March’s Praying Together in Jerusalem

On Thursday, March 22, about 35 people gathered together for the monthly Praying Together in Jerusalem event. The event, usually held on the last Thursday of every month, took place one week earlier because the normal date was during Holy Week and the day before Passover began. April’s meeting will be on the usual day, Thursday, April 26th. At this meeting, Raanan Mallek will be ordained as a Rodef Shalom (רודף שלום), a “Pursuer of Peace.”

Christian evening prayers

Jewish evening prayers

 


Journey to the South – Daniel Aqleh

By Daniel Aqleh
Palestinian Coordinator in Bethlehem

It is always wonderful to know more about the land of Palestine, and it is important to integrate with the multi-religious and Palestinian-Israeli gatherings that open the doors for the building of bridges between the people who are living in the land.

Hura City

With the Abrahamic Reunion, we have hosted a journey to the southern Palestine/Israel, where we first visited the city of Hura.  We were welcomed there by the Imam and learned about the city that was important to all. One of the things we learned was that in 1948 the population of the city was 120,000 people, but because of Al-Nakbah only 12,000 people remained in the city while the others left and became refugees.  According to the Imam, those 12,000 have become 300,000, due to the birth rate.

I thought we were in the south when we visited Hura, but I was astonished that we were in the middle of the country, 250km north is Ras Al Naqoura, Lebanon, and 250km south is the city of Eilat.

The Abrahamic Reunion team hosted by Hura’s Imam

After a wonderful visit, we went to Netivot where we visited the Tomb of the Baba Sali, and had lunch where we met some students who are studying Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University.  It was a great time to meet internationals as well as locals from different cities in the country.

After a good time in Netivot, we visited the Gaza-Israel border wall at Netiv Ha’asara, where we were welcomed by a lady by the name of Roni. She explained how close we were to Gaza. In fact, we could see the wall that separates them from Gaza, it was 500 meters away from us, and also 500 meters from the other side starts the camps on the edge of Gaza City. We were 2.5km away from Gaza City, and because of the siege that the people in Gaza have faced for a long time, we held a prayer for protection and for God to come with his mercy and justice to the land.

Daniel Aqleh and Roni Keidar, a peace activist, at the Gaza border

The last stop was in Kfar Maimon where we had a tour of “Ora’s Orchard” an eco-farm. I was so surprised by the wonder of nature. We walked in a forest and I felt the peacefulness of nature and heard the sounds of birds. It was really wonderful to be away from all people and conflict at that moment and hear from the owner there about their story and ending the journey with a prayer for peace.

At the Eco-farm in Kfar Maimon

Thanks for everyone who has helped in any way, shape, or form to make this a successful journey and the ability to work together as Palestinians and Israelis with the multi-faith dialog and prayer for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.

TuBishvat ceremony and prayer for peace at Ora’s Garden

Rev. Daniel Aqleh is the Abrahamic Reunion’s Palestinian Coordinator in Bethlehem. He leads worship and preaches at the Salt and Light Agape Ministries (SALAM), an independent church providing humanitarian support to the community. SALAM runs the House of Peace guest house in Bethlehem.


Journey to the South – Eliyahu McLean

By Eliyahu McLean
Israel Director

On February 4th, 70 people joined the Abrahamic Reunion South journey to meet religious, peace and ecology leaders in communities in the Negev and Gaza border region. Joining us were Jews, Christians and Muslims, rabbis and sheikhs, men and women, including Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Nablus, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron, Israelis from Jerusalem, and the Negev, and students from an international conflict resolution course at Tel Aviv University. The event was in honor of World Interfaith Harmony Week, and in observance of ‘TuBishvat’, the Jewish ‘New Year of the Trees’ holiday.

