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Elana and Ibtisam: Women working for peace

Some time ago I posted a short video about Elana and Ibtisam who work together for peace in Israel and Palestine. They both spoke about the role of women in peace-building and how women’s voices need to be heard in the peace process. I posted the clip with the title Holding Hands: Daughters of Abraham as this is how they began their story of the work they do together. The clip is here

I’m now posting Part 2 and Part 3 in which they speak about how they met at an interfaith gathering and how they get to know each other and their families. Part 3 shows Ibtisam’s work in her village, creating a Women’s Council and working with the mayor to improve the conditions and education of women. The video was made a few years ago and I will try to get an update on how the recent events have impacted on the work of Elana and Ibtisam.

Part 2

Part 3


Expressing Condolences to the Bereaved

A moving call from Rabbi Ron Kronish. The grass-roots peacemakers of Israel and Palestine can make a difference!


Dr. Ron Kronish

first published on Times of Israel, July 7th 2014

At the end of April, I wrote a post on this blog, which was entitled “Stop the Hate Crimes Epidemic in Israel Now.” It was translated into Hebrew and also published on the Walla website.

At that time, I felt, along with many other people that the acts of extreme “religious” Jewish youth –which have been sanctioned for years by their rabbis and by many political “leaders” in Israeli society— had already reached epidemic proportions and were endangering the moral fabric of Israel society.

At that time I wrote:

“The hate crime epidemic in Israel must be brought under. This has got to stop. It is urgent and can no longer be swept under the carpet!”

And, what has been done since then to combat this phenomenon? Nothing! Just lip service, but hardly anyone has been arrested or…

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Eliyahu Maclean: Rodef Shalom

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”.

eliyahu_mcleanThis 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.”  

Read the full article here


Track Two Diplomacy

Ron-KronishI 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.

The Other Peace Process as told by a Rabbi and a Kadi

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. (more…)

Holding Hands: Daughters of Abraham

This is a video about two remarkable women who are working to bring Jewish and Palestinian women together for peace. The film was made by Zej Media, who also made the film about Eliyahu McClean and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari in the post below. It is part of a project called ‘Unusual Pairs’ in which the great peace-maker, Marc Gopin is involved. On the Zej Media website the following excerpts from this project are described, “Elana Rozenman is the founder of Trust-Emun, whose women-led activities are geared to finding the common humanity that builds trust and dispels fear among people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions and nations. Ibtisam Mahameed is a Palestinian Israeli peaceworker living in a small Arab-Palestinian community in Fureidis, northern Israel. A devout Muslim, she works with many groups that promote interfaith dialogue and nonviolence, including the Interfaith Encounter Association and the Golden Road. Ibtisam is deeply committed to strengthening the role of women in society, and was the first woman to run for mayor of her hometown. She recently received the “Unsung Heroes of Compassion” award from the Dalai Lama in San Francisco, CA. Together, Ibtisam and Elana work to bring Arab and Jewish women together to create lasting bonds.”  In this first part of the video Elana and Ibtisam speak of the lack of women’s voices in the peace process and how they work to bring those voices in and make a difference.

How Peace-making really works

This is a marvellous and moving film about the work of 2 peace-makers. It is excellent in how it shows their work and how they both speak about their path to this work. Very inspiring as an excellent example of what peace-making is about.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, a Palestinian Sufi, who passed on two years ago and is sorely missed, was the co-founder of Jerusalem Peacemakers. He was also the head of the Naqshabandi Sufi order in Jerusalem, a role that has been passed from father to son since Sheikh Bukhari’s family came to Jerusalem from Bukhara 400 years ago. Sheikh Bukhari worked hard all his life for peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem. Eliyahu McLean, an Orthodox Jew, is the director of the Jerusalem Peacemakers and works tirelessly for reconciliation in the conviction that the resources for peace are there in the religious and spiritual traditions of the Holy Land. This video shows Eliyahu and Sheikh Bukhari talking of their work together.

Rabbi Michael Lerner on a Different Approach to the Israel-Palestine Conflict

In this book Rabbi Michael Lerner offers his thoughts on finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East

Book description

“A major modern conundrum is how the Arab/Israel conflict remains unresolved and, seemingly, unresolvable. In this inspirational book, Rabbi Michael Lerner suggests that a change in consciousness is crucial. With clarity and honesty, he examines how the mutual demonization and discounting of each sides’ legitimate needs drive the debate, and he points to new ways of thinking that can lead to a solution.

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