LAST SUMMER IN JERUSALEM
In its decree on "Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue, the 34th General Congregation recommended to Fr. General that the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem explore ways to expand the scope of its apostolate to include programs of interreligious dialogue. The "Jerusalem Jubilee 2000" was a first effort at offering the facilities of the Jerusalem residence and community as an educational resource for the whole Society in the area of dialogue with other religions.
The ambitious program of six back-to-back courses strained the facilities of the residence and the resources of the community and staff to their limits. 133 Jesuits from 40 provinces took part in the various courses. Fr. Juan Manuel Moreno led a Spanish-language tour of Biblical sites entitled "Jesús de Nazaret: su pueblo y su tierra" [Jesus of Nazareth: His People and His Land]. This was followed by five courses in English: a course on "Religious Commitment and Conflict Resolution" conducted by Raymond Helmick, the Second Congress of Jesuits in Jewish/Christian Apostolate, a course on "Christian Identity in Light of the Encounter with India," jointly conducted by Anand Amaladass and Francis X. Clooney, and two courses for Jesuit scholastics, "The Vitality of Contemporary Judaism" and "The Vitality of Contemporary Islam," organized by David Neuhaus.
In this issue and the next of the Bulletin we will present reports on these activities of the summer program. The overriding conviction with which I return from Jerusalem is that the city and its environs, hence also the PBI-Jerusalem, are an irreplaceable educational tool for the Society, not only in the area of Biblical studies, which has long been recognized, but also in that of interreligious understanding. I was greatly impressed by the way in which the organizers of the Congress and the courses had wherever possible made use of the City and its people to provide a unique educational experience, one which could not be exactly duplicated elsewhere. One could also see the value of the many years of dialogue carried on quietly by members of the Jesuit community in Jerusalem, which bore fruit in that many Jews and Muslims who had never previously addressed a Christian group were willing to meet with us, precisely because they knew and trusted the local Jesuits.
Thomas Michel, S.J.Conflict Transformation and the Society of Jesus 17-25 June 2000
Given the fact that Jesuits from a variety of countries took part, we observed the conflict situationin the Middle East as a model for examining ways of working for just resolution and transformation of relations among parties to conflicts that are proper to us as Jesuits.
Our first meeting was with H. B. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. He painted a gloomy picture of the situation of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, as completely exposed to whatever the Israeli state chooses to grant or deny, with no genuine voice in any of the negotiations over their future because of the power disparity between their communities and the relentless pressure of the United States on the Palestinians and the Arab states to conform to whatever Israel demands. He described the treaties existing between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan as agreements between governments that have no basis in agreement between the peoples. Israel, he felt, remained a foreign body with the region that would have no future unless it became a part of the Middle East, culturally and in its sympathies. He said that he placed his hope in every human person who came to a real understanding of the situation, but in none of the institutions, as they were all subject to selfish interests. The Patriarch's bleak assessment had great importance for us as we embarked on an exploration of the attitudes constitutive of both Israeli and Palestinian thinking, and that of Christian, Jewish and Muslim thinkers.
Dr. Ephraim Kaye, the Director of Seminars for Educators from Abroad at Yad vaShem, the Holocaust Memorial, conducted an insightful tour of the memorial and its museums and held a valuable discussion with us. We noted his intense satisfaction with his nation, constructed out of tragedy, which he had defended in combat and helped to build, and in which he now took untarnished pride. Palestinians entered into this picture only as trouble, as potential or actual terrorists, their story no part of his horizon. That his children had grown up with no awareness or knowledge of Christianity impressed him as a positive part of their lives. He described how a new and much larger historical museum at Yad VaShem was planned to show not only the factual history of the Shoah, but also to venture an explanation of why it happened. He resisted any suggestion that dialogue with others than Jews should enter into that process. His was an educated outlook that demanded our respect, however much we felt its limits.
Our next day was full of meetings. We spent the morning at the Palestinian International Relations Center, headquarters of Faisal Husseini, whose three principal assistants, participants in the negotiations with the Israeli government, addressed us and answered our questions at length. In the afternoon, Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, Professor of Islamic Studies at Al Quds University, gave us valuable insight into how Islamic faith affects a person's outlook toward justice and peace. In the evening, Dr. Mordechai Bar-On, former Meretz Party Member of the Knesset and a founding member of Peace Now, spoke of the practical workings and expectations of the negotiation process, and the obstacles as seen by Israeli peace activists.
The following day the group traveled to Ramle to visit "Open House." Dalia Landau, brought to Israel from Bulgaria as an infant in 1948, had grown up in a house in Ramle, which she eventually inherited from her father. In 1967, after the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, she answered the door and met the Arab family who had been expelled from that same house in 1948, the first time they had been able to visit it since then. She had always anticipated that such a family would come someday. She felt that the house was theirs and they should have it back. Unable to transfer it to them, she turned it into Open House, a center for the joint use of Israelis and Palestinians, focus of meetings and community activities, with Michael Fanous, a Palestinian Christian, as Program Director. The Open House program is seen as a representation in miniature of the situation of the two opposed communities in the country and a model of the attitudes required to fashion a just solution.
That afternoon, the participants visited the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. Dr. Noah Salameh, a highly qualified specialist in peace studies, conducted the group around the Camp to meet families who have been refugees since 1948. That they remain within the refugee camp even after it has been incorporated into the Palestinian-controlled area of the city of Bethlehem testifies to their demand for a Right of Return to the villages within Green-Line Israel from they were expelled. Dr. Salameh passionately advocates the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. After fifteen years in Israeli prison, his view of the generations-long deprivation of his people, something that understandably blots out practically any other experience from his consciousness, constituted another of the total horizons we met.
