Interfaith Encounter Groups

We targeted the formation of seven ongoing groups of interfaith encounter: Jerusalem & Bethlehem University students (10.7.14), Israeli Rabbis & Palestinian Sheikhs (20.7.14), young Jerusalemite women (12.11.14), Hebrew University Medical Students (3.12.14), students of David Yellin Teachers College (18.1.15), Tel Aviv University students (9.3.15), and the re-organization of Male Adumim & Abu Dis group after the untimely death of its leading coordinator (21.8.14).

For each group we identified and trained an interfaith coordinating team, accompanied them in their first steps and kept in constant connection in order to make sure the process proceeds well and learn whether our help is needed.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

1. Successfully planting growing seeds of harmonious inter-communal relations in the Holy Land;
2. Increase the number of participants and encounters between Jews, Muslims and Christians of the Holy Land;
3. Reduce negative stereotypes and prejudice of "other" through constructive dialogue and joint religious study;
4. Disseminate best practices and lessons learned on religion and peace building to scale impact.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

1. All seven groups successfully launched ongoing activity that lasted until the end of October 2015 (and still continues);
2. New people keep joining and the total number of participants keeps rising, despite hardships;
3. Bar Ilan University research from August 2014 (https://interfaithencounter.wordpress.com/about/outside-research-on-the-iea/) affirms the effective and lasting change of attitudes towards the "other";
4. A. Best practices are regularly shared in gatherings of all coordinators; and
B. we see participants who after a while initiate new groups and other initiatives.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

a. Building peace in the Holy Land through its 'regular' inhabitants ("Bottom Up");
b. Use of religion as a powerful and positive way to build bridges between conflicting communities (rather than trying to go around it);
c. Effectively including participants from all parts of the political spectrum (including those who cannot be found in other types of dialogue);
d. Constructing, in encounters, a safe space in which all are equal;
e. Leading long-term process (groups are geared to continue ongoing inter-community encounters).

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

All group managed to create centers where people can meet the "other" in a deep and positive manner and are creating living examples of the possibility for Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities to coexist in harmony. The groups work to invite more people to go through the process in the groups and with time a critical mass of residents who have been transformed through the group will change the macro level of inter-communal relations.

CHALLENGES FACED

a. Managing to raise the necessary funds;
b. Secure travel of participants to encounters;
c. Convincing potential participants who are skeptic to give it a try.

LESSONS LEARNT

It is more natural for Jews, Muslims and Christians of the Holy Land to be friends than to be enemies. Once given the chance to really know the "other" - prejudices evaporate and friendship flourishes.