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1/5 Synod Dispels Myths about Middle East Synod
12-21-10 12:05

A group of Catholic and Jewish leaders met in Jerusalem last in an effort to clear the air and dispel some of the negative feelings that emerged from the recent Middle East Synod in Rome. Seated together on a diverse panel in Jerusalem.

A group of Catholic and Jewish religious and lay leaders met in Jerusalem last in an effort to clear the air and dispel some of the negative feelings that emerged from the recent Middle East Synod in Rome. Seated together on a diverse panel in Jerusalem, the participants discussed the need for dialogue and acceptance between Catholics and Jews, both of whom are admittedly "minorities in the region" as Reverend David Neuhas of the Pontifical Biblical Institute put it.

 

"The reality is that [most of the] Christians don't hate us and aren't out to get us anymore," Rabbi Ron Kronish, of the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel told Travelujah in an interview following the panel discussion. "Jews need to understand that the world is not flat anymore" he continued "[and they should stop listening ] only to rumors" about what was actually at the meeting of Middle East Catholic leaders. He also made a point of stressing that it was just "one person" who said something at the Synod against Jews (Salim Bustros, the Greek Melkite archbishop who had made the comments about Jews no longer having an "exclusive right" to the Promised Land).

 

Another panelist, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Guardian of the Holy Land, when asked what he believed the Church had to offer in helping the Peace Process come to fruition, commented that he believed that interfaith dialogue and the "millions of pilgrims" to the Holy Land each could contribute to helping to make the Peace Process become a reality. According official estimates, as many as 60% of the 3.4 million tourists expected for the year 2010 are Christian pilgrims, with 90,000 coming for Christmas alone.

 

Fr. Pierbattista's ideas were echoed by Bahin Mousari, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who spoke briefly at the end of the event. He made a point of mentioning that all religions were welcome in Israel and that Israel is proud of the fact that it "respects the rights of all communities."

A key point that was repeatedly stressed by all the panelists, Jews and Christians alike was the universality of Jerusalem and how it is the "birthplace of our faith as Christians" as Father Pizzabella explained.

 

The panelists mostly spoke in Hebrew in order to stress that the event was intended to reach out to Jews in Israel who may not have gotten "the whole story." The one exception was Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who apologized that he wasn't comfortable enough with the Hebrew language to speak to the audience in their native tongue.

 

 

His Grace did however mention in an interview prior to the event that he believed that "dialogue between the faiths" was extremely important and later referred to the need for Christians to refrain from emigrating from the Middle East, referring to their living in this area as a "convocation and a calling" from God since their numbers have been dwindling in this mostly Muslim dominated part of the world. The big exception, of course, that he and other panelists noted, was Israel, where the Catholic community has shown a small but steady growth over the years, with the community currently numbering some 254,000.

Other panelists included Ms. Hanna Bendcowsky of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, Ms. Yisca Harani, a well known researcher of Christianity and the Christian World and Dr. Amnon Ramon of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

 


Eric Hammer is a writer and journalist based in central Israel. His work has been featured in several newspapers and anthologies. He writes frequently for Travelujah. Commentary can be directed to erichammer@gmx.com.

Want to get more involved in interfaith relations in Israel? A number of organizations exist that you can get in touch with, including:

 

The Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel +972 (2) 561-1889
Jerusalem Center for Jew

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