“Meeting the Peacemakers” – Blog from a Spring Hill Prisoner

The following blog was written by one of the prisoners at Spring Hill Prison after the Abrahamic Reunion’s two programs there in May 2018. International Directors Anna Less and Ghassan Manasra, UK Directors Michael and Amanda Kenton, and Rabbi Gluck OBE led the programs. The prisoner has asked to remain anonymous.

For more information about the Abrahamic Reunion’s visits to Spring Hill Prison in May, you can read Anna Less’s blogs about the trip here. The relevant blogs are titled “Our Day at Spring Hill Prison with Rabbi Gluck and Ghassan” and “England Spring Hill Prison.”

Meeting the Peacemakers

I first heard about the Abrahamic Reunion from a Quaker chaplain in Grendon prison. After hearing about the work that they do I was intrigued to meet the people who were willing to speak out for peace and reconciliation. In a world full of conflict and fear of what is different it was a breath of fresh air knowing that people like that existed.

An event was organised for the Abrahamic Reunion to attend Grendon which was attended by around 80-90 residents. People were eager to hear what the organisation had to say. Ghassan Manasra, David Less, Anna Less alongside the main organisers Michael and Amanda Kenton presented the presentation. They spoke of the work that they had undertaken in the Middle East and how they helped communities to get to know each other by visiting each other’s places of worship and showing solidarity through common values when conflict grew between communities.

This was a real eye-opener for people because all we have been hearing, through the media, was that there was conflict around the world and no one is doing anything about it. But hearing from the Abrahamic Reunion gave me a sense of hope and conviction that all is not doom and gloom.

I met the Abrahamic Reunion again a year later when they were invited to Springhill prison to do a workshop on ‘Resolving Differences’. This was a fantastic event which continued over to the following week. My experience of the two-day event was pleasant and very moving. The passion shown by the speakers and guests was infectious and everyone joined in and participated. I particularly liked the fact that we could be so open about how we truly feel about what we want in life. As I shared my goals and aspirations with others I listened attentively to what others had to say. What I found from this experience that we as human beings are not so different.; we all want the same things. All it takes is for us to talk and truly empathise with each other.

There was an exercise led by Ghassan Manasra which I found really helpful. Ghassan came up with an idea that would help the group feel more connected with each other. He instructed the group to take turns in saying something positive and meaningful from the heart to another person in the group. Everyone took turns and when it came to me to say something I turned to a good friend of mine and said how much I respected him as a friend. I shared with him the fact that I thought that he was good father to his baby girl and husband to his wife and I admired that about him. The look on his face said it all. I don’t think he was expecting that in such an open forum, but I could see that it meant a lot to him.

Michael and Amanda Kenton had some very nice things to say about me which I found deeply moving. Sometimes in prison you can go for days without hearing a positive word from anyone, but when it does happen, especially towards oneself you sometimes don’t know what to do. Although I come from a different background from Amanda and Michael, what mattered was the connection and mutual respect we had for one another. I felt a sense of closeness with everyone in the room, and still do.

The work conducted by the Abrahamic Reunion is an important one. I have lived in a world of conflict most of my life and found that all it does is create division. In a world of conflict, we look at each other with contempt, suspicion and fear. But the ideals presented by the Abrahamic Reunion give us a sense of direction that humanity should consider. Although we are different we all share the same values and by working together we can bring about a true change in a way that guides us on positive path.

I would like to thank the organisers and guest speakers for opening my eyes and seeing the world in a different perspective. I am extremely glad that organisations like the Abrahamic Reunion are doing the work that is so needed in these times. I want to wish them many blessings and hope that they continue to bring peace to this world and help to bring communities together.

Thank you.

For Anna Less’s perspective on the visits to Spring Hill Prison in May, you can read her blogs about the trip here. The relevant blogs are titled “Our Day at Spring Hill Prison with Rabbi Gluck and Ghassan” and “England Spring Hill Prison.”


Dr. Anna Less’s Blogs From the Holy Land: August 2018

Blog 1: Sacred Text Study in Jericho

We pile into the car in Nazareth, Israel and head across the border for Jericho, to participate in a multifaith text study group organized by the Abrahamic Reunion’s Palestinian Director, Mohamad Jamous.

