AR Palestine Peace Journey: Jericho, Nabi Musa, and the Jordan River

Palestinian Coordinator Mohamad Jamous organized a day of connection and unity on December 22 in and near Jericho with 142 Palestinian participants. It was the last meeting of AR Palestine of 2017. Two buses full of people met at the shrine of the Prophet Moses at 9:30 am. After being introduced to the Abrahamic Reunion and its work, everyone went on a tour of the shrine, visiting the tomb, the mosque, and other rooms in the area. Because of restoration work being done, they were unable to visit the wells and stable areas.

After the tour, everyone went back to the shrine’s mosque for the noon prayer. Before leaving, a group picture was taken outside the shrine. Some people nearby noticed the group and asked Mohamad Jamous who they were and why there was Hebrew on the banner. He explained to them that “We are a peaceful religious organization and all our work is centered on peace between heavenly religions.” As for the Hebrew on the banner, he told them that “we have members and coordinators who work with us in Israel.” He explained to them that the Abrahamic Reunion unites Israelis and Palestinians of all the Abrahamic faiths.

Next, the group went to the Jordan River for a tour. While there, they learned about the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and were told about the many visitors from around the world who make a pilgrimage to the area. Most of the group had never visited this site before and were excited to visit such a historic and sacred place.

They had planned to have lunch there, but there were many visitors that day and not enough tables available. Members of the group suggested going to the Spanish garden in Jericho and eating there. Everyone was happy to find a solution where they could all eat together.

After lunch, Mohamad Jamous interviewed some participants, asking them what love, peace, and respect mean to them, and how religion can be a force for peace. All of the answers shared the same core message: we are all human beings and there should be respect, love, and peace among all religions in the world, and not only in Israel and Palestine. Muslim participants agreed that Islam taught them to love and respect others and live with other communities in love and peace, saying people need to talk with each other to achieve peace.

After lunch, the group visited Old Jericho and the spring of Ein Al-Sultan, where people talked with each other and took pictures and the children there played together. At sunset, the day ended with a prayer that we can all live together in peace.

Mohamad Jamous and the other Palestinian Coordinators are looking forward to more peace journeys and peace building activities throughout 2018 where people from many religions can experience each others’ sacred spaces, perspectives, and each other as a human being – Happy New Year!


The AR at the URI Middle East & North Africa Annual Assembly

Siham Halabi, center, a Druze peace leader on the Abrahamic Reunion board

The United Religions Initiative’s Middle East & North Africa division (URI MENA) held its 15th annual assembly from November 23-26, 2017. Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen, Siham Halaby, and Ibtisam Mahameed represented the Abrahamic Reunion at the assembly, held in Amman, Jordan. Representatives came from Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, the PA, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Iraq. Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Co-Chairman of the Board for the AR NGO in Israel, wrote the following report:

 

Rabbi Yakov Nagen leads a workshop session called “The Other as Brother: Stories of Hope and Reconciliation in Hebron and Jerusalem”

“I was privileged to represent the Abrahamic Reunion at the annual event, with this years theme: “People against Violence” . When arriving I was hugged as a brother by leaders of the URI who had never met me but felt a deep connection because of our common vision. Indeed just as I always feel at AR events that we are a family, so too I felt this with the leaders of the various Cooperation Circles of the Middle East and North Africa region of the URI. In the session I presented: “The Other as Brother: Stories of Hope and Reconciliation in Hebron and Jerusalem”, I shared with the participants the techniques of the AR and told about our activities, in particular stories from the annual Iftar and the visits to educational institutions both Arab and Jewish. For me one of the most significant teachings I learnt was in the session of the NGO “Hope for the children of Palestine” in which they shared their slogan “connection before correction”, an idea that always took me so many words to say, I now can do in three words!

One very moving moment was when a young woman from Iraq asked to say in prayer in her native language. To my great surprise, her language is a form of Aramaic, the ancient language that Jews spoke 2000 years ago and in which the Talmud was written.

