How a Gaza Christian became a blind Muslim’s eyes

gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The man constantly checked his watch as he stood at the entrance to the Borno Mosque in the center of Gaza City. Anyone coming across him couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t praying inside with the others. Why did he keep checking his watch? For whom or what was he waiting? Then a man wearing dark glasses exited the mosque. The man at the door guided him and helped him put on his shoes. Al-Monitor asked after the two men and found that the one by the door is a Christian who regularly waits there to assist his blind Muslim friend.

Kamal Tarzi, 55, known as Abu Elias, has stuck by his Muslim friend, the 45-year-old pharmacist Hatem Khreis since Khreis lost his sight preparing a prescription five years ago. Tarzi says he is Khreis’ best friend and eyes.

“Hatem and I have been friends for 15 years, and we have been through joy and pain,” Tarzi told Al-Monitor. “I always accompany him, and people are shocked when they learn that I am Christian and that he is Muslim, given the depth of our relationship.”

Tarzi explained how he came to escort his friend: “After my friend lost his sight, his life turned upside down. He went from preparing medical prescriptions for patients to relying on people’s help to be able to live his daily life and take his own medicine.

“Growing up, Hatem would always perform prayers at the mosque, but after the incident five years ago, he was no longer able to do so because there was no one available to guide him there. I saw how he would shed tears whenever the call to prayer would come from the mosque. That is why I decided to take him to the mosque to pray as he did in the past.

“The first day I helped him get to the mosque, four years ago, he was so happy. So I told him I would be taking him every day to perform all the prayers. He was thrilled to hear my decision. It was as if he had found something he had lost for a long time.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR 

Can Israelis And Palestinians Change Their Minds?

mind changeNote:  Although not directly addressing the thematic content of this page, this article speaks to an issue that also lies at the heart of interfaith dialogue – are we able to change our minds about “the other.”  Read it with that in mind. 

What makes people change their minds? About the really hard stuff.

Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past three years, I’ve often wondered if people here ever do.

This conflict is frequently described as “intractable,” with neither side willing to give up their historical perspective or their entrenched positions to end it. And it does not take many interviews to hear repetitions of the same sweeping narrative repeated on each side. Palestinians from different places cite the same historical events to back their views. Israelis who have never met each other use similar turns of phrase.

“People have a lot of [psychological] resources invested in what they believe about the conflict,” says Thomas Zeitzoff, a political scientist at American University in Washington, D.C., who has researched Israeli and Palestinian attitudes.

He says the high political stakes and emotional involvement make it hard for Israelis and Palestinians to change their minds.

But there have been certain shifts – in public opinion and in individual beliefs – during the 68 years of Israel’s existence and almost half-century of the Israeli military control over Palestinian territories.

Why? Experts list a range of influences that – to varying degrees – can move or even flip deeply held views.

“You can point to major events, either in the world or people’s lives, changes in their social context, as well as changes in the kind of messages they get from politicians and other elite sources,” says Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College who researches politics and misperceptions.

Other factors include repeated exposure to a new idea, whatever the source, scientific research, and direct personal experience.

Four people – two Israeli and two Palestinian – told me their stories of personal, radical belief change related to the conflict. They not only changed their minds, but, a higher hurdle, their behavior.

Here are some triggers that led these people to see the world differently than they had before, even in the midst of a larger impasse.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

 

 

Jewish, Muslim and Christian kids from the US and Jerusalem come together at a Seattle summer camp

summer campAt a summer camp in Mount Vernon, Washington the campers do plenty of classic camp activities.

“Yesterday there was tie-dye, sports, swimming,” says Riva, a camper from Bellevue.

But Kids4Peace ultimately has a deeper purpose. The camp brings Jewish, Muslim and Christian 12 year olds from Washington state together with 12 year old Palestinians and Israelis, from Jerusalem, for 12 days.

“Where I live everyone is Jewish,” says Meital, a Jewish girl who lives between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. “There’s different varieties of Judaism where I live but there’s no Muslims or Christians. But I have met Arabs before.”

Meital’s lack of exposure to other cultures and religions is exactly why the camp was established.

“The organization was started in Jerusalem, in 2002, during a time of pretty intense violence in the Middle East, in Israel/Palestine in particular,” says Kids4Peace Northwest regional director, Jordan Goldwarg. “And the goal has always been to bring kids together to talk about their religion, their culture, their heritage and to learn from each other. Also, just to have time and opportunity to be kids together and to grow up in a safe environment.”

Twice a day, between weaving friendship bracelets and roasting s’mores, the kids are led through some pretty deep discussions.

“Learning how to be a better listener. Learning how to build trust with other people. Learning how to see different perspectives and different sides of a story,” Goldwarg said. “We also spend time everyday engaged in interfaith learning. So the kids really start to understand: What does it mean to be Jewish? What does it mean to be Muslim? What does it mean to be Christian?

The values of each of these faiths lead us towards peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY NORTHWEST

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Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Could Reopen To Jews, Christians And Other Non-Muslim Visitors

temple-mount-jerusalemThe religious sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City could be reopened to Jewish and Christian visitors more than 15 years after they were shut out. For months, Israel and Jordan have been secretly discussing the possibility of readmitting non-Muslim visitors to the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic Museum on the mount, according to Haaretz.