Abed, the Abrahamic Reunion’s Israeli Project Manager is driving; Ghassan, the Abrahamic Reunion’s International Director, is at his side. I am sitting in the back with Abed’s wife Su Su and their young baby. As we make the two-hour drive, we pass groves of Medjool date trees. Mesh bags protect massive bunches of the nearly ripe dates growing on row after row of towering, perfectly matched trees. Ghassan explains that Israel is the producer of some of the best quality dates in the world.

Rows of Israeli date trees

Grown on annexed Palestinian land in the West Bank, Israel is one of the biggest exporters of dates to the wealthy Gulf States.  On the other side of the road, opposite the Israeli groves, are the struggling Palestinian date groves. The fruit on the stunted and mismatched trees is uncovered, and many of the trees seem barren.  Ghassan winces at the contrast and explains that the Palestinians lack the resources and infrastructure to produce dates for export.  He says their dates will be sold in local markets for a fraction of the price.

Abed and I traveled this same road just two months ago when we headed to Jericho to celebrate the Abrahamic Reunion’s multi-faith Iftar event.  As we drive along today we see a number of new building sights being leveled for the construction of Israeli settlements.

Abed explains, “A lot has changed since our last trip together to Jericho. Since the new law has passed, our work has become much harder as fear, tension and frustration among the Arabs has grown. “

Abed is referring to the new “Basic Law” passed by the Israeli Knesset in July.  It is Israel’s 14th “Basic Law”, which for the first time in Israel’s 70 year history, enshrines Israel as “the national homeland of the Jewish people.”

Although 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, the new legislation makes no reference to equality for all Israeli citizens like the one made in Israel’s Declaration of Independence — which pledged that the state of Israel would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” A full translation of the new law can be read here.

Finally, we arrive at the restaurant where our meeting will be held. I recognize several of the priests and Imams who have lined up in front of the restaurant to shake hands and greet the participants as they arrive.

At the restaurant

I am not sure what to expect when we enter the private room where the Abrahamic Reunion is hosting its text study session, but I am delighted to realize that 40 people have come, and surprisingly this time Christian participants outnumber the Muslim participants. It is a big achievement for our event organizer, Abrahamic Reunion Palestinian Director, Mohamad Jamous.

Because it is easier for Christians to immigrate to the West, many have left the region and now less than 2 % of the Palestinians in the West Bank are Christians.  Mohamad Jamous had to really reach beyond his familiarity with his own Muslim community to cultivate these relationships.

One by one the presenters and religious leaders introduce themselves and begin to speak. These speakers are:

  • Father Firas Diab – The Melkite Catholic Priest from The Melkite Catholic Church of Zababdeh, Palestine
  • Father Tuameh Dawood – The Greek Orthodox Priest from The Greek Orthodox Church of Zababdeh, Palestine
  • Amad Abu Shelbay – The Imam from Zababdeh, Palestine
  • Sheikh Ghaleb Awatleh – The Mufti on the Palestinian Religious Authority
  • Jeres Awad – Artist for the Anglican Church of Palestine
  • Sheikh Imad Abu El Shalabya- the Imam of Masjid Al Zababdeh in Zababdeh, Palestine
  • Sheikh Mohammed A-Saeed Salah – The Mufti of the Palestinian National Security Forces
  • Sheikh Ghassan Manasra- Sheikh of the Qadiri Sufi Order in Israel and International Director of the Abrahamic Reunion
  • Mohamad Jamous – The Palestinian Director of the Abrahamic Reunion
  • Sheikh Abed Manasra – Project Manager for the Abrahamic Reunion in the Holy Land

They each speak with a loving depth that cuts through the current political atmosphere and causes people to re-experience and affirm their core human values of love for one another.

Shiekh Mohammed A-Saeed Salah

The eminent Sheikh Mohammed A-Saeed Salah is the Mufti of the Palestinian National Security Forces. A Mufti is a Muslim legal expert empowered to give rulings on religious matters. After welcoming everyone, he thanks me as the sole American participant for the financial support that Americans have given to enable this multi-faith event to happen.  In a world where Palestinians feel unseen and unheard, coming together and experiencing being seen by each other is particularly life affirming and eases their sense of isolation.

