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?