Friday, 18 January 2008
Israel 2008 - Shalom Hartman Institute
Jerusalem is a city which is very dear to me for several reasons. It is a holy land blessed for the three faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It is a land which has brought tears to my eyes as I have read its history, walked its streets and seen some of the atrocities between those who revere it.
I am traveling to Jerusalem today! I have been invited to participate in the Annual Theology Conference at the Shalom Hartman Institute which is headed by the eminent Professor/Rabbi David Hartman, the world renowned philosopher and theologian in Judaism. I have been greatly inspired by Rabbi Hartman in the last two years that I have attended this conference as he has a clear vision of Israel being a pluralistic prospering city, a great vision to have. This years conference is on the way that the three faiths understand family relationships and deal with the present day challenges to the family structure. I think it will be an interesting conference with many important issues discussed and debated. One thing I like about this conference is that everyone speaks their mind, everyone is united in the goal of achieving an active discussion on interfaith. The structure of this conference is set on the 'hevruta' style of small study groups where a mixture of academics from different faiths get together and discuss a passage of scripture or other text, the discussion is lively and pretty frank, it is exciting but at times quite nerve wracking.
I want to invite you all on this spiritual journey to the Holy Land with me! I will be writing this blog every night with daily updates on what I have been up to! This is my 3rd year at the conference and if it was not as exciting as it is I think I would have given up on it but it is an interesting one. I receive emails ever so often from folk accusing me of being a Zionist/pro-Israeli etc etc but my answer is very simple. If we don't move forward to build bridges then they will never be built. If we sit back and blame one side and side with the other then we really are not upholding justice and peace, as is the model from the Qur'an (and the Bible). It is time to move out of comfort zones and sit with those who we have never sat with before. In the way that every year I seem to be sitting beside an Orthodox Jew on my flight to Tel Aviv. There is always a bit of a panick and fear on the faces of those flying to Israel. There is very little that I can do except smile and try to put people at ease, it often works. Last year I was stopped at Tel Aviv Airport for 3 hours and the year before for 6 hours...I wonder how long it will be this year!
Watch this space...