Interfaith Dialogue: the progressive way forward


By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
October 31, 2012
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I am dismayed by so many items that are recorded on our news channels. The notion of an interview seems to have been ditched in favour of interrogation. It is like the ‘yes/no’ game children play when they try to tempt their friend into saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and so lose the game. The interviewer/interrogator tries every angle they and the producer’s voice in their ear can conceive to catch out the interviewee/victim for a juicy slip that is then regurgitated as the news for the next few days. I honestly switch off. It is not news. It is not intelligent. I do not believe that we the listener or viewer gain anything other than cheap entertainment. We might as well be watching Judge Judy or any such like.

Yet there are programmes that I catch on the radio in particular, when a panel of guests present their point of view on an issue and then have a moderated discussion on issues they have raised. I am so disappointed if my journey or diary does not allow me to reach the end of the show. I hear, I have learnt, I develop and move forward because I listen.

This contrast is apparent when we look at how the Jewish Community seems to be engaging with Interfaith Dialogue. I would argue that it generally does not. Rather, in dealing with other Faiths, those bodies that represent the Jewish Community, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, respond to issues by shouting accusations. This is not interfaith dialogue and is hypocritical. We will always suggest, especially with regards to Israel/Palestine that others need to understand background, nuances and the multi-faceted issue that is being discussed before responding. Do the dialogue first before forming an opinion and responding.

Interfaith dialogue, indeed any dialogue with the intention of moving forward together in greater understanding, is achieved through listening to different points of view. It is not easy but it leads to higher-level comprehension. When Jewish national bodies shout – sometimes aggressively - at Christian national bodies as happened recently regarding concerns for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), there is no attempt to hear the other’s point of view. The nuances and internal political minutiae that they may be founded on or moves to foster long-term understanding are lost. They frankly do not achieve anything productive but rather tempt the other to switch off, just as they might do the radio.

Last week the Jewish News carried a photo of faith leaders celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Council of Christians and Jews. This organisation, especially through its local branches has done so much hard work to further understanding of Jewish issues and thought to Christians and vice versa. It is absurd that in an age when a Jew, Vidal Sassoon, could have Kaddish – the Jewish Memorial Prayer – recited at a celebration of his life in St Paul’s Cathedral, national bodies respond to each other in a manner that seems to illustrate a complete lack of the principles that are the foundation of interfaith dialogue, in fact any dialogue.

The method of our response to Christians at this time is pressing. The need for real dialogue is urgent. We cannot deny that many sections of the Christian Community in the UK, whilst supportive of our local activities are hostile towards Israeli Government policies. Sometimes they are justified and we would not argue with them. At other times we might disagree and wish to present an alternative way of thinking. We cannot deny that amongst the Christians there are those who would seek to delegitimize Israel at every turn, just as there are Jews who undermine slim chances for peace. We should and must be vigilant against them.

However, we should not naively vilify entire national bodies, representatives of a Community just like ours. How will we help Christians to acknowledge the perversity of their over-emphasis with issues of Israel/Palestine when, for example, the fate of Coptic Christians in Egypt or the ancient Christian Community of Aleppo is not mentioned? How can we help those going on the EAPPI programme hear more narratives than they might currently do?

Indeed, how might we all – Christians and Jews - learn more about the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, Israeli Jews living in Settlements, those in S’derot, Bedouin in the Negev or Druze in the north? Are we so arrogant as to say that we know it all?

Is it too naïve to suggest that Jewish leaders work with Christian leaders to develop programmes endorsed by both, founded on the principles of interfaith dialogue: a quest for high-level understanding and the desire that the vast majority of us yearn for, to live in friendship with each other? Now that would have me switching on.

This article was written for the Jewish News and featured in their edition 25 October 2012 edition

COMMENTS

Harvey

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 12:59

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-1 points

I suggest a good place for you to start is with the Rev Stephen Sizer . Let us know how you get on .


