In this very interesting lecture by Rabbi Professor Reuven Firestone he speaks about relations between Jews and Muslims, Hebrews and Arabs, going right back to ancient times. The lecture is conceived as an introduction to Islam for Jews, about which Professor Firestone has also written a book. The parts of the lecture that I found most fascinating are on the symbiotic relationship between ancient Arabs and Jews, and the similarities between Islam and Judaism. Professor Firestone has also written an introduction to Judaism for Muslims.
Just Vision is an organization based in Washington, US and Jerusalem. Their mission is to:
“Generate awareness and support for Palestinians and Israelis who pursue freedom, dignity, security and peace using nonviolent means”.
This includes publishing interviews with peace-makers and making prize-winning documentary films on non-violent protest in Israel and Palestine. Their website is an excellent resource for information and I am finding it very useful as an aid in my research. The interview with Eliyahu, done in 2010, is very interesting in the examples he gives of how best to build bridges and his own journey to becoming a peace-maker. The article has extensive footnotes and speaks as much of the very real difficulties of this kind of work as it does of its successes. Here is a short taster and below is the link to read the full interview on the website.
I was asking, what is the spiritual underpinning, what does Judaism have to say? I started opening up to ideas about Hashem and truth and God. When the Gulf War was over, I went to Egypt. I studied Islam, and spent a lot of time in a mosque. I was searching for truth. I was invited to a traditional Sufi gathering, with Egyptian Muslim Sufis dressing in white robes, chanting and swaying. It was a very, very profound experience for me. I spent a long time there and I was really drawn to Islam, it was a beautiful path. But there was a voice in my head calling me back to Israel.
This time I ended up working as a goat herder in the Galilee for a religious Jewish mountain man. I spent a lot of time in meditation out in the fields of the lower Galilee, and felt like I could connect with the tradition. That’s when I started wrapping t’fillin and started growing my peyot, I always tuck them back. That was in 1994. I also spent a lot of time with Shlomo Carlebach, before he passed away. He was a big influence. I would watch how he interacted with people and helped them return to their roots, and how he respected anyone of any religion who came to him. He always said you have to have “holy chutzpah.”
Peacemaker and musician Gabriel Halevy has created a new album which he describes as, “From the Heart to Prayer. From Rumi to Pele. From Argentinian folk songs as gifts of joy & peace to the Middle East in Persian, Hebrew, Spanish & Arabic( Lubna Salame). Original songs with Israeli vocalist( Mosh Ben Ari) and guest vocalists from Turkey, India, Jordan & New york. From African ngoni to accordion, oud & sarod, charango & viola, brass, turkish clarinet, bansouri & bombo leguero…tablas & pan flutes, violin, lira and guitar.” He needs help to release it so please go over to Headstart to see how you can help.
There is something very special about this video as a group of Jewish and Muslim peace-makers go to pray together in Hebron at Abraham’s tomb, also known as the Machpelah.
In my last post I gave a short introduction and a link to the Sulha Peace Project. Below are two lovely videos where we get to meet the Israelis and Palestinians involved in this project. Sulha is an Arabic word meaning ‘reconciliation’. The first video describes the Sulha Peace Project showing various gatherings over the years and speaks to people about what it means to them to meet each other. The second video is a series of photos of gatherings from 2004 to the present day. You might recognize some of the faces from other videos on this site. Gabriel Meyer Halevi is singing, Eliyahu McClean, Rabbi Fruman, Ibrahim Abu El Hawa, Melila Hellner Eshed, and many others are all doing good work for peace. The videos are short but informative and moving. They give a good feel for the atmosphere of the events where Israelis and Palestinians come together. Both videos can also be seen on the Sulha page here.
I’ve just added a new link to the ‘Useful links’ list on the right. This is the Sulha Peace Project which describes itself as: “… a group of Israelis and Palestinians who meet regularly to encounter the other in our full humanity. Together, we demonstrate that we, the children of Abraham/Ibrahim, share a common destiny. Twelve years ago, at the height of the El Aksa intifada, when Israel and Palestine were locked into terror of the other side, the Sulha Peace Project was born. As coffee shops exploded and soldiers fired into crowds of youths, we brought Israelis and Palestinians together in a human encounter and, through wholehearted listening, we explored and strengthened the bonds that link us with each other. We’ve been doing it ever since.” Click here for more.
I was sent the link to this article in the Times of Israel by Rabbi Ron Kronish, the author of the article and a friend of our Centre of Religions for Reconciliation and Peace at the University of Winchester, UK. Rabbi Ron and his wife have given workshops at the University of Winchester in previous years and I visited his office while in Israel. He works to bring together Israeli Jews and Muslims to get to know each other. Track two diplomacy basically means grass-roots initiatives for peace and there are many such groups and individuals working in this way in Israel and Palestine. Many of them are mentioned in other articles on this blog. In this piece Rabbi Ron Kronish speaks of a tour he did of the US with the Qadi (Muslim judge) of Jerusalem.
Iyad Zahalka, the kadi (judge) of the Jerusalem Muslim Shariya court of the State of Israel, and I were grateful for the opportunity to be able to present our ideas about “the other peace process” to Jewish, Christian, Muslim and interreligious audiences in several cities in the USA during a 16 day speaking tour to the USA in late October/early November that brought us to New York, New Jersey, Detroit and Washington DC. All of this took place before the recent Gaza War.
What is “The Other Peace Process?” It is different from the political one, which has been stalled for many years. The “Other Peace Process” is sometimes referred to as “the people-to-people track” or “the peace-building process” or “track two diplomacy.” This is different from peace-making, which one of my friends calls assembling “pieces of paper,” i.e. the creation of peace treaties, usually by lawyers and diplomats, who then argue for the next several years (or decades) why the other side didn’t live up to the legal agreement that was made! The “Other Peace Process” is the one that brings people from different religions and nationalities together to encounter each other substantively and sensitively in order to find ways to live in peaceful coexistence together.
Kadi Zahalka is a Palestinian, Arab, Muslim citizen of Israel and a respected judge in our country. I am a Reform rabbi who moved to Israel 33 years ago to live in the Jewish state of Israel. I have served in educational and communal positions in Jerusalem for over three decades. I suspect that this may have been the first time in most of the cities in which we appeared that a kadi and a rabbi spoke on the same platform at synagogues, churches, mosques, universities and communal groups. Read More