Two other expeditions from PBI added to the group's sense of the sacredness of the space and the bitterness of conflict over it. David Neuhaus conducted the group on a visit to the holiest sites in Jerusalem for Jews and Muslims: the Western Wall and the mosques of the Haram as-Sharif (for Jews, the Temple Mount), the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The following day, we visited Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, divided now between Jewish and Muslim worshipers since the massacre there, in February, 1994, of 29 Muslim worshipers by the fanatic settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein. Walking through the market area, we could see the bitter religious dissension that characterizes the city. On our return to Jerusalem, we attended the strident sound and light production that memorializes the destruction of the Jewish settlements of Gush Etzyon at the beginning of the war of 1948.
Our meetings with Israelis and Palestinians were complemented by many sessions among ourselves, in which we analyzed what we had seen and heard and compared our experience of this conflict with others of which persons in the group had experience. Our analytical tools were, first, a methodology for analyzing the psychodynamics of communal conflict which I had developed over many years of working with Richard Hauser of the Centre for Human Rights and Responsibilities in London. We supplemented this with other materials: a study of the dynamics of victimhood and aggression in the escalation of conflicts and an analysis of the process leading from aggression to reconciliation.
We gave major attention to the role of religion and religious exclusion in the fomenting of conflicts, and the resources of the three monotheistic religions present in Israel and Palestine for helping to a just resolution of conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. This is the area of my specialization, but I also made frequent reference to the profound insights presented by Dr. Miroslav Volf in his Exclusion and Embrace.
For a more explicit view of Jewish and Muslim thinking about these areas of conflict, violence and peacemaking, we relied on the forthcoming works of Rabbi Marc Gopin, From Eden to Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking, and Professor Abdul Aziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism. Both works, soon to be published by Oxford University Press, were commissioned by the Preventive Diplomacy Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I am preparing a companion third volume and used much of this material in the Jerusalem seminar.
The Jesuit commitments of our 32nd and subsequent General Congregations were the focus of our final meetings. We realized what an important resource our Society could be for the work of reconciliation and for just outcomes of conflicts. Some Jesuits who are cognizant in the field are full-time professionals, others caught up in this work through encountering conflicts in their activities, still others are simply curious to know where to go for expertise in this field if they should need it.
Conflict transformation is not simply the work of individuals but of the Society. As with most desirable things, there is no sense in asking for Jesuits to take courses in it, but any of us are likely to find ourselves suddenly in the middle of such a situation. It demands all our attention when it comes upon us. Our institutions would do well to be aware of conflict transformation as a resource available in the Society, to find out who has knowledge of it and give them a hearing. Among those who are qualified to work in the field, we ought to have best possible knowledge of one another as resources.
The Society is committed to "faith, of which the pursuit of justice is an indispensable part." Out of this commitment have grown institutions like the Jesuit Refugee Service, which deals specifically with the humanitarian aspects of the suffering that arises from these conflicts or from natural disasters. The work of reconciliation and justice is more diffuse, harder to contain within a discipline to which men can be assigned. We need consequently to give attention to the way the resources of the Society, and the resource which is the Society itself, can be tapped in these situations.
Raymond G. Helmick, S.J.Christian Faith in the Light of the Encounter with India 4-10 July 2000
This course was team-taught by Anand Amaladass, S.J., Dean of the Satya Nilayam national Jesuit Philosophy Center in Chennai, India, and Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Professor of Comparative Theology at Boston College, USA. A diverse group of Jesuits from many different parts of the world participated in the course. The goal of the course was threefold:
1. To introduce students to the richness, complexities, and challenges of the Hindu religious traditions particularly, in this course and setting, through the study of great religious texts, practices, and works of art;
2. to explore how Christians can learn from another religious tradition, attending to both the advantages and difficulties of this learning;
3. in the setting of the holy city of Jerusalem, to reflect on the Hindu-Christian encounter in light of the most basic truths and values belonging to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim encounter with God and (for Christians) with Jesus as the Son of God. The primary course text was Frank Clooney's Hindu Wisdom for All God's Children (Orbis, 1998), which introduces seven different aspects of the Hindu religious traditions which Christians may find it helpful to learn from. The book was supplemented with notes, slides, video, and pictures, and one afternoon we met with an Israeli member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The group was interactive, eager to engage the materials, and well-focused on the key issues of the course. Throughout, the presentations and readings were enriched by the personal experiences of those involved, most of whom had witnessed elements of the Indian religious traditions first-hand in their own home cultures.
If most of us felt that one week was too short for us to digest all that we read and discussed, and that we left Jerusalem with more questions than we had in coming, we also felt that this was a very good step forward indeed.
Frank Clooney, S.J.
I greet you at the opening of the second colloquium of Jesuits involved in Jewish-Christian relations. It is now almost two years since the first international congress was held in Krakow, Poland. Just as the deliberations of the first congress were shaped by the silent witness to inhumanity of the nearby death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, so also the Jerusalem venue of your second congress underlines the importance of the theme you are about to study: "The Significance of the State of Israel for Contemporary Judaism and Jewish-Christian Dialogue."
The program of the colloquium indicates that you will be meeting with and hearing from a wide variety of approaches to the self-understanding of modern Judaism. The challenges of modernity, peace with justice, and pluralism in the state of Israel are key issues which demand reflection and clarification by Israeli Jews and their co-believers around the world. They are the basic foundations of societal relations which conscientious people expect to find in all modern societies. The opportunity to learn how Israeli Jews are seeking to meet the demands of modernity, to construct a lasting peace which necessarily requires the establishment of justice for all, and to respond to the complex intercultural and interreligious problems involved in creating a truly pluralistic nation will not only enable you to learn more deeply about the spiritual and human resources of the Jewish tradition, but will enrich Jewish-Christian dialogue considered within its contemporary context.
