviations from the way of God. Catastrophes that come to the world are punishments for that reality of people not following the ways of Allah and reminders for them to repent and do so. Included in that is also that anyone who does not follow the ways of peace will be punished. Peace is mentioned many times in Koran. One of its uses is to greet the prophets by attaching "Peace Be Upon Him" to their name. Another use is to greet "Peace be upon you" in the end of each prayer and when meeting someone. It is important to emphasize that the "you" in this greeting is in the plural and that it is encouraged to always be the first to greet the other, even if it is someone who is not know to you. Finally: Heaven, where the good people will go to in the Day of Judgment, is called "The House of Peace".
In the beginning of the third session we heard a presentation about the Christian perspective from Ms. Marlen Bandak, Christianity teacher at El Frer School. Because of the hard reality humans live in God tells us to nurture peace. The first step is between God and the Human being and his heart. It starts with the human life and when a person has peace with himself he is less vulnerable to the outside problems. When I am in peace with myself I am also in peace with others. God is peace: when Isaiah talked about the future birth of the miraculous child he refers to him as the king of peace. In the same way: when the angel reveals to Mari he tell her that she is pregnant with the king of peace. In the end of the prayer everyone shakes hands and it is called the peace of Jesus. Every message in the Bible begins with a synonym of peace. God wants us to live in peace and only sin separates us. The land belongs to God and every human being has his unique place in heaven. We should not fight over the land as it is for all of us. But each of us should work to be worthy of his or her place in heaven.
Following was the prayer session. We started with the Jewish prayer for the receiving of the Shabbat, continued with the Muslim evening prayer and concluded with a special Christian prayer. All prayers were conducted by the praying participants in the traditional way and explained to the others who were observing.
In the concluding session we stood in a circle and each of us said two or three words about what they take back home from the conference. Many of the participants chose to indicate the strong sense of hope they gathered from this encounter with the other. We concluded with strong hope that more encounters will be possible.
The Interfaith Encounter Association
P.O.Box 3814 , Jerusalem 91037 , Israel
Mr. Shlomo Alon, Chair
Sr. Karmela Farrugia, Vice-Chair
Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, Vice-Chair
Sheikh Ali Birani
Rabbi Dov Maimon
Deacon Eng. Jirias Mansour
Sheikh Tawfiq Salama
Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Director
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