Social Action Report

The Secret of the Interfaith Encounter Association Success

Unlike most other dialogue organizations, we (IEA-Interfaith Encounter Association) work with, rather than around, the deep cultural roots, beliefs, and traditions of the peoples of the Middle East. Each encounter is centered on a religious theme and features a carefully planned program of joint study and dialogue. The group then coalesces into a single community that respects the unique identity of each of its “sub- communities” and participants, which helps create a long-term process of grassroots peace building. By constructively engaging with core religious and cultural values, while explicitly discouraging partisan bickering that might close off constructive dialogue, our approach successfully involves social and political groups that may feel very uncomfortable with other approaches. The IEA held more than 150 programs in 2008—providing encounters to more than 4000 participants. For more on the IEA, please see: ENGLISH:

Intra-Israeli Activities

During the year 2008, our intra-Israel activities continued to have a positive impact on the Holy Land. We held a total of 137 programs comprised of 122 inter- religious study sessions in the general program, fifteen in the three Women’s Programs, and ten in the Young Adults programs.

General Program

Eight of the inter-religious encounters were organized by Jerusalem-based IEA Reut–Sadaqa–Friendship group, which focused on themes such as “Joseph in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” and “Hannukah, Christmas and Eid al-Adha”. Twenty-four more encounters were organized by the Karmiel–Majd el-Krum group in the Galilee. Centered on the two main schools, this group brings together educators, children and parents of the two neighboring towns who would otherwise have very little interaction. Some of their more recent activities include visiting the nearby Abu Baker Mosque, discussing the significance of Ramadan and Hanukah and a demonstration of the Qa’aba and Hajj.

Several more inter-religious encounters were organized by IEA’s ongoing group in the southern city of Eilat. Of note is their two-session discussion of the meaning of Moses in the Jewish, Druze and Islamic traditions earlier in the year. The Sawa Rabina group in M’ghar had over twenty encounters and events, where issues that are specific to the M’ghar community were addressed. The group also met to plan many activities for the whole community in M’ghar, which included making donations of flowers to the many diverse schools in the area and an art gallery opening.

Several of the groups that were created only last year maintained a strong presence throughout 2008. For example, The Future – Mothers and Daughters encounter group held five encounters, where discussions centered on themes such as Sukkot, Purim, Mothers Day and Family Day. This group also gave the opportunity for the girls to play together while the moms continued their discussions. Dozens more encounters took place across the other groups: within the frameworks of the Arabic-speaking group, the Study and Dialogue group, and the Encounters with Religions of Jerusalem series and other groups. Similar to previous years, we also held a special encounter with many members that belong to several of our Jerusalem groups on the International Day of Peace (which also included a very delicious pot luck Iftar meal!) and a training for the groups’ coordinators.

Women’s Interfaith Encounter (WIE)

n 2008, IEA’s women program organized inter- religious programs in Jerusalem and in M’ghar. Themes were very diverse and included Muslim weddings, Greek Orthodox Christmas and the Sabbath meal. We were also extremely pleased to welcome the Haifa Women’s Interfaith Encountergroup this past year. Unlike other groups in the IEA, we did not create this group. Instead, this group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women decided almost four years ago to meet on their own. It was not until 2008 that they decided to join our ever-expanding family.

Youth Interfaith Encounter (YIE)

In late 2008, the YIE was happy to see a revival in both the Tel Aviv University Youth and Jerusalem Youthgroups. Themes included were “My Connection to my Creator” and “Jewish-Arab Relations”. The “Talking” Interfaith Encounter Group of Mt. Scopus continued to meet throughout 2008 as well.

Israeli-Palestinian Activities

The IEA held two Israeli-Palestinian retreats in 2008; one in conjunction with the Hope Flowers School and another with the Palestinian Peace Society. The two themes focused on in the retreats were “The Binding of Abraham’s Son” and “How G-d Communicates with us,” respectively. 2008 also saw the first Palestinian/Jewish Settler-based encounter group: ADAMA, which brings together inhabitants from Abu Dis and neighboring Maaleh Adumim. Themes discussed by the group included “Fasting”, “Marriage” and “Prophets”. Also of note, the Jerusalem-Hebron Youth Interfaith Encountergroup continued to meet throughout 2008 as well.

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