From 23rd April 2012 – 3rd May 2012, a unique tour took place in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, organized by Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, and facilitated by FoEME. The tour group was comprised of members of Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths, and focused on visiting sites that are important to all three major monotheistic religions. FoEME thanks Rabbi Smith for writing this essay. We hope you enjoy reading about his – and our – multi-faith efforts!
At a time when a just and enduring two-state peace settlement seems particularly elusive, Friends of the Earth Middle East serves as a beacon of hope. Our trip offered a unique opportunity for a small group of fourteen people of different faiths to witness the extremely positive work of FoEME as well as to explore sites of huge importance to the three Abrahamic faiths. Through these first-hand experiences and ensuing conversations, we gained more confidence in relating to others outside of our own faiths as well as being encouraged that the seeds of peaceful coexistence can be found in the Middle East and at home in the UK.
Our unusual group started out in Israel, visiting sites that are holy to all three religions in Jerusalem. During our two weeks of sojourning we also visited Hebron, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley, Mount Nebo, and both of FoEME’s EcoParks: Auja and Sheikh Hussein Eco-Lodge. The beauty of this inter-faith tour was, however, more than simply visiting these incredible religious sites. Also integral to the experience were the four workshops, as imagined and conducted by Jane McAdam-Freud and myself, encouraging Muslims, Christians and Jews to connect to the land around them, and to each other. These workshops were as varied as the venues we conducted them in, taking place on the shores of the Jordan River, at the Dead Sea, in the Palestinian village of Auja and in the SHE EcoPark.
After returning to our homes, we have exchanged photographs, met up for a reunion, and discussed how to carry on with our involvement in support of FoEME and support bringing people together. For starters, two group members, one Jewish and one Christian, visited and gave emotional assistance to the son of a Palestinian Hebron resident now living in the UK.
And how has this trip affected all of us in the long term? Aisha, a committed Muslim, wrote to me following our trip: “As you know, I was apprehensive in coming… but the group was fantastic…. All the banter on the minibus for the eleven days made it seem like a family holiday…. Who would believe there is conflict in this beautiful region? I had never thought that I would be able to visit the Holy Land and feel really privileged. I will carry those memories with me all the time.”
And, on 12 July 2012, a multi-faith event in support of FoEME was organized at the Wembley Mosque on Ealing Road. The FoEME exhibition about the Jordan River, consisting of powerful photographs and explanatory panels, was also on display. Munqeth Mehyar, the Jordanian Director, and Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli Director, both spoke at the Mosque. The Muslims attendees greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear an Israeli so committed to peace and justice for all.
After the speeches, questions from the audience were listened to and answered, and there was an opportunity for mingling and individual conversations. The event was a success; after it was all over, Gidon noted, ‘Munqeth and I left the Mosque last night quite speechless from the tremendous warmth we felt from the interfaith audience.’
A sincere thank you to everyone in Jordan, Palestine and Israel who helped to support us in our endeavors.
This blog was edited and compiled by Luca Winer, Social Media Coordinator. Luca works in the Amman office.