Ghassan translates the Mufti’s talk for me:

“It is very important to have these meetings so we can express our unity and our connection. We don’t need to say that we are Christians or we are Muslims—we need to recognize that we are all Palestinians.   It is important that we touch one another, and feel one another, and know one another and understand one another.”

He goes on to share many stories of Muslim and Christian co-existence and cooperation in Palestine.

He also tells a personal story about how a Christian boy in his neighborhood started a fight with his daughter over their religious differences. He describes how the fight escalated to include more young relatives and neighbors until more and more people in the neighborhood were becoming involved. Then he explained that the mother of the Christian boy, because she trusted the spiritual wisdom of the Mufti, and trusted him to be a fair mediator, ultimately sent her son to the Mufti to resolve the issue. The Mufti described how he brought together the neighboring Christian and Muslim youth, who had been fighting with one another, and told them:

Never say “because I am a Muslim,” or “because you are a Christian.” You must say instead, “because we are Palestinians… “ Do this and it will be the last time you will have a problem between you, because long ago we used to live together peacefully.

The topic of today’s text study is the “Holiness of Life.”

Discussing the texts

After reading the texts aloud, the Christian and Muslim clergy join tables of participants who have broken into multi-faith groups to discuss the texts more deeply. The clergy each sit at the different tables to answer questions and serve as references. People introduce themselves. A Palestinian man from Bethlehem tells me he has lived in Canada for the last 18 years, but he has moved back to Bethlehem to take care of his ailing mother.  He has become very involved with the youth at his Baptist church and explains that their congregation helps support their Muslim neighbors so they can participate in the Hajj. He says that because Palestinians have no airport, it is not easy for the Muslims to pass through all of the check points to leave the country so they can go to Saudi Arabia on Hajj. So the Christians in their congregation volunteer to drive their Muslim neighbors through the check points to Jordan and Iraq and even to Syria, so that they can board planes to Saudi Arabia.  The Christian drivers bring the youth from their churches with them so they can talk to their Muslim passengers and learn about Islam. They feel it is their duty as Christians to support their Muslim neighbors, and also to teach their own youth to be accepting of people who believe in their same God, but who worship that God in a different way.

The Muslim woman next me introduces me to her Christian companion and says they are best friends, and explains she has heard about this text study program from her Christian friend.

Father Firas Diab

It is amazing to hear both Christians and Muslims using Arabic to discuss their texts.  Arabic is a language that most Westerners associate only with Islam, so hearing Christians using phrases like “Allah Ho Akbar” and “Alhamdulillah” shatters many cultural stereotypes and causes one to experience the message of God liberated from culture, and religion, and even from language.

On the break between the text study program and the shared meal, Father Firas, the Melkite Catholic priest who often participates in Abrahamic Reunion events, tells me he travels around the world speaking to different congregations about the Palestinian people. He hopes to dispel the erroneous perception that Palestinians are violent religious fanatics, and he tries to let the world see that they are loving people who have the capacity to love all people, including their Jewish neighbors. I ask him if he speaks to Jewish congregations, and if they are open to his message. He says, “No, so far the organizers of my speaking tours in various Western countries have not thought that would work out.” But he says he is hopeful that some day he will have an opportunity to visit a synagogue and speak there.  I admired this man and his commitment to the path of love.


Blog by rabbi Nagen

The Best Food in Ramadan

“Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read black where I read white.” These words of William Blake are apropos to the observance of Ramadan, a holiday which inspires both acts of violence as well as conciliation and generosity. Although the press often focuses on the isolated incidents of the former which are the exceptions, I will focus on the latter which are the rule.

In the context of Ramadan, the Koran stresses the connection between the human and the divine stating, “One who is unable to fast can instead give charity” (Sura 2, Verse 184).The holiday’s traditional greeting “Ramdan Kareem” literally means Ramadan Generosity.

The meal at the end of each day’s fast, the Iftar, provides an excellent opportunity for an Islamic-Jewish encounter. I once attended an Iftar in which elders from Hebron hosted Jewish residents of the region. The topic of the evening was Ramadan customs that are unique to Hebron. The Arabic name for Hebron “Al Khalil” means Friend, referring to Abraham, friend of God. Central to Ramadan in Hebron is the meal of Abraham – thousands of plates are made for the poor in ancient brass pots. We also learned that it is customary for the women of Hebron to briefly leave the kitchen while the food cooks to allow the matriarch Sarah to enter and stir the dishes. We were told this is why Hebron has the best food during Ramadan. Granting this role to Sarah shows an ability to overcome tensions in the family, as Sarah the biblical mother of Isaac had a stormy relationship with Hagar the mother of Ishmael.