Real Real Zionist

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 13:39

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2 points

Harv is it really necessary for you to try to drag a thoughtful and constructive piece of work down to the level of your bickering sand pit inter cult squabbling mentality ?

Can you not restrict your idiocy to the asylum that Mr Pollard has kindly provided you with for that purpose ?


Jonathan Hoffman

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 14:00

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-1 points

….. those bodies that represent the Jewish Community, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, respond to issues by shouting accusations … When Jewish national bodies shout – sometimes aggressively - at Christian national bodies as happened recently regarding concerns for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), there is no attempt to hear the other’s point of view.

Au contraire the Board of Deputies DID ‘hear the point of view’ of EAPPI and of Stephen Sizer and that is why they have reacted commendably strongly. The only “progressive” aspect about your suggested course is that it would lead to the ‘progressive’ isolation of Israel on the basis of the lies spread by our enemies. Far from being 'progressive' this is 'retrogressive'.

Interfaith dialogue can only be fruitful on the basis of shared respect and unless other faiths respect Israel’s right to exist as a fundamentally Jewish state and its right to defend itself, there can be no dialogue whatsoever.


Harvey

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 14:10

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-1 points

I suggest you read the BOD document before making fatuous comments .
Then you can progress to EAPPI and the Sabeel foundation .


AlistairClark

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 14:26

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0 points

I really like this blog .I hope to see more of your blogs Rabbi sir.


Harvey

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 16:23

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-1 points

I'm sure you do Alistair , but for all the wrong reasons .


joemillis1959

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:15

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1 point

Not entirely sure what's wrong with this, a valid few points

we should not naively vilify entire national bodies, representatives of a Community just like ours. How will we help Christians to acknowledge the perversity of their over-emphasis with issues of Israel/Palestine when, for example, the fate of Coptic Christians in Egypt or the ancient Christian Community of Aleppo is not mentioned? How can we help those going on the EAPPI programme hear more narratives than they might currently do?
Indeed, how might we all – Christians and Jews - learn more about the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, Israeli Jews living in Settlements, those in S’derot, Bedouin in the Negev or Druze in the north? Are we so arrogant as to say that we know it all?
Is it too naïve to suggest that Jewish leaders work with Christian leaders to develop programmes endorsed by both, founded on the principles of interfaith dialogue: a quest for high-level understanding and the desire that the vast majority of us yearn for, to live in friendship with each other? Now that would have me switching on.


AlistairClark

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 10:42

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0 points

You're quick to slate me,Mr Harvey.So what are the wrong reasons for me liking the good Rabbi's post? Could it be something to do with the good Rabbi being honest?or Maybe I can see the Rabbi is genuine and not full of far right rubbish unlike some regular bloggers with all their hangers on loving the crap that they spout...


Advis3r

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:37

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-1 points

Perhaps it is time for you to be honest Alistair and admit why you find the blog so appealing.

The followingappeared on the Anochi website http://www.anochi.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=301&Item... (it's in Hebrew) and deals with what the Palestinians called their national poet Mahmoud Darwish - the truth however is not the what people like you claim.

Darwish was born in the village of al-Birwe (a few kilometers east of Acre)...an influx of local Arabs, primarily from Syria and Lebanon, began, across the border into the Land of Israel. In that framework, several clans settled in the village, and by 1947, 1,500 people lived there...In this way, Arab “settlements”, whose sole purpose was to provide inexpensive housing for the Arab multitudes, who came to Israel during the 1930’s and 1940’s, were established in the Land of Israel. In the wake of the 1948 War of Independence, the village was abandoned and Kibbutz Yas’ur and the Ahihud collective settlement, named after one of the heads of the Tribe of Asher, were established in its place. Thus, after many years of anticipation, the land was restored to its original owners.

