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Many of you have expressed a wish to read my research. I’m very pleased to let you know that it has now been published by Routledge under the title, Sufism and Jewish-Muslim Relations: The Derekh Avraham Order in Israel. To order from Routledge click here or to order from Amazon click here. It has been a long journey to bring this project to fruition. However, it has been an enriching and spiritually rewarding journey in addition to pursuing the academic rigour this kind of work requires.
In Israel there are Jews and Muslims who practice Sufism together. The Sufi activities that they take part in together create pathways of engagement between two faith traditions in a geographical area beset by conflict. Sufism and Jewish Muslim Relations investigates this practice of Sufism among Jews and Muslims in Israel and examines their potential to contribute to peace in the area. It is an original approach to the study of reconciliation, situating the activities of groups that are not explicitly acting for peace within the wider context of grass-roots peace initiatives. The author conducted in-depth interviews with those practicing Sufism in Israel, and these are both collected in an appendix and used throughout the work to analyse the approaches of individuals to Sufism and the challenges they face. It finds that participants understand encounters between Muslim and Jewish mystics in the medieval Middle East as a common heritage to Jews and Muslims practising Sufism together today, and it explores how those of different faiths see no dissonance in the adoption of Sufi practices to pursue a path of spiritual progression. The first examination of the Derekh Avraham Jewish-Sufi Order, this is a valuable resource for students and scholars of Sufi studies, as well as those interested in Jewish-Muslim relations.
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.”
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.
The following series of videos are of the peace tour made by Eliyahu McClean and Sheikh Ghassan Manasra in the US at the end of 2011. I wrote about Sheikh Manasra in a previous post. Both these men are significant players in the grass-roots peace initiatives of Israel and Palestine.
“Video of our Nov. 7, 2011, Jerusalem Peacemakers event, featuring grassroots activists Eliyahu McLean and Sheik Ghassan Manasra: a Jew and a Sufi Muslim from Israel. The two presented “Stories of Hope from the Holy Land: Grassroots Arab-Jewish Peace Efforts That Do Not Make the News.” The event was co-hosted by The Israel Center and UAlbany-Hillel, at Chapel House.”
Ghassan Manasra is the son of Shaykh ‘Abd as-Salam, head of the Qadiri order in Israel. I’ve met and spoken with him and he is one of the most gentle and peace-loving persons I’ve met. He works hard for peace and reconciliation but it comes with a price as this article in Haaretz reports: “For decades, the mystical Sufis in Nazareth have celebrated Islam through music and poetry without considering themselves in danger. But nowadays, local Salafis, who practice a more conservative and coercive Islam, bully and beat Sufi leaders to deter them from their practices, Muslim community leaders told Haaretz.. “We visit tombs of holy peoples and they say it is forbidden; we chant and they say it is forbidden to use instruments; I say there should be dialogue with Israelis and Jews because the prophet Muhammed received delegations of Jewish tribes,” but Salafis object, said Nazareth Sheikh Ghassan Menasra, 44, a leader of the Qadiri Sufi Order of the Holy Land.” Click here to continue reading