Tag Archives: peace-making

Imagine yourself as the “Other”

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“If we divide the world into the children of light and the children of darkness, we are capable of dehumanising and demonising the Other, seeing ourselves as a victim and committing altruistic evil. Dualism is alive and well in parts of the world today, it has a religious source, or at least speaks a religious language, and it is leading to terror, brutality, civil war and chaos on an ever-widening scale…..   to be cured of potential violence towards the Other, I must be able to imagine myself as the Other.” 

-Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.

Faith is God’s call to see his trace in the face of the Other. From a Christian perspective, it is seeking to love one’s neighbor, with no qualifications attached.

The last post from Jerusalem

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Today marks my last day in Israel.   I had a very important meeting scheduled with the Shalom Hartman Institute, that we had to makeup from a cancellation due to the snow storm.   Sadly this meant I could not get to the Hadassah En Kerem Hospital to learn about how they provide treatment for children and people from all over the world, but I think I have a good sense of what they do, so I am good with it.

I took advantage of warm weather and blue sky for the first time in about a week to do an early walk to the Old City one last time. I went first to the Western Wall. There is just something about that place which draws me back, again and again. I went to the Archeological Park, adjacent to it, where they have excavated the corner of the second temple, and even excavated a first century Jerusalem street that was adjacent to the Temple Mount wall, and other ruins that date back to the first temple era.   I’ve said it before; I love ancient rocks.   When I finished that I noticed the line for the Temple Mount was short, so I went back up to see the Dome on the Rock again, this time with sunshine and blue sky. I made for some nice photos. I exited out the north gate, and headed east to the Lions Gate. From there I went back to the Garden of Gethsemane, and was going to go up the hill of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Mary Magdalene, but my feet told me this was not a good idea. I made it back through the Old City, which was bustling unlike at any other time in my trip, and grabbed a snack, and then walked about a mile or so to the Shalom Hartman Institute.

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The smallest of worlds… and a story of good work coming from the Holy Land

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Tonight I had the opportunity to experience a different effort aimed at reconciliation in Israel, one which contradicts common images.   For all its security, the Israelis have a long tradition of providing medical care to children in need, regardless of where they are from.  Borders don’t matter.   In Tel Aviv, there is a hospital, called Save a Child’s Heart, that is world famous for its congenital heart care.   In Jerusalem, there is a christian organization called Shevet Achim, that provides a shelter for families with children needing care at Save a Child’s Heart.   They began by working in Gaza, and the West Bank, but now provide a place for families from Syria, Jordan, and Iraq (maybe others).   The organization is kind of like a Ronald McDonald’s House, but on a global scale.   What makes the group unique, is that it is a group of staff and volunteers who live together in community.   They share a home on “Street of the Prophets” (Ha Nevim Street), and have a few apartments down the road from it.  It is a small old building.   People come and work for a week, or a few days, or a few months, or longer.   Tonight there were people from Scotland, Denmark, Germany, the US, and elsewhere.   There was also a father of one of the children, a Kurd, from Northern Iraq at dinner at the end.

They start each day with worship together.  They are non-denominational, and seek to build christian community in the purest sense.  They don’t fight or argue about doctrine, and when someone comes who wants to argue about theology, they usually don’t stay.  They actually spend 2 hours each morning in worship and scripture study, then go do the work of the day.  They eat their meals together (although some of them are off-site), and eat dinner in community.


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Old City, Hand in Hand School, and Yad Vashem

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Today has been a welcome break from the cognitive dissonance created yesterday by visiting Hebron. But it wasn’t a quiet or down day by any means. I woke early and by 8am Roger and I were at the Old City, where he headed to the Damascus Gate to pick up a bus to the Allenby Bridge and Jordan. I have truly enjoyed sharing the time in Israel with him. We were constant companions and together were able to really see how Friends Forever works on the ground in Israel, and we had shared experiences in peace-making that are unlike any other.

So, by 8am, I was on my own. 10 days in Israel and I am comfortable enough that this was not a big deal. I immediately headed to the Jaffa Gate, and into the Old City. My goal was the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount. Non-Muslims can go up to the Temple Mount only 3 hours each morning. So, I got there, and the line was probably 45 minutes long just to clear security.   I decided to walk out the south gate – the Dung Gate – and explored the City of David, the Archeological Park, directly to the south of the Old city.   I was there early enough that I think I managed to avoid shelling out a few shekels. That is ok.   Then I went back to the Old City, and by this time the line was shorter, and I went up to the Temple Mount. It was pretty cool. I would love to see it during afternoon prayer, but that isn’t going to happen.