I am happy to see that in the program, time has been devoted to hearing the views of the minority peoples in Israel, Palestinian Muslims and our fellow Christians. In every modern state, the just and equal treatment of minorities must always remain a basic indicator of the extent to which that nation has realized its ideals and put into practice its declared values. The plight of Palestinian Christians as a "minority within a minority" which has led so many to leave their homeland and seek a better life elsewhere must not be ignored in your discussions.
I applaud your willingness to take on this demanding and emotionally intense topic. My prayers will be with you during these days that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will grant you the wisdom and fellow-feeling necessary to evaluate and integrate the great amount of serious input to which you will be exposed. I pray that you emerge from this colloquium with a deeper understanding of modern Judaism, of the meaning of the state of Israel for contemporary Jewish thought, and of the challenges posed to interreligious dialogue today by the demands of modernity, the quest for peace, the requirements of justice, and the preconditions for achieving genuine mutual appreciation. Nothing less is to be expected among God-fearing believers who share a long religious tradition in common to the extent they can greet one another as elder and younger brother. Peace be with you all!
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.Report from the Participants of the Second Congress of Jesuits in Jewish-Christian dialogue: A message to fellow Jesuits 2 July 2000
The Second International Congress of Jesuits engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue was held at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem on 27 June - 2 July 2000. The theme of the congress was: "The Significance of the State of Israel for Contemporary Judaism and for Jewish-Christian Dialogue." 32 Jesuits from 21 provinces of the Society took part in the congress, which followed upon a previous congress held in December, 1998, in Krakow, Poland. In the opening session, a speech of welcome was delivered by Rabbi David Rosen, director of the Jerusalem office of the Anti-Defamation League. Rabbi Rosen spoke of the significance of the Pope's visit to Jerusalem as a stimulus for changing Jewish attitudes to Christianity. Fr. Arij Roest Crollius of the Gregorian University in Rome presented the theme of the congress and addressed the link between the Jerusalem meeting and the earlier congress in Krakow.
Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuits, sent a message of greeting in which he encouraged the participants to "to take up this demanding and emotionally intense topic" and promised his prayers that they would arrive at "a deeper understanding of modern Judaism, of the meaning of the State of Israel for contemporary Jewish thought, and of the challenges posed to interreligious dialogue today by the demands of modernity, the quest for peace, the requirements of justice, and the preconditions for achieving genuine mutual appreciation."
The participants then celebrated the Eucharist at the Latin Patriarchate, at which Mons. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch, presided and addressed the group. He reminded the participants that Jewish-Christian dialogue must not be carried out in the abstract but needs to take into account the particular situation of the Church in Jerusalem and to keep in mind the genuine concerns of the Palestinian minority.
On the second day, the group visited the Shalom Hartman Institute, where Rabbi David Hartman offered his interpretation of the significance of the state of Israel. "It is the rebirth of a people who have returned home," he stated, and felt that in modern Israel Christians should discover the life of the community expressed in diverse facets such as in maternity wards, restaurants, and community celebrations. Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat spoke of the prophetic vision of Jerusalem as a place of peace and fellowship for all its inhabitants.
On the following day, Professor Aviezer Ravitzky, a professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University, outlined the various approaches to modernity among Israeli Jews. Professor Naomi Chazan, a member of the Knesset from the secular-oriented Meretz Party, expressed her view of the need to bring about a true separation of religion and state in Israel and of the human problems which arose from the role of religious authorities in state affairs, which led to a breakdown of consensus since the founding of the state.
On Friday, two contrasting views of the quest for peace were presented. Ms. Sharon Blass, a spokesperson for the "settler movement," presented a interpretation of the Hebrew Bible which formed the basis for Jewish claims to sovereignty over the land of Israel. Dr. Veronika Cohen and her husband Dr. Yisrael Elliot Cohen, shared their experience as peace activists and opponents of unjust treatment of Palestinians.
On the final day of study, Fr. Rafiq Khoury of the Latin Patriarch expressed profound concern at what the creation of the state of Israel has meant for the indigenous Palestinian people, as well as his belief in the integral peacemaking and healing role of Palestinian Christians in the Jewish-Christian-Muslim interreligious dialogue. Professor Moussa Abou-Ramadan, professor of international law at Haifa University, outlined the forms of legal discrimination which the Palestinian minority faces in the state of Israel. The final speaker of the day was Rabbi Michael Marmur, Reform rabbi and dean of Hebrew Union College, addressed the variety of approaches to modernity among Jews and spoke of the need for pluralism within the Israeli Jewish community.
The colloquium was concluded on Sunday, 2 July, with a celebration of the Eucharist at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and an evaluation session which raised questions that might be pursued in future meetings, such as the uniqueness of Jewish-Christian dialogue in each diaspora context, the unity of the Testaments, and God's participation in the events of human history.
This brief summary cannot begin to elucidate the enriching, challenging, and often moving testimony given by the participants, whose viewpoints were extremely varied and often at odds with one another.
For the participants, some of the richest moments of the colloquium were experienced in the sessions when the Jesuit participants reflected critically together on the input they had received.
The sharing of insights among fellow Jesuits, most of whom had had long experience in dialogue with Jews in various diaspora contexts and in Israel and with Palestinian Christians and Muslims, was not meant to lead to conclusions or even consensus, but all felt that the effort to hear and encounter the diverse perceptions of reality in Israel today led them to a deeper understanding of the problematic.
