In October 2016, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Dr Anna Less and David Less made presentations across London (including for students of Kings College, London) and at Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge Universities. They spoke to over four hundred pupils at the prestigious the Camden School For Girls’ sixth formers, hosted two interfaith Sukkot events (one with old friend of the AR Rabbi Mordechai Zeller, recently moved to the UK), and held a beautiful interfaith evening at the St Ethelburga’s Centre For Peace & Reconciliation. continue reading →
Praying together in Jerusalem unites Christians, Muslims and Jews
Rabbi Nahman of Breslov taught that it is best to pray with the simplicity of a child; talking to God as if He were your best friend.
But what about praying alongside your neighbors as if they were your friends, with the ease of children on the playground? These ideas of simplicity and kinship in prayer are being utilized in Jerusalem on a monthly basis by Praying Together in Jerusalem, a group co-founded by Peta Jones Pellach of the Elijah Interfaith Institute and Russell McDougall, rector at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute.
When asked about the impetus to start Praying Together, Pellach said, “We were having a seminar on envisioning our future last summer, hosted by the Abrahamic Reunion, where many delegates came representing different organizations. We were brainstorming ideas, and it was out of this that Praying Together was born. We came to the conclusion that we really needed to pray side-by-side publicly and visibly.”
Discussions on where the ideal place would be to hold such an interfaith prayer group quickly followed, with a plethora of potential locations. The goal was to find neutral ground. The City Hall was dismissed, and Tzahal Square had military symbolism. Several other Jewish and Muslim venues were considered, but ultimately, Pellach and McDougall settled on the Jaffa Gate as the location for the first gathering in October.
“We chose October to begin the monthly Praying Together events, not knowing that it would be such a violent month. One Muslim did come to that first gathering. We’re now on our sixth meet-up, and on the average, we get about 40 Christians and 20 Jews,” Pellach added.
Muslim participation had been extremely low for the first five events; a fact that was distressing to all who are involved with Praying Together. The initial lack of Muslim attendance may be due to an incident last summer at another interfaith event, The Jerusalem Hug, where Muslim participants were attacked by another group of Muslim radicals, and accused of being “normalizers.”
Eliyahu McLean, founder of the Abrahamic Reunion and member and co-organizer of Praying Together, expounded, “Ever since then, many of our Palestinian friends have been afraid to come to our events in or around the Old City because of these anti-normalization thugs. They could show up at any moment to attack Muslims, simply for praying together for peace with Israeli Jews. They call it ‘normalizing the occupation.’ Obviously we would disagree with what they think we are or are not. The normal reality is fear and separation, so in my mind, we’re anti-normalizers.”
The sixth and most recent Praying Together event, held on May 9, was the first to bring a sizable Muslim attendance. The event was held at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, which served as a safe space for Muslim participants, who came by bus from Nablus, Husan (a village next to Beitar Illit), Jericho, and Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem.
It was a significant improvement upon past events, and no small feat to coordinate, as entry permits had to be secured by McLean for the Palestinian participants and coordinators, a process which takes about two weeks.
Cofounder McDougall stated, “We had a fairly good turnout at the Jaffa Gate gatherings, but at the same time, it hasn’t brought the whole family together; it has been mostly Jews and Christians. We felt the absence of part of our family that’s been missing. Today however, we have representation from all faiths together.”
McLean added, “The challenge now is outreach to Israeli Jews to get them to join these events, and have it not be only liberal Jewish Anglos.
We find that faith and spirituality are the best bridges to bring all of these people together. If we asked these people what their political views are, it would be polarizing. But praying together is simple and we want to honor Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in this way.”
Praying Together events are in three parts: learning from each other in groups, praying alongside one another, and then in the final holy act, eating together. The May 9 event began with Pellach sharing a line from last week’s Torah portion that is also found in the Koran, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Pellach shared that in her mind it was divine providence that the passage had such resonance with Praying Together’s ideology.
Immediately following this introduction, smaller groups were formed and the question “What does prayer mean to you?” went around the different circles. It was a fitting query to segue into a beautiful evening prayer service, where the Christian group, praying from a text compiled specially for the event by McDougall, stood alongside the Jewish group, who recited the afternoon and evening prayers, alongside the Muslim group, who prayed facing Mecca. The room during prayer time was full of different voices and language, each loud enough to be heard, but not overpowering one another; an interfaith symphony.
“Our hope is that the three members of the Abrahamic family can pray alongside one another.” McDougall summarized.
“We, as the children of Abraham, are able to stand beside one another in peace, brotherhood and sisterhood.”
Abrahamic Reunion holds meeting at Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach
On Monday, March 21, the leadership group of Abrahamic Reunion — which has its United States office in Sarasota on the West Coast of Florida — came to Boynton Beach to hold its initial meeting in Southeast Florida.
The meeting took place at Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach, as hosted by Rabbi Barry Silver.
Abrahamic Reunion has a mission to promote love, peace, communication, cooperation and dialogue among all people of Israel — including men, women, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze — as well as any other spiritual traditions.
The group was founded in 2004.
The evening was very successful, drawing almost 75 people — leading to plans to have a second follow-up meeting on a day and time to be announced toward the end of the month in April.
David Less, one of the co-founders of Abrahamic Reunion, commented. “The event was very successful. We thought we might only have 15 people, but it was a great turnout in Boynton Beach with many people in that area interested in getting involved with our organization.”
Added Anna Less, David’s wife (who also is a co-founder of Abrahamic Reunion): “One very good thing was there were not only Jewish people present, but members of other faiths who wanted to be part of this unifying group.”
Abrahamic Reunion, according to its website, is a team of religious and spiritual leaders — men, women, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze — dedicated to uplifting human consciousness and building peace in the Holy Land (Israel) by opening hearts to the love and wisdom of all spiritual traditions.
Founded in 2004, Abrahamic Reunion has been to two Parliaments of the Worlds’ Religions as featured presenters — and has convened inter-religious peacemaking dinners every year since 2004.
During the 50-Day Gaza War of 2014, Abrahamic Reunion leaders decided to begin organizing one event every month to bring more people together to fuel the causes of tolerance, amity, understanding and harmonious coexistence.
Abrahamic Reunion, according to its website, seeks to be a living example of its values and beliefs; to find and support other spiritual peacemakers and organizations; to provide training for those interested in spiritual peacemaking; and to create and implement interfaith programs, celebrations, youth activities and other educational initiatives.
The founding principles of Abrahamic Reunion are as follows:
•To share the belief in one God by understanding each other’s religious customs, spiritual practices, prayers and values.
•To turn all religions into a force for peace.
•To infuse our efforts with prayer, meditation and spiritual practice.
•To relate to all as though they are our own family.
•To respond to the needs in the Holy Land by establishing ongoing projects that embody our ideals.
•To promote love, peace, communication, cooperation and dialogue among the people of the Holy Land — including men, women, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze, as well as other spiritual traditions.
•To develop a worldwide membership and support system.
•To convey our message to world leaders.
According to Chris Milller, U.S. coordinator of Abrahamic Reunion, right now the work of Abrahamic Reunion — a registered nonprofit organization — is solely funded by individual donors.
Miller said: “As such, we are seeking both people to get involved with our activities and people to donate to our cause. Both are important.”