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The Shimon Peres Peace Center – learning to see beyond our differences

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We left the studio this morning at 7am, and returned at 9pm.   It has been, like every other day, a whirlwind, but this one more than others.   Let’s start with the Shimon Peres Center for Peace.    We arrived at 8:15am in Jaffa, after a 90 minute drive in Tel Aviv traffic (Roger is a champ, and is a great driver, I served as navigator!).   The Peace House is a post-modern building built on the Mediterranean Sea, in the oldest continuous port city in the world, Jaffa.  Our host was Nadav Tamir, former Consul General for Israel for New England, and senior policy advisor to former President Shimon Peres.  (Peres is 92 years old, by the way, still works at the Peace Center he built, and left office as President of Israel last July).
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Nadav and  Adina Vogel, Coordinator for Development and External Relations, spent more than an hour discussing the three main projects that the Peace Peace Center engages in, then spent another hour giving us a tour and answering questions.   The Peace Center has three primary functions. First, they provide medical training for Palestinian doctors and medical staff in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Palestinian Authority has been separate from Israel’s medical health care system since 1999, and their medical systems are nowhere at the level of the Israeli’s so they have provided training to more than 300 doctors.   They have also provided health care for sick Palestinian children.  50 percent of the Palestinian population is under the age of 14, and their Saving Children program has treated more than 10,500 children.

Their second endeavor is Business and Environment.  They bring business professionals from Israel together with businesses on the West Bank.  Last year,in June, after the 3 Israeli children were kidnapped (and later found killed), they held a Palestinian Product Exhibition in Nazareth, where 1,000  B2B meetings were held.  500 people attended, and 40 Palestinian companies were there.   THIS IS what Positive INVESTMENT in Palestine, and NOT DIVESTMENT from Israel is.   They are taking steps for Israeli companies  to see the business opportunities in the West Bank.  IMG_1371

Third, is the Peace Education Program.  This is multi-faceted, and is based on the idea that within conflict resolution it is easy to develop stereotypes, and children and youth are the future.   So their goal is to breakdown those stereotypes.  They do this in a variety of ways, ranging from sports programs that bring Jews and Arabs together, but add in a peace component to the programs.  They play football (soccer, of course), but they do it with different rules.  You have to pass the ball to a member of the other group on your mixed team.   They work with communities in Arab Villages in Israel, and on the West Bank.  They develop a twin school program, where two schools are paired together.   This targets kids.

The YaLa program targets 18-35 year olds.  It is a Facebook page movement, which specifically integrates people across Israel, the West Bank, and other nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa.  They use social media in private groups, and include online courses provided by American universities (what a great idea for a peace studies course — let’s develop a peace study curriculum we can provide for Israeli’s and Palestinians!)  As of now they have 300 participants, who meet regulIMG_1381arly online using Facebook, and other technology tools like Google Hangouts, then have face to face meetings.  Participants are mostly in their 20s, and come from the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.   They even had a participant from Gaza who lost two family members in the war, but felt that it was essential to participate in the program.

Nadav and Adina were extremely generous and told me they would gladly host Illinois State students.   But the thing that really struck me was how they were working for positive investment, and were providing tools to cut across the narratives that people get locked in when talking about Israel and Palestine.  We can not simply ACCEPT one narrative.   We have to look at the underlying dynamics, and try to see what the narrative assumes, and realize there are competing narratives.

The power of my time at the Peres Center was reinforced through this evening’s Friends Forever reunion, where the kids held frank discussions about what happened when they were together, and when they had fights (each group had a big “blow out” when they were together, when the narratives began to clash.  One eloquent young woman captured what is important in better words than me.

It was important to discuss what was bothering us, but we have to move forward, because we came here to be friends and not to fight, if I don’t agree with the other side, it is game over.  We have to learn to accept and love one another through our differences.

This reminds me of the words I have used when giving a sermon on interfaith issues at New Covenant Community and Moses Montefiore Temple.  “the supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one that is not in our image.”  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ words capture why interfaith work is important.   That young Israeli student captures how it applies in the context of conflict resolution, coexistence, and reconciliation in Israel.


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