"Jesuits among Muslims
This summer in Jerusalem, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, our Jesuit residence in the Holy City, was a hub of interreligious activity. The 34th General Congregation's Decree 5 had called for the expansion of the Jesuit apostolate of the Jerusalem community to explore "programs in interreligious dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims, along with their continuing work of Biblical and spiritual renewal". The Great Jubilee of 2000 was seen as a fitting occasion to give this decree special expression. I was asked by the superior of the house, Tom Fitzpatrick, and the Secretary for Interreligious Dialogue, Tom Michel, to prepare three of these special events: the Second Colloquium of Jesuits in Jewish-Christian Dialogue, a session for scholastics titled "The Vitality of Contemporary Judaism" and another session for scholastics titled "The Vitality of Contemporary Islam."
Naomi Chazan, member of the Knesset and proponent of the separation of religion and state, addresses the Jesuit Congress. Peter Dubrul, S.J. of Bethlehem University chairs the session.The Second Colloquium of Jesuits in Jewish-Christian Dialogue 27 June - 2 July 2000/a>
The Colloquium on Jewish-Christian Dialogue followed an earlier meeting held in Krakow, Poland, in December 1998. Whereas that meeting had focused on the history of anti-Semitism and the influence of the Holocaust, as well as on the Jesuit role in the history of Jewish-Christian relations, the meeting in Jerusalem took as its theme "The Significance of the State of Israel for Contemporary Judaism and for Jewish-Christian Dialogue."
The intention was to hear contemporary Jewish thinkers and activists reflect on the challenges to the Jewish religious tradition presented by the State of Israel. Judaism developed as the religion of a minority community after the first and second centuries. The establishment of a state and the creation of a Jewish majority in Israel have stood at center stage in the life of the Jewish community this century. These events have powerfully impacted Jewish self-identity and, by extension, the dialogue between Jews and Christians.
33 Jesuits (11 from Western Europe, 10 from North America, 3 from Eastern Europe, 2 from the Near East, 3 from Asia, 2 from Australia, 1 from Latin America) took part in the colloquium. The days were spent listening to Jews reflect on the theme and then discussing among ourselves the implications of the presentation for our own involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Each session consisted of an address by a local speaker, a period of questions to the speaker and then a time of discussion among ourselves after the speaker had left, a format that facilitated different levels of exchange and encouraged active participation.
The Colloquium was opened by addresses of welcome. The first was delivered by Rabbi David Rosen, Director of the Anti Defamation League Israel Office, who is also president of the International Council of Christians and Jews and had formerly served as Chief Rabbi of Ireland. Fr. Thomas Michel read an address from Father General (cf. p. ??), in which he encouraged the participants "to take up this demanding and emotionally intense topic." Fr. Arij Roest Crollius of the Center for Judaic Studies at the Gregorian University offered a short word of welcome. The opening session was followed by Mass at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem celebrated by the Patriarch, H.B. Michel Sabbah. In his homily, Patriarch Sabbah presented the perspective of the local Church, almost entirely Palestinian in composition, concerning Jewish-Christian dialogue and expressed concern that too often the dialogue is used to legitimate the political situation in Israel and Palestine.
The first full day began with a session held at the Shalom Hartman Institute, an institution for the formation of Jewish educators and a vibrant center of study and intra-Jewish as well as interreligious dialogue. Rabbi David Hartman, founder and head of the Institute, addresed the group and he stressed that the main challenge to contemporary Christians is the recognition of the vitality of the Jewish people as a nation reborn on their own land in their own state. He dwelt on the relationship between Zionism and Judaism, focusing on how Jewish life in Israel needs to reformulate Jewish self-identity, the Jewish tradition and Jewish relationships with others. In a passionate conclusion Hartman insisted that Christian theologians "make Israel, and not Auschwitz, the theological challenge."
That afternoon, veteran participant in interreligious dialogue, Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat, formerly Chief Rabbi of France, addressed the group. Commenting on the medieval Jewish classic, the Kuzari by Rabbi Judah HaLevi, Sirat posed the Jewish return to Jerusalem as the peak of Jewish history and concluded with a profound prayer for peace in Jerusalem.
The next day was devoted to the theme: "The Challenge of Modernity for Contemporary Judaism in Israel." Prof. Aviezer Ravitzky, Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University and a leading activist in the moderate religious party Meimad, focused his presentation on the messianic theme in Judaism and in modern Zionism.
His informative presentation contrasted diametrically opposed religious attitudes to the State of Israel, showing a great diversity within Judaism toward the reality of a modern state. In the afternoon we were addressed by Prof. Naomi Chazan, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset for the liberal and left-leaning Meretz Party and professor of Political Science at Hebrew University. Speaking with great warmth and humor, she detailed the wrenching dilemmas brought on by the mix of religion and politics in Israel and made an impassioned plea for the separation of religion and state, even though this would necessarily entail a basic reformulation of Zionist foundational narratives relating to Jewish identity and history.
The following day centered on "The Challenge of Peace and Justice for Contemporary Judaism in Israel." Ms. Sharon Blass, an Orthodox Jew from the West Bank settlement of Newe Tzuf, wife of the local rabbi and mother of eight children, had been spokesperson for the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council, the most important organization representing the settler movement. In this capacity she had represented the settlers at the Israeli-Arab Madrid Conference in 1991.
Ms. Blass was unapologetic in her strident defense of the settlers' right to settle anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel. She presented with great logic and precision the religious thinking of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and his son Rabbi Yehuda Zwi Kook who the settlers regard as founders of their own ideology of religious attachment to all of the Land of Israel.