Details of the secret negotiations were revealed in a report by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, which concluded that reopening the sites to non-Muslims could help keep peace on the Temple Mount. But an agreement could be harder to reach with Israel’s new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party.

Some Israeli leaders have said opening the site to paying visits would give the Jordanian-influenced Waqf, an Islamic trust that oversees the daily religious affairs in and around the mosque, an incentive to maintain peace on the contested holy site. However, an official in Netanyahu’s office said, “There are no negotiations and no change in the status quo at the Temple Mount,” Haaretz reported.

Jewish and Christian visitors were allowed to purchase a ticket and enter the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic Museum on the mount until 2000, when the second Palestinian uprising against Israel erupted after then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the site in September. The Israeli government, which manages the mount’s security and admission, subsequently banned Jews and tourists altogether from the Temple Mount. In 2003, the sites were reopened to Jews and tourists despite opposition from the Jordanian government and the Muslim Waqf.

Today, the Temple Mount is the site of frequent and sometimes violent clashes between Muslim visitors and Jews who wish to pray there. Defense officials said the violence has partly caused an upsurge in terror attacks in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, where some terrorists have openly dedicated their attacks in defense of the Temple Mount.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES 

‘We Palestinian Christians say Allahu Akbar’

palestine_pop.siThe only Palestinian Orthodox Christian bishop in the Holy Land speaking about the suffering of Palestinian Christians, their unity with Muslims in the Palestinian struggle, about Orthodox Christian martyrs, and Ukraine.

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

Your Beatitude, what’s it like being the Palestinian bishop in the Holy Land?

Firstly, I’d like to confirm that I am the only Palestinian bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A fellow bishop is serving in the city of Irbid in the north of Jordan; and there are also several Palestinian priests.

I take pride in belonging to this great religious institution that’s over 2,000 years old.

My church has been protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the sacred items related to the life of Christ and Christian Church history.

I am proud of my religion and nationality, I am proud to belong to my fatherland. I am a Palestinian, and I belong to this religious people who are fighting for the sake of their freedom and dignity to implement their dreams and national rights.

I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues. We the Palestinian Orthodox Christians are not detached from their hardships.

The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.

We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.

As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RT.COM

Attacks on Al Aqsa compound proof Israel not interested in peace

382333_Al-Aqsa-Mosque(CHICAGO 10/13/2014) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is outraged that Israeli forces today fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians inside Al Aqsa mosque, disrupting the holy site’s sanctity and safety. The Palestinians were taking refuge from aggressive Israeli settlers, who, with increasing frequency, have been harassing Palestinian worshipers at Islam’s holiest site in Palestine and third holiest place overall.

After dawn prayer today, extreme right settler groups, protected by Israeli soldiers and police, entered the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the second time in less than one week. At the same time, most Palestinian men under 50 and nearly all women were banned from offering prayers in the mosque, in contravention of international law.

Israeli attacks against Al Aqsa are not new. For instance, in 1967, immediately after the end of the Six Day War, “the Israeli army chief rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, tried to convince a commander of the conquering forces, Uzi Narkis, to blow up the mosque ‘once and for all,’” according to published historical accounts.

What’s changed is the frequency of settler incursions into the Muslim holy site, coupled with discussions in the Israeli Knesset about dividing Al Aqsa in the manner of the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, which apportioned two-thirds of the mosque for Jews, prohibiting the area to Palestinians. The Jerusalem Municipality also is discussing plans to turn the courtyard area between the Dome of the Rock mosque and Al Aqsa into a public park. Israeli authorities already have given the extremist settler group Elad the right to create an oversized ‘visitor center’ that will abut the mosque compound, further cutting off Palestinians from their historical religious site. UNESCO is so concerned about recent ‘Judaization’ developments in Jerusalem it dispatched a fact-finding committee to study the issue in April.

All these actions come at a time when Israeli settlers have forcibly moved into Palestinian homes and the creation of new settlements in East Jerusalem are planned.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICAN MUSLIMS FOR PALESTINE 

The interfaith agreement on the ‘errant weeds’ of Christianity, Islam and Judaism

street_sign-580x435This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

It may seem off topic to write about September 11th what with Israel’s withdrawal from the peace talks yesterday. Though the statement Israel released is nuanced. As I read it, Israel wants to say no – and wait – to see how the Palestinian unity pact works out. Or doesn’t. Meanwhile settlement building and other provocative measures will continue. Of course.

But our interconnected world has other Middle Eastern realities closer to home. Yesterday a flap surfaced over a video to accompany the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City set to open in May.  I haven’t seen the video – it hasn’t been released yet. Nonetheless, it is causing quite a stir in the interfaith dialogue community whose primary investment it seems is portraying religion as innocent.

The video in question – “The Rise of Al Qaeda” – is less than seven minutes long and is narrated by NBC new anchor, Brian Williams. The video was recently vetted by several self-appointed and evidently government approved interfaith careerists who find the video wanting. The reason: language that seems to equate the World Trade tragedy with Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FFROM MONDOWEISS