Reflections on the 2nd Jewish-Christian Dialogue of the Middle East Peace Initiative
Dr. Frank Kaufmann, Director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace|
June 1, 2006
The second Jewish-Christian Dialogue of the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) took place from May 17-18, 2006 in the beautiful Olive Tree hotel, 10 minutes from the Damascus gate of Old Jerusalem city. Our 8th floor meeting room was an intimate, sun-drenched space, with floor to ceiling windows on 3 sides of a room that fit our 18 - 20 participants snugly.
The dialogue was blessed by an ideal mix of return partners and new, gaining continuity and a deepening foundation from the returning participants, and expansion and entre into higher circles of the establishment from the new dialogue partners.
These dialogues are rooted in the historic Jerusalem Declaration of May 18, 2003. At the conclusion of the first MEPI pilgrimage Christians and Jews repented together for all sins and offense committed over our long and often shameful history. This ideal behavior is called for by all great spiritual traditions. Each group presented themselves not with demands looking for fault in the other, but rather standing together in a shared space of repentance in which all, each in our own way sought forgiveness; from on high, and from one another.
The reading and signing of the Jerusalem Declaration enveloped those present in a palpable atmosphere of healing and reconciliation. I myself saw the spiritual world descend at this time. Dialogues, like the one last week proceed from this act, this deed of the heart - not from an idea. I believe it is for this reason that the divine seems to break so often in during these current Jewish-Christian meetings. A renowned pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations stopped me in the hall to exclaim that this is the very best meeting I've attended among Christians and Jews for as long as I can remember. There is a complete absence of barriers and posturing, he said. In every session we traversed an invisible, spiritual path toward a transcendent moment of reconciliation.
The primary public person at the center of these dialogues so far is Professor Joshua Ben Ami, a trained biblical scholar and studied Kabbalist. Professor Ben Ami has been deeply integrated into MEPI efforts and friends know him as Shuki.
Shuki together with Unification scholars and leaders worked closely together to design the topics and progression of both dialogues so far. A new face on the scene this time was William Haines, a Unification brother originally from the UK, with a long career of sacrifice most especially in the USSR.
Late in the process William took over the dialogue preparation from local national leader Hod Ben Zvi (who became increasingly weighed down by the demands of the major international pilgrimage). I myself came even later, inheriting the work and the growing relationship that was developing between William and Shuki.
This year the most peculiar thing happened. I noticed it only AFTER everything was said and done. Shuki recommended the following topics, and after prayerful reflection we settled upon them as sound and well considered.
Session 1 was on prayer in the two traditions. Session 2 entitled "Reconciliation of Brothers", took up the stories of Jacob, and Joseph respectively. After lunch session 3 was on the role of women in the two religions, and finally the concluding session was on the Messiah in Christianity and in Judaism.
An orthodox wife of an Israeli, Chief Rabbi confided that in many circles it is absolutely verboten to even utter the sound "Jesus", and yet here we were all together discussing the thorniest and most unmentionable parts of our shared history.
Each session was rich in its own right, and as I say every one moved from respectful conversation, dialogue, and presentations of views and positions to a shattering of the mundane, and a yielding of the intellect to the in-breaking of the world of the heart. Reconciliation and harmony sprouted in and around us, radiated out, and finally enveloped the partners in ineffable spaces of oneness. Yet interesting as this repeat experience was time and again, perhaps more sublime was the "accidental" progression of the conference as a whole.
The day came to its gentle settlement, and only then did I look back to see that the topics Shuki picked perfectly recapitulated restoration history! The foundation to receive the Messiah, and walking along this path hand in hand were Christians and Jews! Prayer, the path of Abel, the Foundation of Faith, the Reconciliation of brothers, the Foundation of Substance, the Role of women, the restoration of Eve, and the Messiah, the conclusion, the Tikkun, Olam, the repairing of the world, the time of promise when heaven and earth are made whole.
I believe that conditions for experiences and events such as these come from the vision and the path of indemnity of Father Moon, and the conditions of humility and sincerity offered by brothers and sisters in the Jewish family, the Christian family, and the Unification family. People like Hod, who patiently sought the venue to expand and substantiate the Jerusalem Declaration, Reverend Jenkins who combines a willingness to listen with a power to realize intentions. Old friends and new who gathered humbly before God. Everyone from our delightful translator, who excitedly and masterfully bridged our distances from Hebrew to English, to renowned interfaith activists and everyone in between; no one jockeyed for position or recognition, but only sought to serve the desire of God, and the needs of the world.
Reposted from the IRFWP
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