Jun 28 2008

Building trust in the Middle East

Elana Rozenman

This evening I hosted a TRUST WIN CC meeting in my home with the participation of one of our Palestinian co-coordinators and in partnership with Eliyahu McLean of the Jerusalem Peacemakers CC. Attending was a Rabbi who is the head of an important Yeshiva in Jerusalem and a very prominent Sheik in Jerusalem -- we were planning future study sessions for people to learn from the Koran and the Torah about significant topics to build non-violence and reconciliation here. At the beginning of the meeting, the Sheik was standing on our balcony which overlooks the Judean Hills stretching out to the Dead Sea and the distant Hills of Moab in Jordan. We were looking at the local Arab villages in the valley adjoining the Forest of Peace in front of my home which is on the seam between East and West Jerusalem. We were enjoying the view, and as we talked many Palestinian families going to and from the Promenade through the hills near our home were amazed to see the Sheik standing on our balcony and kept staring. A Palestinian accompanying the Sheik joked "From now on they won't throw stones or Molotov cocktails on your balcony" -- as happened several weeks ago. Fortunately the police shortly caught the young boys who were doing this to us and other neighbors. But I reflected that of course my Palestinian friend was right -- the best security for Israelis is to demonstrate our love and trust for Palestinians. This is the motivation that fuels my work and my life. We discussed many aspects of our work and relationships together -- seeking to build trust among ourselves as a model to the participants of the study sessions. We discussed inviting a Palestinian Christian Priest to join our study sessions. The political situation was brought up, but both the Rabbi and the Sheik said that if we all lived according to God's will and acted according to his expectations of us, then our problems would be resolved. Then an amazing thing happened -- the Rabbi invited the Sheik to come to his yeshiva to teach on the topic of Forgiveness during the Hebrew month of Elul and our preparation for Rosh Hashanah. The Sheik agreed to do it -- and offered to bring his students with him! This is incredible -- that Palestinian and Israeli students will sit together in the Beit Midrash of a Yeshiva and learn together from a Rabbi and a Sheik. Then the Sheik needed to say his evening prayers, and the Rabbi also. So I gave the sheik a clean blanket to pray on in my home office, and in the adjoining corridor the Rabbi was joined by my husband, Eliyahu, and three other Jewish men who were with us. They all prayed their evening prayers separately, but together. The image of the Sheik touching his forehead to the floor in prayer while a group of Jewish men were praying together next to him was inspiring -- the Jewish and Muslim women were moved to be witnesses, and I was blessed to have such holiness brought into our home. After the successful conclusion of our meeting and plans for future meetings, I went to the Kotel (the Western Wall) to give charity and to offer prayers for being given the opportunity to serve God and my people. As I sat in the balmy midnight air in front of the Wall and shared with my religious friends about the evening in my home, one friend said I had been given a glimpse of Moshiach Times -- the harmony we will all experience together one day. I pray that this will come soon and in our days. Love, Elana Rozenman

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