Saturday, February 26, 2011


On Thursday, I was supposed to  have an interfaith meeting. Somehow or other the Muslim coordinator again bonked out on me.  If I hadn't called an hour before the meeting, he would have sms'd me 5 minutes before the meeting was to begin to tell me he wasn't coming and neither was anyone else from his area.  He said he wasn't feeling well; he had a cold.  I think I ought to find a female Muslim coordinator who would be able to multi-task and who would go on with her life, even through a cold.  My experience with men on this planet, is that having a cold is akin to the end of the world or, at the very least, feeling as if they're dying.

I called a participant bemoaning the fact that there will be all these new people attending, waiting to meet Muslims for the first time in their lives in this type of social setting.  She called me back saying they still want to come and we could just discuss our meetings in general - it could be like a prepatory meeting.
A young teenage boy was the first to arrive. He had just moved to Israel from the US and wanted to meet Muslims because he felt that everyone living here should be respected for their beliefs.  Another knock on the door.  Two beautiful teenage girls arrived.  They studied at the local high school in Maaleh Adumim and were part of Seeds of Peace.  Normally our group is comprised of mostly (married) Jewish women and Muslim men. Two more men who had never showed up before arrived for the meeting and then some of the regulars.  This was a good mixed crowd.  We all were curious about Seeds of Peace in Maaleh Adumim,which seemed to be a novelty.  How did they join up?

One of the girls said that her sister went to their summer camp in Maine and came back a changed person. She obviously liked the change in her sister - who was probably a lot nicer, more tolerant - even towards her own sibling - never mind others in this country.

Actually  what happened is that one of their high school teachers walked into their classroom and asked the class  - who would like to go to camp in the United States?  All 40 hands shot up.  "The catch is", continued the teacher, "that the camp will be with Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Americans and Israelis."  Most of the hands went down, together with some groaning from the class.  Five hands remained up.  Their classmates were shocked that there would be even one person wanting to talk to the "other side" and warned them to "be careful." 

So those five 10th graders went to Maine last summer to meet with people they ordinarily wouldn't have ever come in contact with.  It wasn't easy at first, especially when some West Bank participants found out they were from Maaleh Adumim, and each one blaming the other for a lot of the conflict - even some screaming and yelling ensued.  But by the end of the camp, the "fighting" partners began to enjoy each other's company and looked forward to continued dialogue.

Another Jewish Orthodox woman who had been participating in our religious dialogue for two years stated that she first came to the meetings, wanting to change the Muslims, or the way they think.  In the end, she related how she herself had changed; that her soul was completely different.

I told them about our first gathering - and hope that in March we will have a "real" interfaith meeting.

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