In Arab historiography, these transient settlements were accorded mythical dimensions to the point that the nationalist fantasy totally overshadows the historic truth...“Palestine”, the figment of...imagination, had no real connection to the Arabs. The planning, initiative, economy, culture, development, construction, villages, cities, ports, educational institutions, roads, hospitals and welfare institutions were all products of the efforts of the resolute Land of Israel Jews, despite all of the ambient violence directed against them in a cruel and racist manner...[the Arabs] co-opted the Jewish memory and transformed it into an Arab and personal historic memory, just as Israeli-Arab political organizations attempt to do to Israeli history and culture at present - ably assisted by people like you - so how's about a bit of honesty?


AlistairClark

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 12:21

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0 points

I'll tell you why I like the Rabbi's blog.The Rabbi is not shouting stupid propaganda "Hasbara Troll".The good Rabbi wants us to look at both sides of the coin ."The need for real dialogue is urgent. We cannot deny that many sections of the Christian Community in the UK, whilst supportive of our local activities are hostile towards Israeli Government policies. Sometimes they are justified and we would not argue with them. At other times we might disagree and wish to present an alternative way of thinking. We cannot deny that amongst the Christians there are those who would seek to delegitimise Israel at every turn, just as there are Jews who undermine slim chances for peace. We should and must be vigilant against them" The good Rabbi is right rather correct. I like this because the good Rabbi is not full of Bull and lies ,obviously a man of integrity. No talk of Haters,Auschwitz borders or filthy big one sided lies or defense of the indefensible .How could I not like not like this post.


Advis3r

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 13:21

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-1 points

Alistair you seemingly have problems with the truth. Obviously you like what the good"Rabbi" says because he fits in nicely with your definition of the good Jew who no matter how hard you attack him or belittle him says nothing and takes it all. Rather like Gandhi who believed the Jews should have allowed themselves to be killed in order to garner the sympathy of the world. I am all for dialogue but not with someone who openly denies my very existence and/or attachment to my homeland.


AlistairClark

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 13:58

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0 points

Advis3r,Sir pull your head out of your backside.What truth do I have problems with ? And how on earth am I attacking the Rabbi? You'd maybe be better to haud yer wheesht if you've got nothing sensible to say,just don't address me again please.Go play victim to someone else.


Real Real Zionist

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 10:19

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-1 points

Thanks for that happy. You have exemplified and reinforced Rabbi Goldsteins point far more effectively than I ever could have....


Real Real Zionist

Thu, 11/08/2012 - 10:16

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-1 points

ok happy I quit. You win. You seem to have enrolled in the Hoff school of how to behave like a completely obsessive idiot on a blog spot. I can't summon enough OCD to compete with that level of OCD.

But anyway here is a present for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGgfuwbTmUM


joemillis1959

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 19:12

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-1 points

Can we all play this game, Happy?


happygoldfish

Fri, 12/14/2012 - 18:02

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1 point

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein: … in dealing with other Faiths, those bodies that represent the Jewish Community, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, respond to issues by shouting accusations.

aaron, that's simply not true

those bodies characteristically do almost the exact opposite

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein: When Jewish national bodies shout – sometimes aggressively - at Christian national bodies as happened recently regarding concerns for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), there is no attempt to hear the other’s point of view.

"shout" and "aggressively" are your antagonistic words for a careful restrained process whose aims you perhaps dislike

both the anglican and catholic bishops of newcastle have pulled out of an EAPPI-run conference as a result of this "aggression"!

Simon Rocker: Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush … added that the fact that just four months after the Synod debate EAPPI had chosen “to organise an event of this nature, inviting groups such as PSC and Sabeel, speaks for itself. Clearly this is a programme which has no intention of moderating itself to ensure balance and impartiality — a view reinforced by EAPPI’s complete refusal to seek input from the mainstream Jewish community.”

… clearly those bishops do not suffer from "no attempt to hear the other’s point of view"!

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein: How can we help those going on the EAPPI programme hear more narratives than they might currently do?

by asking the church of england to discourage that programme, and to encourage them to go on other programmes?

do you support participation in the EAPPI programme?

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