Creating a Culture of Understanding

by Breanne White and Brian Freedman, ICCI interns

Recently, members of the Christian-Jewish Seminarian Program on Israel and Palestine visited Israel and the West Bank for a 10-day tour to learn about theological and political perspectives in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, organized by ICCI’s Center for Interreligious Encounter with Israel. The program, which is co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee in New York and the Auburn Theological Seminary, was established in 2008 to bring together Rabbinic students and Christian seminarians in order to learn about each others’ communal, political, and theological perspectives on Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the regional conflict.

The program included visits to religiously and politically significant sites in the Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jaffa and included tours and lectures explaining different political, historical, and religious ideologies that affect Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

One of the activities included a tour of the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, a Sunday morning church service, and an introduction to the unique balance of theology and religious politics that allows so many holy sites to operate peacefully so close to each other. One thing that some visitors found particularly encouraging was the attitude of curiosity and respect displayed by the participants and the people they met. The congregation we met at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was particularly welcoming, asking each visitor to stand up and introduce themselves after the church service and encouraging their members to meet the visitors.

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem, showing the close proximity of several churches, mosques, and other holy sites.

The description of the balance of power, politics, and worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was also fascinating. To think that for thousands of years a fragile territorial peace has mostly prevailed in a site considered holy by so many different Christian denominations is encouraging, although the clear demarcations of segregated space for the Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, and other denominations which share the holy space can be somewhat shocking and foreign at first!
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“It’s the personal narrative that really counts…”

by Breanne White, ICCI intern

Tuesday, January 17, a group of alumni from the Jerusalem Young Adult Forum met with members of the World Union for Progressive Judaism at Beit Shumel in Jerusalem. The visitors, who came from 11 different countries, were in Israel in order to strengthen relations between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.


Four participants of previous years’ Jerusalem Young Adult Forum spoke about their experiences in the dialogue program. As in previous alumni events, those present talked about the difficulties of participating in such a program, but also how it changed their views and opinions about others. Particularly poignant about this meeting, however, were the questions asked by the visitors. After listening to the alumni discuss their experiences, two interesting questions were raised: first, “With all of your different experiences, backgrounds, and political and religious ideologies, how do you find common ground?” and second, “How do you tell your personal narrative to others?”

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An Impressive Discussion with Zoughbi Zoughbi of Bethlehem

I was privileged to listen to Zoughbi Zoughbi , the Founder and Director of WIAM, The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem, when he spoke to a group of students from the Hamline College program in conflict resolution which met in our ICCI Education Center last week. Zoughbi made a special effort to get a permit to come to Jerusalem to speak to this group, and we were honored to have him with us!

Despite the name of his center, Zoughbi Zoughbi emphasized that he works in CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION, rather than resolution, using non-violent philosophy and methods. We too in ICCI believe in transforming conflicts from ones of violence to a situation of peaceful coexistence.

He grew up as a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem but studied abroad, receiving his M.A. in Peace Studies at Notre Dame University in the U.S.A., studying as a fellow at Brandeis University and at Eastern Mennonite University. Continue reading