On Thursday night May 27, at the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Via Dolorosa, the thirteen JIYAF participants gave their friends, family, and other community members a taste of their experiences over the past eight months taking part in interreligious dialogue in Jerusalem. At their final group presentation entitled “Opening a Window,” they exhibited the photography project that they have been working on all semester and engaged the audience in the types of activities that they did in their meetings. I have been working as an intern at the ICCI office for the past three months, but this was the first time that I really got a sense of what it is that these discussion groups do.
I was placed in a group of ten, made up of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We began by going around in a circle, introducing ourselves, and talking about the significance of our names. We then did a fun activity, where we all moved around the room and assumed different poses whenever the leaders said a word like “falafel.” After that, we were divided into partners, and got to ask our partner as many questions as we wanted to—but they were not allowed to respond. These fun activities showed that, despite the differences between all of us—language, religion, age, nationality, etc—we were all able to have fun together. With that common basis, the JIYAF participants explained, we would be able to talk about the more difficult issues that divided us. The JIYAF participants reflected on their experiences from the past eight months. They had all joined the group hoping to deepen their understanding of one another and of the situation. Indeed, before the program, most of them had never spoken to anyone from “the other side.” Despite all of the difficulties they encountered over the past year, every JIYAF participant said that the experience was “completely worth it.”
You can view more pictures from the event here.