That afternoon, Dr. Veronika Cohen of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and her husband, Dr. Yisrael Elliot Cohen, of the Center for Research and Documentation of East European Jewry and the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, addressed the participants.
The Cohens are firmly committed Orthodox Jewish peace activists. Yisrael introduced the issue of the search for justice and peace in the Jewish tradition, and Veronika read chapters from the autobiographical account of her own peace activities in dialogue with Palestinians. Deeply impressive was her narrative of the loneliness of a committed peace activist in the Jewish religious community.
The final day was devoted to the theme "The Challenge of Pluralism for Contemporary Judaism in Israel."
The morning sessions were presented by a Christian and a Muslim Palestinian. Mons. Rafiq Khoury, in charge of religious education in the Latin Patriarchate and an accomplished theologian and author, offered a thought-provoking challenge for all involved in the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the West. He said: "A Jewish-Christian dialogue ... cannot be formulated without including the Palestinians and their historical experiences in the past and the present. Taking this reality into account prevents the dialogue from becoming an ideology in the service of a political project."
Mr. Moussa Abou-Ramadan of the Faculty of Law at the Universities of Haifa and Aix-en-Provence, focused on the legal aspects of discrimination against "non-Jews" in the state of Israel. The basis of his presentation was the problematic claim that the State of Israel is both Jewish and democratic.
The final presentation on the theme was given by Reform Rabbi Michael Marmur, Dean of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, who outlined the problem of pluralism among Jews with a broad sweep of the historical context of Jewish pluralism.
A highlight of the colloquium was the discussion sessions in which the Jesuits reconvened alone and were able to thrash out some of the issues raised.
These sessions displayed both the great diversity of opinions within the group (often connected to the diversity of contexts in which we work) as well as the establishment of an open dialogue among ourselves on these issues.
The session ended with a Eucharistic celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
It was a time to give thanks for what we had learned and shared and a time to hope that the learning and sharing would continue as we pursue the path of dialogue with Jewish brothers and sisters.Next Summer in Jerusalem
Fr. Tom Fitzpatrick, superior of PBI-Jerusalem, has announced that in 2001 the community will offer a course for Jesuits on "Christianity in the Holy Land Today." The dates have been set for 12-23 July 2001. Whereas the courses in the summer of 2000 focused on relations with Jews and Muslims, next year's course will center its attention on Christians in Israel and Palestine today.
The course will treat the history, the various rites and Churches present in the Holy Land today, ecumenical and interreligious relations, new phenomena such as the "Messianic Jews," the sociological and political challenges faced by Christians today, and the resources which the Churches in Israel and Palestine can bring to bear on these problems and maintain a living Christian presence in the land of Jesus.
The dates of the course have been coordinated with those of the 16th congress of Jesuit Ecumenists, to be held in Alexandria, Egypt between 6-10 July 2001, so that participants can easily take part in both.
Those desiring to register for the Jerusalem course "Christians in the Holy Land Today" can do so by writing Thomas Michel, S.J., at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.orgScholastics' Course on "The Vitality of Contemporary Judaism" 11-17 July 2000
27 Jesuit scholastics from 17 countries participated in the course on Judaism. Instead of having Jesuit professors present Judaism, we decided to make full use of the Jerusalem venue get out and learn about Judaism from as large a variety of Jews as possible. This meant some long and exhausting days in the peak of the summer heat, as we trekked around visiting sites in Jerusalem and the surroundings, listening to Jews tell us about their faith, their identity, their history and their hopes. The focus was a living encounter with Judaism today and the diversity of its religious and cultural expressions. Each morning began with a period of meditation before Mass, accompanied by a piece of traditional Jewish music drawn from diverse musical traditions from many parts of the Jewish world. Attuning our ears to the musical traditions was a daily preparation for attuning our ears to hear what our Jewish partners wanted to tell us.
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, a Conservative rabbi and peace activist, welcomed the group to Jerusalem. Through a discussion of a text from the Jewish liturgy, Jeremy introduced us to what it means to be Jewish today.
The next day was dedicated to discovering the sources of Jewish tradition. In the morning, Christian Rutishauser of the Swiss Province acted as our guide in a visit to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. In a fascinating visit to the four Sephardic synagogues, the expansive caretaker gave his own presentation on what it meant to be Jewish. At the Western Wall, a central place of pilgrimage for contemporary Jews, there was time to wander around to get a feel of the place. We then followed the Western Wall tunnel, which runs underground along the entire length of the biblical Temple Mount. Its opening had been the occasion for another bloody chapter in the struggle for control of the Mount which is held sacred by both Jews and Muslims. The tunnel represents a walk through centuries of history, revealing elements of Hasmonean, Herodian and Mamluk Jerusalem.
The afternoon was dedicated to a discovery of traditional Jewish texts. Rabbi Levi Lauer of the Shalom Hartman Institute organized three sessions. The first was a contemporary Jewish reading of the story of the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22). This was followed by a study of the Talmudic text regarding the dispute between a rabbi and the rest of the academy, known as the story of Aknai's Oven (Baba Mezia 59b). Written Torah (Pentateuch, Prophets and Wisdom) and Oral Torah (Talmud) were thus presented in their essential unity, a basic principle of contemporary Judaism. Finally Levi introduced us to the dynamics of Jewish identity today in the light of contemporary Zionism. After dinner we watched a television documentary on Jewish liturgical music.
