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Interfaith Peace Efforts in Israel

Life in Haifa

I am writing this story from the vantage point of an American Immigrant to Haifa Israel. My five years as an "Oleh" or immigrant have been challenging but incredibly satisfying. I want to thank Rabbi Edgar Nof and my Temple, Or Hadash, in Haifa for warmly accepting me and helping me adjust to life in Israel. My experiences in interfaith activities at Or Hadash have made me a passionate supporter of dialogue between peoples and have helped me to cope with the challenges of immigration.

The side of life in Israel-Palestine that gains media attention is that of conflict and anger. Sadly, this side of life does exist in this region. However, there are efforts made by many Jews, Christians,and Muslims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian borders to bring harmony. This is particularly true in Haifa "The City of Peaceful Co-Existence".

Or Hadash puts a great deal of emphasis and energy into interfaith actions and words. Or Hadash networks with the Muslim Achmedia, with the Druze community, and many other faiths to build better relations. We enhance our own spirituality by sharing our lives with friends from other faiths.

I would like to share a bit about our relationship with the Catholic Focolare- the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world.The Focolare does a myriad of spiritual, cultural, social, and economic programs worldwide- based on their primary tenet "Unity for All". The members of the Focolare live by the golden rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." For the past five years Or Hadash and the local Focolare have met monthly in a joint study meeting. We study each others holy writings. Our goal is to learn from each other not to change or judge the faiths of our friends. This past year, our monthly meeting was held on Dec 22nd, just three days before the Christmas celebration. It is very common for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to share our holidays together in Haifa.

In these monthly study meetings, we study both the Old and the New Testaments with the goal of understanding each other's spirituality and not contesting it. This year we met during the week of Easter and Passover. We talked about the origins of both holidays and some of the common traditions.

We have participated in activities sponsored by the Focolare that have been incredible. Or Hadash took part in a four day interfaith spiritual retreat at Kibbutz Nes Ammim in the Galilee. The event was done in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian border took part in the retreat. We studied each others holy books, prayed together, and enjoyed meeting participants from dozens of countries. Our only real source of contention was the nature of the cuisine! We were the first Jewish participants in this convention in the history of Israel-Palestine. .

We also send a delegation to the world renowned Run4Unity. It was held for the first time ever in Haifa in the year 2007. Youth from Israel-Palestine participated in a variety of sports activities held at Haifa's Carmel Beach. Several hundred youth from Israel and Palestine shared this activity without contention. Jewish, Christian,and Muslim young people participated. This year the event is being held in Caesaria in May.

In April of 2011, Or Hadash held one of the most exciting, beautiful and historic events at our congregation: INTERFAITH-DIALOGUE-PEACE CONCERT, HEALING THE CARMEL.

It was a first time in our congregation’s history that Muslim, Christian and Jewish choirs, musicians and singers came together to sing in unity for peace at Or Hadash. A Muslim choir from the Achmaddiyyan community, along with their Muezzin Umar Sharief, two Catholic choirs singing in Latin, English and Arabic, a German group of 11 young musicians, and Or Hadash choir – Shir Hadash, all came together in an inspiring evening that touched everyone and will be remembered for years to come.

A crowd of almost 300 people gathered at our synagogue for the event. Representatives from the three faiths spoke to the guests, emphasizing the importance of music and the significance of coming together to sing for such a noble cause.

An Arabic TV channel (Al Hura) from the US, arrived to document the evening. The German newspaper Die Welt sent reporters to cover the event. Haifa’s local media was present as well.

My favorite interfaith experience at Or Hadash took place in November of 2009. We joined our friends from the local Muslim Achmadi School in Haifa to host a youth "Soccer for Peace" program at their school in the Cababir part of Haifa. The Achmadiyya are peaceful followers of Islam. They have more than one hundred million followers in the world. Many live in Indonesia, Pakistan and England.

Youth ages to played a three game tournament that had both boy and girl players participate. Our team coach was Timothy Crowe, a Southern Baptist envoy to Israel from Dallas Texas. The kids enjoyed the beautiful Haifa fall weather, and a feast of cookies, cakes, pizza and soft drinks that followed the games. We are looking forward to continuing and expanding this activity in the fall of this year. I am looking forward to telling the readers more about the "Soccer for Peace" program in future posts.

Posted by eshugerman 09:29 Tagged israel haifa southern baptists judaism interfaith achmadiyya focolare catholicism

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