Successful Inaugural Interfaith Partners for Peace Trip to Israel/West Bank

Our trip ended on May 4, 2015 with an early morning drive to Bethlehem, which is over the Green Line. There we visited the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus—and members of our group engaged in a study session examining the range of importance that particular sites have in religious communities. Next, we stopped at a Palestinian farm near the Gush Etzion junction. The owner of the farm, Ali Abu Awwad, has created a program called Shorashim, along with Rabbis Hanan Schlesinger and Shaul Judelman who reside in a nearby settlement. The groundbreaking program helps bring together Palestinians and Israelis, neighbors who are often separated by walls of fear. Against background noise from a cackling rooster, we heard the personal journeys of these three remarkable leaders, each from very passionate places in their communities—and the transformation they experienced when they came into relationship. They each continue in their deep connection to the land—but they add to it an understanding that they must find ways to live out differences as neighbors, creating safe spaces for dialogue and disagreement. We were all wowed by the power of the changes these relationships can usher. Before we headed to the airport for departure, we had a closing dinner with speakers from the Shades program which is also doing truly transformative work, creating a platform for negotiation and leadership training with promising rising leaders. With that inspiring final encounter, we all headed home to process the amazing amount of information and ideas we have shared over the course of this trip. Text study, experiencing each other’s religious sites and sacred texts, conversations with people from all perspectives, shared reflection and interfaith dialogue, and communion with a wonderful group of people have enriched us all. See you next time!