Thursday was dedicated to Jewish culture and began with a visit to the acclaimed Diaspora Museum at Tel Aviv University. The museum takes the visitor through two millennia of Jewish life, paying close attention to the cultural diversity of the Jews in the lands of the Diaspora. Two accomplished museum guides lead the visits and facilitated discussions at different exhibits. After picnicking in a park near the seafront, a Tel Aviv theatre director led us on a trip through an old quarter of Tel Aviv, starting at the home of Israel's national poet, Chayyim Nahman Bialik. We ended the walk at Sheinkin Street, a symbol of Israeli secularism at its most extreme, where young Israelis with a minimum of clothing display their pierced body parts. The purpose of the excursion was to become aware of secular Jewish identity and its particular dilemmas in relating to the Jewish tradition.
On Friday, the focus was the Holocaust (Sho'ah) and Zionism. The morning was spent exploring the rambling Holocaust memorial of Yad VaShem. After a visit to the Valley of the Lost Communities and a moment silence in the Memorial Chamber for the million children who perished in the Holocaust, we visited the museum in small groups, spending several hours to give everyone the time they felt they needed in order to try and confront this particularly painful episode in the recent history of Europe. >From Yad VaShem, we walked to the national cemetery on Mount Herzl, where Ophir Yarden of the Melitz Institute gave us a guided tour of the various tombs contained in the spacious, beautifully retained gardens. Here are buried Theodor Herzl, father of modern Zionism, Zeev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist brand of right-wing Zionism, Yitzhaq Rabin, assassinated Prime Minister of Israel, and other presidents, prime ministers and national figures. The focus of Ophir's presentation was on the way that Zionism used, molded or rejected Jewish traditional and religious heritage in order to strengthen its appeal.
Friday evening was a high point for the participants. We attended Friday evening synagogue services and then, divided into groups of twos and threes, we were invited into homes by Jewish families. Most of us attended the open Orthodox community of Yedidyah which holds its prayer services in the basement of a school while it waits for its synagogue to be built. The lively service in which the Sabbath was welcomed as a Queen coming into our midst was full of new sounds and sights. The warm hospitality of the families brought us into the heart of the Jewish world, the family unit. The blessing of wine and bread at the Friday evening meal introduced the participants, many for the first time, to this ancient and moving domestic liturgy.
Saturday was devoted to the shabbat (Sabbath) experience, a central pillar of Jewish identity. We went to the Western Wall to mingle with the myriads of Jews in prayer. The more sturdy among us then walked through some of the more religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem to soak up some of the Shabbat atmosphere. That afternoon we broke into four groups and were led in a study of that portion of the Pentateuch which had been read in the synagogues that morning. The passage was that of Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9). Our teachers were Jewish students and educators who had come to our house on a Shabbat afternoon to study with us. They included teachers and students from the Hartman Institute, from Hebrew Union Colllege and members of the Israel Interfaith Association. Some group discussions went on for over two hours. That evening, our new acquaintances and other friends joined us for a social evening in the garden of the Jesuit residence.
Sunday morning, after a Eucharistic celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we visited the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Dr. Rachel Blass, a psychology professor, introduced us to the history of the university and discussions about its Jewish identity. That afternoon, Mr. Yehuda Maimran and his colleague from Maayanot, a Oriental Jewish organization, spoke about the history and identity of the Jews who originate from the Islamic world, particularly from Morocco. Finally, in the evening, two Jesuits from the Jerusalem community, Francesco Rossi de Gasperis and Juan Manuel Martin-Moreno, discussed their work in Israel. The concluding talk on Monday was given by myself and focused on the Christian presence in Jewish Israeli society and treated the social, cultural, political and legal aspects of Christian presence in Israel.
The course was extremely intense and perhaps over-full. Most participants agreed that they would not have wanted to miss anything (except possibly the terrible heat and humidity of the afternoon in Tel Aviv. The course was an occasion to study at the feet of real, live Jews rather than by reading books. Systematic knowledge gave way to experiential knowledge and hopefully the aim was achieved.The Scholastics' Course on "The Vitality of Contemporary Islam" 18-25 July 2000
A really positive factor in this course is the fact that all the scholastics who took part in the Judaism course also participated in the session on Islam. We were joined by four more scholastics (2 Indians, a German and a Pole), and Dan Madigan, professor of Islamic Studies at the Gregorian University joined as a resource person in addition to Tom Michel and myself.
The Islam course was organized in symmetry with that on Judaism. Once again, systematic knowledge was not the goal but rather using the city of Jerusalem and its surroundings as a context in which to meet and learn from Muslims.
Language was no obstacle as I undertook to translate for the many speakers who were not comfortable speaking anything other than Arabic. The morning meditations were accompanied by the sounds of diverse Islamic traditions. Small evening discussion groups met to clarify issues that had been raised during the day. These sessions were introduced after evaluations of the Judaism week suggested the usefulness of such gatherings.
We were introduced to the heart of the matter - what it means to be a Muslim in Jerusalem today - by Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, professor in philosophy and Islamic thought at the Palestinian Jerusalem (Al-Quds) University. Mustafa, who did his doctorate at Boston College, knows the Jesuits well and led us through the basic Islamic tenets.
The following day we devoted to the foundations of Islam, exploring the Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary), the third holiest place in Islam, which includes the renowned Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. We were met at the Haram by Mr. Oussama Msha'sha', my oldest friend and adopted brother, principal of a private Islamic school for boys. Ater I had given a brief historical introduction, Oussama explained a bit of the life of the Haram. He explained the conflict between Jews, who regard the area as the sacred precincts of the Temple Mount, and Muslims, for whom the place is connected with the Ascent of Muhammad into heaven and his recognition by the previous prophets.