A year ago, I attended a most memorable Iftar hosted by the Abrahamic Reunion on a date on which Jews also fast, the 17th of the lunar month of Tamuz.  Muslims end their fast at sundown whereas Jews wait until the stars are visible about 20 minutes later. Upon realizing this discrepancy, Sheik Abed Salem Manasra of Nazareth announced in the name of the Muslim participants, “We will all wait for the Jews to finish their fast before eating, so that we may all eat together.” This was a very powerful gesture of respect and understanding.

Later that week I was able to return the gesture. A Jewish woman Rebecca Abramson arranged an Iftar in Jerusalem at the house of a leading Rabbi of Israel’s ultra-orthodox community, Rabbi Yoel Schwartz. The guest of honor was a close friend of mine, a prominent Sheik from Ramallah. I was about to begin the afternoon prayer which must be said before sundown when the Sheik called me. He had arrived and was waiting on the corner for me to pick him up and take him to the meal. I made a quick calculation: if I pray now, I won’t bring him on time to the beginning of the Iftar. Every minute of my prayer elongates his fast. Using a Talmudic dispensation that one can pray even while riding a donkey if by stopping he won’t be able to concentrate out of concern about the delay, I recited the prayers while driving to pick him up. At the meeting, Rabbi Schwartz asked the participants to disregard their separate identity labels and to meet as brothers and sisters in loving and serving God. The discourse was so moving that Rachel Shofar, a translator who has devoted her life to Jewish-Muslim reconciliation, broke out in tears, “we have come to this, we have come to this”.

 

The Tears of Abraham

After the Iftar  in Jersualem I drove Rachel back to Hebron, and we began speaking about a mutual friend in Hebron. She then told me a story that moved me especially deeply.

Our shared friend is a sort of a Godfather in his hamula (clan). One day, he asked me to write a letter on his behalf to Yariv Ben Ezra, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander responsible for security in the Jewish part of Hebron. That same day my son, Hillel, was sworn into the IDF in a ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  Earlier we were told that his battalion, Tzabar, of the Givati infantry brigade, would be serving in Hebron.

I wrote to Yariv telling him that my son would soon be serving under him, and that each Shabbat when he comes home from the army that I bless him to return in peace and return with the peace. “You are in charge of the peace in Hebron and responsible to insure the security of all. Know that we have partners who to seeks to live in peace.” I then listed different acquaintances  for him in Hebron one by one.  I didn’t think my Arab friend could read Hebrew, but I sent him a copy of the letter anyway. I was moved when he called to tell me that he and the other sheikhs pray for Hillel and for all to return from Hebron in peace.

On the drive back, Rachel told me that she happened to be with our Arab friend when he received the letter. “He told me that he wanted to understand each word so he asked me to translate. The way I cried tonight is the way he cried when I read the letter.”

 


A.N.N. TV


Four Faiths Break Bread Together For Peace In The Holy Land

Abrahamic Reunion’s 14th Annual Multifaith Ramadan Peace Dinner Attracts Over 265 To Druze Village

DALIAT EL CARMEL, ISRAEL
June 7th, 2018
By Anna Less Executive Director
Edited with contributions by Chris Miller

LAST NIGHT, the Abrahamic Reunion held its annual multifaith Iftar celebration in the Druze Village of Daliat El Carmel, the largest and southernmost Druze town in Israel.

The Druze community formally received everyone as they arrived – creating a line of greeters welcoming participants into the decorated hall full of delicious food – lamb, fish, chicken, salads, and sweets.

Even though 175 people had been invited, over 265 people ended up coming, filling every chair and table to capacity in the large community center.

All four major faiths in Israel participated in nearly equal numbers.

According to Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, the International director of the Abrahamic Reunion:

This year we succeeded in making a complete Iftar – and they wrote about it on social media – because all four faiths were there with us.  Many people have multi faith Iftars but no one else succeeded in having all four faiths. There were people from all levels of society: we had intellectuals, writers, poets, scientists, politicians, journalists, religious leaders…many, many kinds of people arrived this time.

