On celebrating the iftar with Muslims and Jews in Israel

By Rabbi Ron Kronisch

published in the Huffington Post on July 27th, 2013

Untitled3Ara“Last week, my wife and I attended the annual iftar (Muslim break-the-fast) dinner at the residence of the American Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Dan Shapiro, in Herzliya Pituach, north of Tel Aviv, with Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious, cultural and educational leaders and activists involved in Arab-Jewish coexistence programs and peace education from all over Israel. It was a beautiful evening of friendship and fellowship in the wonderful garden of the ambassador’s residence, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. One could almost imagine that we could live in peace in the Middle East! Ambassador Shapiro greeted all the participants warmly and reminded us of the importance of fasting in our religious traditions when he said.

It gives us an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to seek understanding. It gives us the opportunity to step into the shoes of those less fortunate than us, and, drawing inspiration from that experience, to practice acts of charity and goodwill.

Ramadan is an occasion for all of this and more for Muslims in Israel and throughout the world. What is particularly amazing is that not only are Muslims free to do this in the Jewish state of Israel, but they also are engaged in many programs of coexistence with their fellow Jewish citizens in Israel.

Continue reading

Stories of Inspiration – A Woman’s Transformation from Ignorance to Understanding

ICCI’s newest project, Stories of Inspiration, will feature interviews with youth and young adults who are graduates of ICCI’ youth and young adult programs in recent years. We at ICCI hope that these stories inspire and motivate others to become involved in peace-building programs, whether through ICCI or in other relevant frameworks. We welcome your “comments” and your feedback to these interviews.

by Elana Lubka

I sat down with Rola, a 24 year old Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem, at a small coffee shop in East Jerusalem on a late afternoon. Sitting across from her, I could not help but notice the strong sense of confidence she exuded and, as the time elapsed, her open smile. Rola is a social worker in East Jerusalem, working specifically with abused women and impoverished families in East Jerusalem.

I began by asking Rola about her childhood and her initial encounter with “the other.” She explained to me that she grew up in a very secular Muslim household. Her summers were spent in Tel Aviv and Tiberias, where she was very aware that she and her family were Palestinians, surrounded by a Jewish majority. Rola continued by noting that although she and her family swam in the same Mediterranean Sea as the other Jewish beach-goers, she would only speak to them in the direst of situations. She noted, “You have [this] idea that they hate you, so [we] don’t talk to them.” This fear, based only on the fear from other Palestinians, was what guided her adolescent years.

Growing up, this mindset was heavily enforced in all aspects of her daily life. She recalls being told by a Palestinian friend that it was explicitly written in the Torah, the holy Jewish book, that Jews must hate Palestinians. This baffled Rola, for, “why would God be so hateful to us?” This prompted Rola to ask further questions about the Torah to better understand this strange ‘commandment.’ However, her school could not provide any answers to her questions about the Torah, which only contributed to its obscurity.

Continue reading

“Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue “

By Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish

as published in the Huffington Post on 21/7/13safe_image

“One of the most central tenets of Judaism is to pursue justice . We are reminded of this over and over again in the Bible, especially in the book of Deuteronomy, which we Jews began reading in our synagogues in Israel and around the world in recent weeks, and in the prophetic readings from Isaiah, which we read as supplementary to our Torah text for the next seven weeks, and on the morning of Yom Kippur. Indeed, ours is a religion which emphasizes social justice, both in our foundational texts and in our liturgy.

It is for this reason that I was honored to participate in a unique seminar on “Justice and Society” with 25 judges, law professors, lawyers and educators, at the world-renowned Aspen Institute in scenic Aspen, Colorado this past week. It was an amazing experience, one of the intellectual and spiritual highlights of my adult life.

At the closing evening of the seminar, one of the participants referred to our group as a “beloved community.” Indeed, we bonded as a group — not only through our carefully and thoughtfully facilitated discussions, but also in our coffee breaks, our meals, our hiking together, and our strolls around the awe-inspiring grounds of the Aspen Meadows campus in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. This was an extraordinary group of caring and committed intellectuals and practitioners who genuinely and actively listened deeply to each other, but also spoke personally, professionally and passionately about fundamental issues involved with creating a just society which were clearly of central importance to all of us.

What is justice? Is the law always just? Is the law always moral? What happens when our morality dictates to our conscience to be civilly disobedient to an unjust law, as in the famous examples of Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, or Mahatma Gandhi — some of the great reigious leaders of the twentieth century, who were motivated by deeply held religious views of justice, based on their sacred texts and moral world-view.

And, what about economic justice? About the cruel inequalities between rich and poor in so many Western liberal democracies? Why should the top one percent of American or Israeli society live in such affluence and abundance when there are so many disenfranchised poor people in these societies? What should be done to tax the rich more fairly so that distributive justice becomes a reality and not just a philosophical idea?”

 

Continue Reading in the Huffington Post Blog

“Reformist Think in Islamic Thought in Israel Today”

by Rabbi Ron Kronish

Dr. Ron Kronish

Dr. Ron Kronish

“The title of this blog post may surprise many people. Is it possible that Islam is being reformed? And in Israel! The answer is yes, as I discovered when I attended a fascinating research seminar last week at Tel Aviv University on “Contemporary Islamic Thought in Israel”. The seminar, which took place at Tel Aviv University, brought together Jewish and Arab scholars and practitioners (like me) as well as Jewish and Muslim clergy and educators. It was a groundbreaking program, which reinforced my own experience of many years that has taught me that there is a fascinating phenomenon in Israel which I call “Israeli Islam”.

Continue reading