After these introductory explanations, Ms. May Wazwaz, assistant to the Islamic religious leadership of Islamic endowments, led us on an extensive tour of Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. A special privilege, not usually granted tourists, was a visit to the newly renovated Marwaniyyah Mosque, an enormous subterranean prayer hall. Ms. May filled us in on the difficult situation of the Muslims under Israeli military occupation. After a visit to the Islamic museum within the Haram, we were received by His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Shaykh Ikrimah Sabri. Shaykh Ikrimah is the highest Islamic authority in the Holy Land, president of the Supreme Islamic Council. He spoke with us about the traditionally good relations between Muslims and Christians in Palestine and pleaded the cause of the Palestinians in Jerusalem and their woes under Israeli occupation. That afternoon, Dr. Ali Qleibo, professor of anthropology in Jerusalem University and a well known author, presented an anthropological perspective on Islam and Palestinian culture to clarify the specificity of Palestinian Islam.
The next day was spent in a thoroughly Islamic environment in the city of Hebron. Except for the small but extremely problematic presence of heavily armed Jewish settlers, Hebron is considered the most traditionally Islamic of Palestinian cities. We were invited by the Palestinian Hebron University and were greeted by both the president of the university and the president of the board of trustees, Dr. Ali al-Ja'abari.
The day's program had been put together by Dr. Akram al-Tamimi, a young and dynamic faculty member. The morning was spent listening to presentations on Islam and on the actual situation in Hebron. The presentations covered a broad spectrum of Palestinian Muslim ideologies.
The first speaker represented a Muslim secularist nationalist position, the second that of the official Islamic religious leadership, and the third the viewpoint of radical Islamic revivalism. After a rather strenuous morning of presentations, we were treated to a delicious Palestinian lunch in the university cafeteria.
From there, three faculty members led us on a tour through the center of Hebron. For many of us, this was the first time we confronted the palpable tension and violence of war. The city center has been taken over by a small band of Jewish settlers who began to arrive in the city after its conquest in 1967, claiming that they were reestablishing a Jewish presence violently eliminated in a massacre in 1929. The center of the city is full of Israeli soldiers and heavily armed Jewish settlers, along with Palestinians desperately clinging to a their heritage. The heart of the city is the great Ibrahimiyyah Mosque (known by Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs), with the traditional tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. Following the 1994 massacre of Muslims in the mosque by a Jewish settler, the site has been divided in two, with a solid wall separating the mosque from the synagogue. As our Muslim hosts are barred from entering the Jewish half, we visited only the Muslim portion. We ended this intense and fascinating day with a stroll through the covered market of Hebron, an Islamic architectural delight sadly scarred by the ongoing conflict.
Friday is a busy day in Jerusalem as tens of thousands of Palestinian Muslims flock to the Haram al-Sharif for the communal midday prayer and weekly sermon. Friday morning found us in the middle of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Mamluk edifices, a magnificent heritage of the 13-14th centuries when Jerusalem was a thriving and relatively peaceful city. We began in the Khalidi Library, a prestigious and historical monument founded in 1902 in a beautiful Mamluk edifice. Ms. Haifa' Khalidi, a member of this renowned Jerusalem family, proudly showed us the library and its treasures. Our guide through the Muslim quarter, Ms. Abeer Rizq, is a student of archeology and introduced us to her Quarter with great enthusiasm. After we had completed the tour, we had a chance to mingle in the crowds as toward midday people flowed in ever greater streams to the Haram al-Sharif.
At that point left Jerusalem for Bethlehem and Bethlehem University. Run by the Christian Brothers, this is the only Catholic university in the Holy Land and has been functioning since 1974. About 70% of the students are Muslim. Here we were met by Peter du Brul, a Jesuit of the Near East Province and head of the university's Religious Studies Department. Peter is a well-known figure in Bethlehem, where he has been teaching since 1974. Wellloved by both Christians and Muslims, Peter is a model for Muslim-Christian dialogue. He was accompanied by Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaer, another Jesuit of the Near East Province, who teaches Islamic studies in Cairo.
Peter took us on a tour of the university after which Christiaan spoke of his work of teaching Islam, as well as his profound and ongoing dialogue with Muslims since he moved to Egypt in 1962. Later we were joined by Dr. Yusuf Hraymi, a Muslim graduate of the university, who spoke of his experiences as a believing Muslim at a Catholic university. Peter then led the gorup on a visit to the Basilica of the Nativity in central Bethlehem.
That evening we were invited to the home of Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Bukhari, scion of a family who immigrated to Jerusalem from Bukhara (in modern Uzbekistan) in the 18th century. The family founded and still maintains a Sufi (Islamic mystical) prayer "corner" in Jerusalem's Old City. Shaykh Abd al-Aziz spoke to us about Sufi practices and the Sufi interpretation of Islam.
The next morning we traveled to Jaffa. Before 1948, Jaffa had been a thriving, predominantly Muslim, Palestinian city. In that year of the establishment of the State of Israel almost the entire population of 100,000 inhabitants either fled or was expelled. The tiny community that remained was impoverished and isolated and had to reconstruct a society against the obstacles of discrimination, land confiscation, house demolitions, poverty, illiteracy and drug abuse. Our visit was coordinated by Mr. Moussa Abou Ramadan, native of Jaffa and professor of international law, and other members of the League for Arab Affairs. We began our visit to the Muslim community (now swallowed up by the metropolis of the Jewish city of Tel Aviv) at one of the few remaining mosques, the Mahmudiyyah. There we were greeted by Shaykh Bassam Abu Zayd, the leading religious leader of Muslims in Jaffa. He spoke of the community and of his life work in trying to save the remnant from the plagues which beset it, especially the problem of drug abuse. Several young Muslim teachers then led us through the old center of Jaffa, now become a wealthy artists' colony, inhabited and frequented mainly by Israeli Jews. The contrast between the highly developed artists' neighborhood and the remaining Arab neighborhoods was all too evident: on the one hand beautifully reconstructed homes, and on the other dereliction and abandonment.