From every place they came – it was so nice for us to have all of them, and so beautiful…if you look at the first line of people sitting there were Druze Sheikhs, Muslim Sheikhs, Jewish Rabbis, Christian Fathers and Deacons, Alhamdulillah (All praise and thanks to God).

Prior to eating, a number of speakers spoke in Hebrew and in Arabic about the brotherhood of humanity in this region. They spoke about harmony, connection, and how to reduce radicalism and interreligious tensions.

Some of the eminent speakers included:

  • Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf – The Head of the Druze Community in Israel
  • Rafik Halabi – The Head of the Municipality of Daliat El Carmel
  • Ron Shapiro – Haifa District Court Judge
  • Imam Samir Assi – the Imam of the Al-Jazaar Mosque in Akko
  • Rabbi Dahlia Shaham – of the Ohel Avraham Congregation and Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa
  • Siham Halibi – who together with Sheikh Abed Manasra organized this event on behalf of the Abrahamic Reunion
  • Ghassan Manasra – the International Director of the Abrahamic Reunion
  • Sheikh Helmi Hamad – of the Qadiri Sufi Order provided the Adhan for the Maghrib Prayer prior to the Iftar

During the meal itself one could see at each table Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians eating, sharing, laughing and discussing together.

Especially because of these troubled times in the Holy Land, people took great comfort and reassurance in coming together and affirming their commitment to mutual understanding and a peaceful co-existence.

The Abrahamic Reunion extends a special thank you to Siham Halibi, Sheikh Abed Manasra, and the Druze community for organizing and hosting this event.

Above: Sheikh Ghassan addresses the assembly    

Ramadan Message from Sheikh Ghassan Manasra

“What is the meaning of Ramadan this year for the Abrahamic Reunion? It is the harmony and connection of the human being. Ramadan – is the name of the month, it’s not the act of the fast – because we all fast. The Druze fast in Ramadan with us, but the Christians they also fast, and the Jews, they also fast – but they all came to celebrate a different kind of fasting with us in Daliat El Carmel. The deep meaning of the fast, this year, it was not only to stop to eat, it was also to stop to hate, to stop to fight, to stop to shout, to stop to kill, to stop to create bad things, and this year it was the fasting from every bad thing. This is the event of the Abrahamic Reunion – the harmony between all the people, love between all people.

When I looked to speak there, and I looked at the people, I saw a very beautiful garden full of lots of colors, and full of a beautiful fragrance. And I thought to myself: If you want to see all the colors and smell all the fragrance, you need to bring all the people together – It is our responsibility to do this work as the Abrahamic Reunion.

I’m speaking with you, but I’m not quiet right now, because tomorrow we have another Iftar – and we are very much in preparation for it now. Insh’allah (God willing) we will have an amazing and very great event with people from all levels of society tomorrow in the West Bank.”

Stay tuned for news about the Abrahamic Reunions’s next Multi-faith Iftar in the Holy Land, which will be hosted in Jericho on Friday June 8th, more photos, and videos from the 2018 Iftar Peace Dinners in the Holy Land. 

It’s not to late to donate in support of the AR’s Iftar Peace dinners!

Both of these events have a combined budget of about $18,000. This includes renting large busses, food for 450, getting adequate banquet spaces, paying our peace-building project managers, flying Sheikh Ghassan and Anna to the Holy Land, photography, and many other expenses that make the event successful.

A $100 donation will cover 3 people, $1000 will cover 33, and $10,000 will cover either dinner, start to finish, from planning to reporting. All this money will be spent on these programs in the Holy Land. Please give.

With Deep Thanks,

Please consider supporting the Abrahamic Reunion and all the bridge-making, peace-building, and grassroots multi-faith networking that it creates with a recurring monthly donation.

How To Donate

  • Online in America: Click Here
  • Germany / EU: Click Here
  • US Checks can be made to “The Abrahamic Reunion” and mailed to 2372 Arden Drive, Sarasota, FL 34232
  • UK / England:  Bank Transfer to Lloyds Bank A/c No: 47911460, Sort Code 30-98-97, Name: Abrahamic Reunion (England). Checks made out to Abrahamic Reunion can be posted to 3 Drummond Drive, Stanmore, Middx., HA7 3PF

Thank you for your years of support
 Please Donate Now!

