“Resisting Racism and Keeping the Light of Hope Alive”

By Rabbi Ron Kronish

“Earlier this week, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Committee on Education of the Knesset (parliament) by leaders of a coalition which I am part of

Dr. Ron Kronish

Dr. Ron Kronish

called Tag Meir, Hebrew for “Light Tag,” or perhaps better translated as “A Sign of Light.” The group combats hate crimes that have become endemic in certain quarters in Israel during the last year and a half. We began at Hanukkah to react to each violent act of Jewish ultra-nationalists who desecrate churches and mosques and attack innocent peace activists, who go under the name Tag Mechir, Hebrew for “Price Tag.” Our idea was to light a beacon of peace and reconciliation to show the sane face of the moderate mainstream of Judaism in Israel.

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A Time for Recommitment

by Dr. Debbie Weissman, President of the International Council of Christians and Jews

On Thursday, Sept. 6th, 2012, Jerusalem joined 8 other cities in the world–as far afield as Chicago, Sigtuna (Sweden) and Wellington (New Zealand)–in hosting a regional conference on the 2009 Berlin document.  That document, issued by the International Council of Christians and Jews, and now available in an attractive booklet in Hebrew (various languages, including Hebrew, are also available on-line at www.iccj.org), is a ground-breaking statement. It is the first time that a group of Christians and Jews assembled together and did their own soul-searching, together and in each other’s presence. The booklet contains a narrative history of the relationship and its transformation as well as four calls to Christians and the Churches, four calls to Jews and the Jewish communities, and four calls for joint action.

The conference in Jerusalem was held at the beautiful Adenauer Conference Center at Mishkenot Sha’a’nanim. There were four partners in the project: the ICCJ, the Adenauer Foundation (our partners, as well, in Berlin in 2009), the ICCI—Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel, headed by Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christians Relations, founded by the late Daniel Rossing, of blessed memory. The day was divided into 2 parts. From 14:00 to 18:00, there was a small (about 30 people) by-invitation seminar. All in Hebrew, no translation. The attendees included Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, academics, educators. There were three presentations–yours truly, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, and Hana Bendcowsky (of the JCJCR). Ehud pointed out that the ICCJ may actually be the only international organization at present whose President and First Vice-President both live in Israel.

We also had a fair amount of lively discussion, facilitated by Sarah Bernstein and Ophir Yarden. We discovered some new people who I hope will become involved now, in local inter-religious dialogue. Kudos to Ehud for translating and editing the booklet, and bringing it to print.

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Denouncing Religious Violence at Latrun

Following the religious violence on Tuesday, at the Latrun Monastery, near Ramla, I issued the following press release on behalf of ICCI and JCJCR , which was mentioned on the news of Kol Yisrael (2nd station) and on Israeli Army Radio yesterday and the day before:

September 4, 2012, Jerusalem

On behalf of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations (JCJCR), we denounce the attack on the Latrun monastery. This is a hillul hashem, a desecration of the name of God.

As people who seek peaceful coexistence and mutual respect between Jews, Christians and Muslims in this land, we condemn such wanton acts of violence against people of other religions.

At the same time, we rededicate ourselves to educating for tolerance and mutual understanding which can increase the possibility of living together in peace and harmony in this land.

In addition, I visited the monastery yesterday with Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, co-chairperson of ICCI and Rabbi of Kol HaNeshama, and a delegation of Reform rabbis and congregants from all over Israel (see this link for video and photos) to express solidarity with the monks who live there and saw the desecration of their monastery with my own eyes. At this visit we recited verses from the traditional “confession” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and prayed for peace. I felt that the monks were genuinely moved by our visit.

Rabbi Ron Kronish and Levi Weiman-Kelman in Latrun

In addition, representatives of ICCI joined the “Tag Meir” coalition (a Hebrew pun on “Tag Mehir”, “Price Tag”) demonstration with about 200 people from many different organizations to shed some positive light and hope on the situation. We are committed to keeping hope alive in our difficult situation in Israel.

Furthermore, tonight, ICCI and JCJCR will co-sponsor a public symposium with the ICCJ and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung entitled “Changes in Jewish-Christian Relations in the West: What Do They Mean for Jewish-Christian Relations in the Holy Land?” in which we will continue to raise of voice for peaceful coexistence with our Christian and Muslim neighbors in Israel, and we will recommit ourselves to educating for mutual understanding and reconciliation in our country and our region.

Religious-inspired hatred has become a plague in our society. ICCI is developing a new program to begin to heal hatred. More on this on another occasion.

Rabbi Ron Kronish
Director, ICCI and JCJCR

Armenian Genocide Remembrance

by Breanne White, ICCI intern

Armenians in Jerusalem and around the world commemorated the Armenian Genocide on Tuesday, April 22. On Monday, April 21, in conjunction with this commemoration and as part of ICCI’s “Encounters with Local Religious Leaders,” Archbishop Aris Shirvanian of the Armenian Patriarchate addressed a group at the Yedidya Synagogue in Jerusalem to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenians have had a presence in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas for more than 1500 years, and the Armenian church currently assists in protecting the sanctity of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Archbishop Shirvanian himself was born in Haifa, where his parents met after fleeing the horrors of the Armenian Genocide.
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רמלה–גשרים להבנות בעיר רב תרבותית

מאת חנה בנדקובסקי, מנהלת תוכניות, מרכז ירושלים ליחסי יהודים ונוצרים

עיר החולות רמלה הוקמה על החול הרבה לפני שמשהו דיבר על תל אביב המזוהה כעיר שצמחה מהחולות. למעשה, פירוש שמה الرملة הוא “חול”בערבית רמל. בראשית המאה השמינית הקים אותה סאלימן אבן עבד אל מאלכ, אחיו של החליף הידוע כ”בנאי” הגדול של השושלת האומיית אל-וליד בונה את מסגד אל אקסה הראשון. האח, סאלימן, היה יותר ידוע כזללן. כך פתח את הרצאתו ד”ר שמעון גת, חוקר ומדריך ברמלה בכנס על העיר רמלה שכותרתו”רמלה – גשר על מים שקטים?! גשרים להבנות בעיר רב תרבותית.”