URI coordinator Elana Rozenman and AR representative Rabbi Yakov Nagen lead the Shabbat candle lighting ceremony

Another memorable session: The Jewish members of the conference did a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony to which many of the other participants, Muslim and Christian – from Egypt, Tunisia, the PA, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq joined in. Elana Rozenman lit Shabbat candles and invited all to light, I sang the traditional songs, and the Kiddush was with grape juice instead of wine in order not to offend Muslim sensitivities that forbid alcohol. After the blessings on the Challah, I divided the eight Challot I brought to little pieces to be enough for all.

Rabbi Yakov Nagen blesses the challah bread before the Shabbat meal

I am so much to grateful to have met each of the people I encountered at the conference, but most of all I feel gratitude to the organizers, most of them volunteers for taking care of all details. In addition, I appreciate the efforts they made to make Israelis and Jews at home at the conference that was primarily Arab. The ability to go beyond politics fulfilled for me the saying of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic who once said, “Out there, beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” In a region with conflicts and diametrically opposed narratives about its rights and wrongs, we must find that field, and for me the URI conference created that field.

The connection to URI makes our organization one of 894 cooperation circles, with more than a million members. This scope gives hope that together we can really make the world a better place for all on a global scale.”

The Abrahamic Reunion has been a cooperation circle of the URI for over a decade, and was featured in their NBC Christmas Special last year.

URI MENA 15th Annual Assembly group picture


November’s Praying Together in Jerusalem

On Thursday, November 30th, 60 people, Israelis and Palestinians, came together for the monthly Praying Together in Jerusalem event. This month, the prayer took place on the roof of the Tomb of King David complex. Jews, Christians, and Muslims said their evening prayers in separate, side by side groups, then came together as one large group to pray for Jerusalem.

The Abrahamic Reunion sponsored and brought 20 Palestinian participants to the November Praying Together In Jerusalem. “It was so powerful to have all of them there,” said Raanan Mallek, event coordinator from Tantur and the Abrahamic Reunion, “It makes a huge difference to be able to bring Palestinians across the border and to Praying Together In Jerusalem – this was one of our most powerful Praying Together In Jerusalem’s we’ve ever had.”

Thanks to Daniel Aqleh, Mohamad Jammous, and Mohammad Said, AR Palestinian Coordinators for working with Eliyahu McLean to organize the transportation, permit process, and joyful coming together for a winter’s prayer atop the Tomb of King David.

Project coordinators Raanan Mallek (left) and Daniel Aqleh (right)

Jewish evening prayer (Ma’ariv)

Christian evening prayer (Vespers)

Muslim evening prayer (Maghrib)


“Ibrahim’s Peace House” Chapter Launch

On Thursday, November 30th, the Abrahamic Reunion successfully obtained permits for 20 Palestinian men, women, and children from Nablus and Jericho to come for a day of peacebuilding in Jerusalem. After touring the Botanical Gardens, the group shared a meal with Jewish Renewal rabbis at Haj Ibrahim Abu El-Hawa’s Peace House on the Mt of Olives. The group shared teachings about the Muslim and Jewish holy days of this time of year: Mawlid il-Nabi and Chanukah. The event marked the official launch of Ibrahim’s Peace House as the newest chapter of the Abrahamic Reunion.

For more than 30 years, people of all faiths have been coming to Ibrahim’s Peace House to eat, sleep, and get to know each other for free. The house is run entirely on donations and everyone is welcome. Haj Ibrahim is known to be seen walking down the street asking travelers if they need a place to stay the night, and inviting everyone he meets to come to stay at his house.  His famous generosity has made him famous as the “ambassador of goodwill” from the Mount of Olives, and is one of the original co-founding Peacemakers of the Abrahamic Reunion from back in 2004.

The day of peacebuilding ended on the roof of King David’s tomb, when the group joined November’s Praying Together in Jerusalem event.