Rabbi Yakov Nagen and Sheikh Muhammad Usta, overlooking the Gaza border

The day began with a welcome by Sheikh Tared Atouna, the Imam of the Bedouin city of Hura, to his town, meeting us in the community center. Sheikh Atouna shared with us many interesting facts about Hura. The town, on 1967 border near Hebron, is one of the “planned” Bedouin cities in southern Israel with a population of 30,000, and part of the Negev’s Bedouin population of 300,000. The Sheikh exclaimed, “Everyone has it wrong, Hura is NOT IN THE SOUTH of the country, but in fact is the true geographic CENTER!” From Hura it’s exactly 250 kilometers south to city of Eilat and 250 kilometers north to Rosh Haniqra. Also, according to Muslim tradition, the ancient “Joseph’s Well” on the edge of their cemetery is the same pit that Joseph was thrown into by his brothers. The Muslims then prayed their mid day prayers. We ended our time in Hura with a visit to the impressive central mosque, and time at the viewpoint overlooking Beer Sheva and the whole region.

Inside the central mosque of Hura

We then traveled to Netivot, where AR director Eliyahu McLean pointed out his home, and massive building that is transforming the thriving periphery town of Netivot. We then gathered for a shared meal outside the Tomb of the Baba Sali, the Moroccan Jewish ‘tzadik’, saint, one of the most visited Jewish holy places in Israel. Inside the tomb of the Baba Sali, Eliyahu shared stories of the life and family lineage of the famed Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatseira, who was revered by both Muslims and Jews during his lifetime in Morocco, and whose grandfather’s, the ‘Abir Yaakov’, gravesite in Egypt is still revered today by Muslim Egyptians. The Jews among us joined the mid day ‘mincha’ prayer. An older Moroccan Jewish woman spoke to the Muslim women with us from Nablus and East Jerusalem in Arabic, saying, “In Morocco we Jews and Muslims used to live by side as friends and good neighbors, let’s return to that!”

Sharing lunch outside the Tomb of the Baba Sali

Then at the border lookout of the Israel-Gaza border in the village of Nativ Ha’asra, we were welcomed by Roni Kedar. Roni is active in the Israeli NGO “Another Voice,” organizing dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. At the lookout we could see a few hundred meters away the northern Gaza border wall, and into northern Gaza towns, including a Hamas military training center. Roni shared the hardship of living with fear of mortars falling, and of tunnels being dug underneath them. Joining our delegation were the wife and daughter of the late Sheikh Bukhari, Hala Bukhari grew up in Gaza, and her other daughter lives there now, as we looked further at the skyline where she lives in Gaza City. We learned of the siege and struggle for daily survival of the citizens of Gaza.

Looking out on the Gaza border

Our West Bank coordinators, Muhammad Jammous from Jericho and Evangelical Christian Daniel Aqleh from Bethlehem initiated a circle to pray for peace, and justice between our peoples. Sheikhs Muhammad Usta and Jamal al Din from East Jerusalem, and Rabbi Yaakov Nagen from Otniel led us in Islamic and Jewish prayers for peace. With the news headlines blaring that day was “95% chance of war between Israel and Hamas”, we exclaimed our intention that the opposite, peace, should break out.

Forming a prayer circle at the Gaza border

Finally we arrived at the Gaza border town of Kfar Maimon, for a tour of the unique ‘Ora’s Orchard’. Host Reuven Rosenblatt spoke about their farm where they grow over 80 fruit species, including some that flower only at night, and others just once a year. Reuven shared also his remarkable story of escape with his family from a Nazi death camp in Poland. He showed us one of the gold coins his mother used to bribe prison guards with to postpone being sent to the gas chambers, and shared how a wealthy dentist bribed guards to allow him to hire Reuven’s father as his assistant, from where they planned the family’s escape to freedom. In Israel Reuven met his wife Ora, who lost all her family on a journey by foot to Israel from Yemen.

Reuven shares stories with the group in Ora’s Garden

Eliyahu led a ‘Tu Bishvat”, Jewish New Year of the Trees ceremony, with rounds of blessings of different kinds fruits, with a transition from white to red grape juice. We streamed our event live to an interfaith gathering in the USA. The evening ended with a feast and prayer for peace between Gaza and Israel. Our host, Reuven, said, “Like in our garden where many diverse plant species live in harmony creating a Garden of Eden, so too can our diverse religious communities live in the Holy Land in harmony. Like all of us here together today, we create our own Paradise”.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews celebrate TuBishvat together, sharing different fruits and grape juice

Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean is the Israel Director and a co-founder of the Abrahamic Reunion. He was ordained as a “Rodef Shalom” (Pursuer of Peace) by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. He runs twice weekly “dual-narrative” tours to Hebron from the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem.