We ended our walk at the center of the League for Arab Affairs where a number of community activists were awaiting us and spoke about the situation of Jaffa today. The first was a young religious leader from the Islamic Movement in Jaffa who teaches French in a Catholic school in the city. The other was a Christian, the head of the League, who spoke bitterly about the problem of corruption in the local churches.
After a typical Palestinian lunch of hummus (chickpea paste), felafel (fried chickpea balls) and other delicacies, our hosts accompanied us to the beach to relax after a long but interesting day. As on the previous week, we were joined that evening by Muslim friends at an informal social in the garden of the Jesuit residence.
On Sunday, after Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we made our way back to the Khalidi Library where we were met by Shaykh Ra'ed, a young religious leader from the Palestinian Islamic Movement, Shaykh Ra'ed. His presentation was filled with the bitterness and frustration of a young man who at the age of 23 could already recount five long years spent in Israeli prisons. Filled as it was with anger and hurt, his message was hard to listen to.
That afternoon, Shaykh Yusuf Abu Snayneh, one of the preachers of the al-Aqsa Mosque, led us through a fascinating exegesis of verses from the third chapter of the Qur'an which deals with the family of the Virgin Mary. Shaykh Yusuf, a graduate student in Islamic exegesis, captivated his audience with his familiarity with the Qur'anic texts. Later that evening, Fr. Ra'ed Awad Abu Sahliyyeh, secretary of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave a Christian Palestinian Arab perspective on Islam and dialogue with Muslims. Fr. Ra'ed is working on a doctorate on non-violence and peace in Islam and participants found his courageous optimism, passion and honesty very moving. The last speaker of the course was was Mr. Mohammed Abu Samra, who is writing a doctoral thesis in modern Arab thought. Coming from a village of Muslim Bedouin Palestinians in Galilee, he put the present-day Muslim Palestinian situation into the broader context of developments in Palestinian society in recent decades.
In both the Judaism and Islam sessions we tried to use the city of Jerusalem and its people as an educational tool in order to gain a living experience of these religious traditions. Of course, the perspective is partial, since Jerusalem is but one corner of the Jewish and Muslim world, but this partiality was compensated for by the vibrancy of a living encounter with each tradition. As the organizer, I conclude with a word of thanks to the participants who put up with an extremely strenuous program and never gave up the desire to learn more.
They made a great impression on the Jews and Muslims they met, and I was consistently assured of this whenever I met our Jewish and Muslim collaborators in the weeks following the sessions.
Jerusalem might not be a place where dialogue is particularly fruitful right now, but it is a wonderful place to learn about the different traditions with which we are called to enter into a relationship of dialogue.
David Mark Neuhaus, S.J.Jesus of Nazareth, His People and His Land
When putting together the different seminars in Jerusalem for the Jubilee Year, it was noted that they were all in English and were centered on interreligious dialogue. For this reason, we thought of the possibility of also organizing a different seminar, centered on the person of Jesus, for Spanish-speaking Jesuits.
The seminar took place in Jerusalem, at the site of our Biblical Institute, from June 4th to 16th. Fourteen Jesuits from eight different provinces took part. It was directed by Juan Manuel Martin-Moreno, who is a member of the Jerusalem community and also Professor of New Testament History for the students of the Jerusalem semester of the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
The aim of the seminar was to come to better know Jesus through understanding his land and his people. There are some who speak of the Holy Land as a "fifth gospel" which can complement the knowledge of Jesus which is given to us in the four canonical gospels. The geography, the countryside, the archeological ruins, place us in the environment which gave birth to Jesus. Bathing in the Jordan, breathing in the desert, looking out from the top of Mount Tabor to calculate the distances between the biblical sites which have been familiar to us since our youth, crossing the lake in a boat, winding through the narrow streets of the Jerusalem market, contemplating the blue of the Mediterranean from Jaffa or Caesarea and recalling there the opening of the Gospel to the gentiles. The methodology used was very simple: conferences before the daily visits, followed by reading the Bible on the spot. Listening to the well known biblical texts in their own context and location. Every day the Eucharist was celebrated in one of the places visited. Although the course was centered on the person of Jesus, and so on the sites mentioned in the New Testament, they could not miss the opportunity to also visit some of the most important sites of the Old Testament, recalling Elijah high atop Carmel, Joshua in Megiddo, Ajab in Dan, the patriarchs in Shechem, the Samaritans of Mount Garizin and of Samaria.
Understanding Jesus in the political and social context of his age, and analyzing his offer of peace, is also an opportunity to experience on the spot the tremendous complexity of the new challenges and conflicts of the people of Israel in our day, and to see to see how Jesus' message of peace to the Jews of his time can still be relevant to today's conflicts.
The first part of the seminar, which took place in Galilee, was blessed with particularly cool weather for the season, although later on in Jerusalem and especially in the desert, the participants had the opportunity to feel in their own flesh the rigors of summer in those climes. The most positive aspect emphasized by all the members was the climate of friendship and [honda puesta?] our common faith and Jesuit spirituality expressed along the way. The figure of Ignatius the Pilgrim in these lands and the symbolic role that Jerusalem played in his dreams was commented upon continuously throughout the trip. It found its maximal expression during the visit to the rock on top of the Mount of Olives, where Ignatius venerated with such devotion the footprints of Jesus. Not only in this rock, but throughout the Holy Land the traces of his steps have been indelibly impressed upon us.
Juan Manuel Martin Moreno, S.J.
tel. (39-6) 689.77.568; fax: 687.5101; email: email@example.com