As you know, one of the projects that the ICCJ took upon itself in recent years was to explore the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on Jewish-Christian Dialogue. We have had already two major activities around that theme: 1) our 2008 conference in Jerusalem, “The Contribution of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue to Peace Building in the Middle East,” and 2) our November 2009 seminar in Israel, “ From Two Narratives to Building a Culture of Peace.” Both of these successful events were undertaken in partnership with our member organization on the ground in Israel, the ICCI (Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel.) The ICCI was founded and is directed to this day by Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish.
The situation here seems to be –at least in some small ways—easing up a bit. But around the world, it appears that Israel is under attack both politically and economically. There are even those, including some church groups, who have been trying to de-legitimize the existence of the state of Israel. I know that many of you have been dealing with this and trying to present a more balanced picture.
I would like to mention specifically our friends in Australia and the UK. I am writing to you now to encourage you, as individual organizations or perhaps as a regional cluster, to consider the possibility of coming to Israel/ Palestine for an indepth seminar under the auspices of the ICCI.
Those of you who were here in 2008 will surely remember Ophir Yarden, who served as our Conference Coordinator. He directs the Center for Interreligious Encounter with Israel at the ICCI. Ophir is one of the most experienced, creative and talented educators I know. He and his program provide visiting groups which are interreligious in their composition or in their areas of interest, with a serious, systematic and sensitively balanced educational experience in Israel. Opportunities for both Jewish and Christian worship are built in to the schedule. Additionally, I have already committed myself to a personal meeting with every ICCJ-affiliated group that comes to Jerusalem (provided I’m in the country at the time.) Through the ICCI, you can have access to other inter-religious leaders here, as well, from various streams within the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.
The programs vary and are always built in partnership with the group’s leaders, taking into account the interests and wishes of that particular group. Prices vary, depending on the length of the stay and the level of accommodations, but I can ensure you that they are competitive with those of other frameworks that bring groups here. I am attaching a brand-new brochure they have just prepared. For further information, please contact: Ophir Yarden, education(at)icci.org.il.
May I add another personal note on a separate but related topic: the recent controversy in the US over the building of an Islamic cultural center (Park51) near Ground Zero in New York has brought out worrying expressions of Islamophobia in the country that for so long has been a beacon of tolerance and inter-religious harmony. The recent revival of our Abrahamic Forum is a sign that although we focus on Jewish-Christian dialogue, we also want to engage in positive and meaningful ways with our Muslim brothers and sisters. I would hope that members of the ICCJ would be active opponents of Islamophobia in their own communities, as they are opponents of antisemitism and other forms of religious or racial prejudice.
I hope to see many of you here or in your own countries during the coming year (so far, I have trips planned for Sweden, Italy, the US, the UK, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, and, of course, the venue of our 2011 conference, Poland.). For our Jewish members, best wishes for the New Year and for all of you, may the coming year bring you personally, a year of health and happiness, and for us collectively, a year of dialogue and peace.
Dr. Deborah WeissmanPresident
Please download the ICCI brochure:
Seminars in Israel