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Year in Review: 2017

2017 was an incredible year of growth for the Abrahamic Reunion and peace efforts in the Holy Land: 63 events were held around the world, with a total of 2,943 participants. Here is a more detailed breakdown of events by country:

Holy Land: 26 events with 1,539 participants

US:  19 events with 656 participants

UK:  11 events with 524 participants

Germany:  7 events with 224 participants

2017 Highlights

At “Children for Peace,” a workshop held by the Abrahamic Reunion in Gaza on the International Day of Peace

Three new chapters of the Abrahamic Reunion were created in East Jerusalem, Shefar’am, and Palestine. In 2018 another chapter will be established in the Negev. The Abrahamic Reunion continued to meet with both the Palestinian Authority and the Knesset, acting as a bridge for peace.

Jewish and Muslim women celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah in the Negev together

In March, the Abrahamic Reunion was featured in three viral videos by Nuseir “Nas” Yassin, who makes daily one minute videos his Facebook page, “Nas Daily.” One video features Eliyahu McLean, the AR’s Holy Land Director. Another features Haj Ibrahim Abuelhawa. The third features some of the peacemakers meeting with the Palestinian Government Official Minister Madani (To see the AR’s report on this event, click here). These videos were also included in two compilation videos, which can be found here and here. Altogether, these videos have over 6 million views! (As of 2/1/18) Eliyahu was recently featured in another video in January 2018, which you can watch here.

Some of the peacemakers with Nas of “Nas Daily” in Ramallah after a meeting with the Palestinian Authority

The 14th annual Abrahamic Reunion multi-faith Ramadan Iftar meal took place on June 8th in Ilut, near Nazareth. With 220 people in attendance, it was one of the AR’s biggest interfaith iftars ever! The Christian Media Center made a 3 minute video on the event, which can be seen here.

The second meeting of the AR’s Palestine Chapter, attended by 150 people

2017 was the second year of the Abrahamic Reunion’s monthly Praying Together in Jerusalem event. On the last Thursday of every month, Jews, Christians, and Muslims gathered to pray side by side in the Old City. They would then join together in one united prayer for peace. In February, the Abrahamic Reunion put on a 170 person conference with the allies of Praying Together in Jerusalem for discussion, dialogue, dinner and prayer on the theme of “constructive conflict” – how to have conversations about our differences in ways that build connection and common understanding.

From November’s Praying Together in Jerusalem event

In November, representatives from the Abrahamic Reunion led a workshop at the 15th annual assembly of the United Religions Initiative’s Middle East & North Africa division (URI MENA). The assembly’s theme was “People Against Violence” and was held in Amman, Jordan. The Abrahamic Reunion is a registered Cooperation Circle with the URI.

Ibtisam Mahameed (left) and Siham Halaby (center) represented the Abrahamic Reunion at the assembly.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2017 we also held a crowdfunding campaign for our biggest project ever: Healing the Heart of the Holy Land. Thanks to your support, we raised $60,226, about $9,000 more than our goal of $51,000! In April 2018, we move into the next phase of peacebuilding with the Healing the Heart of the Holy Land Tour and our biggest week of events all across the Holy Land that we’ve ever attempted including healing peace journeys through Palestine, Jerusalem, and the South, a young peacemakers’ training day, a women’s peace retreat, a families forum, and so much more.

2017 was a great year for the Abrahamic Reunion, and we’re grateful for all of the support and prayers we’ve received along the way. We couldn’t do it without you. We hope for your continued support as we move into the new year. Peacebuilding is needed in the Holy Land now more than ever, and together we can make 2018 the Abrahamic Reunion’s biggest year yet!

Shalom, Salaam, Peace,

The Abrahamic Reunion

At the 2017 interfaith iftar dinner