הכנס נערך בשיתוף פעולה בין מרכז ירושלים ליחסי יהודים ונוצרים ויד בן צבי. המרכז משתף פעולה עם יד בן צבי מיום היווסדו, ובעבר הופקו ארבעה קורסים שנתיים משותפים ותשעה כנסים. מרבית הכנסים הוקדשו לקהילות הנוצריות בארץ הקודש ואילו השנה הוקדשו הכנסים לערים המעורבות: נצרת, ועתה לרמלה. בכנס היו שותפים גם מוזיאון רמלה בהנהלת יגאל סיתרי והעירייה.

סקירה של מאות השנים הראשונות של העיר מאז הקמתה חושפת עיר צבעונית ועשירה שהוקמה לצד שכנתה הותיקה יותר, לוד. רמלה, שהיתה לבירת ג’ונד פלסטין, היתה גדולה משכנתה (כמחצית מרמלה היום), ומהמפוארות בארץ לטענת כותבים בני התקופה. בעיר חיו נוצרים, מוסלמים, יהודים ואף שומרונים, בעוד את לוד יתארו במאה התשיעית ככפר חרב. בגניזה הקהירית 70 טקסטים שונים המתייחסים לעיר רמלה, ומעידים על חיי מסחר עשירים וקהילה יהודית משמעותית. עדויות ברורות על כנסיות בעיר לצד ממצא ארכיאולוגי של מסגדים בני התקופה המוסלמית הקדומה מציגים תמונה מורכבת של עיר רב תרבותית. גם היום רמלה היא עיר רב דתית בה חיים זה לצד זה יהודים, קראים, נוצרים מוסלמים, וכל קבוצה הטרוגנית ומגוונת. 72,000 תושבי העיר כוללים 23.5% ערבים 72% יהודים ו4.5% אחרים.

מיכאיל פאנוס, בן הקהילה האנגליקנית ומנהל המתנ”ס הערבי בעיר, הצביע על התהליך המואץ של יציאת משפחות ערביות מהשכונות הערביות ג’ועריש וגן חק”ל ומהעיר העתיקה לעבר השכונות החדשות המזוהות כיהודיות, ועל השתלבות הערבים בעיר בתפקידי מפתח: במועצה, ברשויות האחרות ובועדות חשובות בעירייה. פאנוס, שהיה חבר המועצה הערבי הראשון, הסביר את תחושת השייכות והקשר לעיר דרך הייצוג הפוליטי.

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Impressions from President Peres’ Annual Reception for Christian Leaders in Israel

Dear friends,

I was privileged to hear President Shimon Peres speak today at the annual reception for Christian leaders in Israel at his presidential residence in Jerusalem, an event that I attend every year.

During the presidency of Mr. Moshe Katzav, the previous president, it was an embarrasment and a disgrace to hear him berate Christian leaders again and again for promoting terrorism. One year, there was shouting and screaming–rightly so–after Katzav’s address, which was humiliating and insulting.

During the presidency of Shimon Peres, the situation is completely different. Mr. Peres speaks eloquently and in a dignified and respectful manner to all the Christian leadership, and you can see how much they appreciate this. Today he said: “We are proud of our relations with the Christian communities in Israel… Each religion should be free to pray the way it wants and to have equal rights and opportunities… as a Jew, I respect other religions. All of us are created in the image of God…”

When talking about peace, Mr. Peres remains optimistic, as always: “I believe we can make peace with the Palestinians… There are doubts but we have to overcome them… And religious leaders need to reach out to the souls of their people… we can all try to bring hope, stability and Peace.” To this I say, “Amen!”

Even Minister of Interior Eli Yishai, who spoke in Hebrew, was politically correct today. He said, “Jews are commanded to love peace and pursue it all over the world… we are also commanded to respect and love all human beings.”

After the speeches, I spoke to some Christians whom I know, and I was told that they liked the speeches but are waiting for them to be concretized by more action. In particular, I heard whispers that Minister Yishai should give his speech to some of the bureaucrats in his ministry who are famous–or infamous–for neither responding positively to requests of Christian institutions for visas for their volunteers nor to requests of some Christians from abroad to become citizens of Israel.

Nevertheless, it was an uplifting morning at the President’s residence. The current president of Israel–who is a symbol of the search for peace–sends the right messages to Christians at this time of year.


Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish

Director, ICCI



Can one be a Jew and a Catholic at the same time? Are there extenuating historical circumstances that enter into this discussion? What happens when a man, who was given to a Catholic family as an infant by his Jewish parents and raised by them during and after the Holocaust, discovers his Jewishness at age 35 after he has been a Catholic Priest for many years, and only lately decides that he wants to come to live in Israel as a Jew and yet maintain his Catholic faith also?

All these questions and dilemmas are portrayed in a sensitive and empathetic way by Ronit Kertsner in a poignant documentary film entitled “Torn“, which I saw last week at the Cinematheque in Jerusalem, together with  a packed auditorium of sympathetic viewers, both Christian and Jewish.

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