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Interfaith Dialogue & Israel’s Future

As we prepare to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut the question brewing around many political circles is: Is there a Muslim partner even worth dialoguing with?

Recently Gary Bauer, the one-time Republican presidential candidate and Christian activist, and Mort Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, wrote an op-ed that appeared in The New York Jewish Week suggesting that there is no such thing as moderate Muslim leadership.

The recent argument on this blog surrounding Prime Minster Olmert’s appointment of Raleb Majadele as the first Muslim Cabinet minister, only highlights the low point of Jewish and Muslim relations. After nearly 60 years I should hope that 20 percent of a country’s population is represented in a Cabinet position. But so it goes in the absurd world of the Middle East.


The fact that American Jews object, perhaps more than Israelis, to such an initiative is indicative of the strained relationship not only between Israelis and Palestinians but also more broadly between Muslims and Jews.

Following the Holocaust, Jews and Christians worked hard on bringing their faiths closer together. Symbolic as well as concrete theological concessions were offered by both sides. Christians and Jews swapped delegations, created forums and supported grassroots, interfaith initiatives to breed trust and help ensure that Jews would no longer be portrayed as Christ-killers. But while we were making tremendous strides in Jewish-Christian relations, a new feud was brewing between us and Islam.

If Islam would’ve been more involved in consistent interfaith dialogue for the last 40 years would it have changed things in the Middle East? Only a prophet could answer such a question. Would it have created an infrastructure for the possibility of a better relationship? No doubt.


The problem with Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue is that at this point those who are involved are many times too old, too skeptical, have too much baggage, and too many scars.

That’s where my friends Gul Rukh Rahman and Ari Alexander come in. Together they run a Muslim-Jewish interfaith organization called Children of Abraham. Directing their efforts at young Muslims and Jews from across the world, they have harnessed the relational power of the Internet to bring young Muslims and Jews together.

What they and other young peace entrepreneurs argue is that ultimately the Israeli-Palestinian issue can not be divorced from a much larger religious divide that currently exists between the two groups. Likewise, the most effective interfaith dialogue does not take place between hardened and seasoned imams and rabbis. Rather, it happens with two people who are still young enough not to have had their hope shatterered.


I hope Ari’s right.

Read the Full Debate: What’s the Place of Non-Jews in a Jewish State?

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posted April 18, 2007 at 7:21 pm

I am neither Muslim nor Jewish. In fact, I am not a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. I am an agnostic. But, I find it interesting that you suggest that it was the Muslims that refused to come to the table and speak rationally. From what I understand about the conflict, the Palestinians controlled modern day Israel until the British and Americans kicked them out to give that land to the Jews of the Holocaust. Forgive me if I am mistaken. That is just my understanding of the situation. But, did anyone bother to ask the Palestinians if they minded being kicked out of their own country to make room the Jews? To just hand this land that they loved over to someone else? I am guessing that they feel disposable to the great powers of the world; like they weren’t treated with respect so why should they offer it in return. Just think about how you would have liked it if what was done to them was done to you. I am willing to bet you wouldn’t feel like being very complacent to sit down and talk “rationally” either.

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posted April 18, 2007 at 7:42 pm

Z, Actually part of the blame goes to the British Government, who promised the land to the Arabs for assisting them against the Ottoman Turks, and then To the Jews in the Balfour Declaration. When The British handed the issue to the UN, there was a suggestion to Partition the land, and 1/3 of the land was to go to the jews(what they had in 1948) and the remaining 2/3 were for the Arabs. Needless to say the jews were ok, the Arabs were not, and Attacked the fledgling country. 7 Armies advanced, and 7 armies were sent home crying in defeat. Who was blamed for this, the jews, despite having been ATTACKED by a greviously larger force. That said i have to agree with rabbi Stern. I’ve worked with young Muslim women and have been close friends of them and their families. Dialogue happens but slowly and besat not at the Higher levels with the people who are too invested in the status quo.

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posted April 19, 2007 at 9:33 pm

The problem with the groups mentioned in the article is that the members either, a/ actually support the other side b/ are there to co-opt members of the other side. c/ are hopelessly naive In any event they do not come close to representing the mainstream of the ‘side’ they are on

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Larry Snider

posted April 24, 2007 at 8:34 pm

I have beeen involved in interfaith dialogue for the past seven years and have learned that listening to others, really listning and not judging, is vitally important. We all must learn to stretch our comfort levels, to begin to understand the lives and stories of others. No one has all the answers. Israelis and Palestinians alike have lost family and paid a terrible price as a result of the continuing conflict. People like Len and Libby Traubman who founded the California Livingroom Dialogue group, Leah Green of Compassionate Listening and John Wallach from Seeds of Peace have committed so much to the process of dialogue and understanding former enemies. We all have to learn to talk to each other, even if only as a model for our governments… Shalom-Salaam-Peace,

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posted April 25, 2007 at 5:46 pm


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