 

To read more about the Abrahamic Reunion see these links below


Multifaith Iftar Dinner in Israel.

Last night the Abrahamic Reunion had its annual multifaith Iftar dinner in Israel.

This year the Iftar was hosted in Daliat El Carmel, the largest and southernmost Druze town in Israel.

We invited 175 people, but approximately 265 people came, filling every chair and table to capacity.

All four major faiths in Israel participated in nearly equal numbers.

Prior to eating a number of speakers spoke in Hebrew and in Arabic about the brotherhood of humanity in this region.

Some of the eminent speakers included:

The head of the Druze community for the entire Middle East

The Mayor of Daliat El Carmel

The Head Judge of the Jewish Courts in Haifa

Rabbi … of Haifa

Ghassan ..

Other eminent guests included a Chisti Sufi Sheikh from India

Unfortunately some of our other speakers that were scheduled to speak were unable to present due to the time for the Adhan

Since I only speak English, and the entire program was in Hebrew and Arabic, I am still getting all of my facts straight, (which I can send to you once others wake up and can explain it all to me,) but in general it was a great success.

 


Blog about the Iftar in Israel

Last night the Abrahamic Reunion had its annual multifaith Iftar dinner in Israel.

This year the Iftar was hosted in Daliat El Carmel, the largest and southernmost Druze town in Israel.

We invited 175 people, but approximately 265 people came, filling every chair and table to capacity.

All four major faiths in Israel participated in nearly equal numbers.

Prior to eating a number of speakers spoke in Hebrew and in Arabic about the brotherhood of humanity in this region.

Some of the eminent speakers included:

Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf – The head of the Druze community in Israel

Rafik Halabi – The Head of the Municipality of Daliat El Carmel

Ron Shapiro – Haifa District Court Judge

Imam Samir Assi – the Imam of the Al-Jazaar Mosque in Akko

Rabbi Dahlia Shaham – the Ohel Avraham congregation and Leo Baeck education center in Haifa

Siham Halibi – who together with Sheikh Abed Manasra organized this event on behalf of the Abrahamic Reunion

Ghassan Manasra – the International Director of the Abrahamic Reunion

Sheikh Helmi Hamad – of the Qadiri Order provided the Adhaan for the Magrib Prayer

During the meal itself one could see at each table Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians eating, sharing, laughing and discussing together.

During these troubled times in Israel, people took great comfort and reassurance in coming together and affirming their commitment to mutual understanding, and a peaceful co-existence.

The Abrahamic Reunion extends a special thank you to Siham Halibi, Sheikh Abed Manasra and the Druze community for organizing and hosting this event.


Ramadan Iftar Peace Dinner

There is a peace that passeth understanding and abides in the heart of the one who knows “I Am”

The Abrahamic Reunion’s 14th Annual Multi-Faith Ramadan Iftar Peace Dinner

Dear Friends of the Abrahamic Reunion,

We are still receiving recognition and accolades for the events of the Week of Healing the Heart of the Holy Land.

It was great to finally get top-tier involvement from Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze religious leaders.  The work we did with the Young Peacemakers and in our very first Families Forum will continue on a regular basis supported by quarterly visits to the Holy Land by Sheikh Ghassan and Anna.

Just to reiterate the scope of the work that we are doing, we spent the morning with a bereaved Bedouin woman, the afternoon in an Israeli Settlement Yeshiva that had been attacked, and the next morning in the oldest Palestinian Refugee Camp, all as part of Healing the Heart of the Holy Land.

During this time of violence with many deaths in Gaza and rockets landing in Israel the need for our work is so very critical. We have proven that a concerted effort on a grassroots level to bring diverse groups together can produce profound results. We have witnessed, last month, people who a short time ago had very narrow and separatist views, coming to a much more balanced place as a result of our efforts.

This Year we are featuring two 200-Person Dinners,
one in Israel and One in Palestine In 2018.

We are once again hosting an interfaith Ramadan peace dinner for 200 people of the four major faiths in Israel, and a parallel Iftar dinner in Palestine for another 250 people. Both of these events have a combined budget of about $18,000. This includes renting large busses, food for 450, getting adequate banquet spaces, paying our peace-building project managers, flying Sheikh Ghassan and Anna to the Holy Land, photography, and many other expenses that make the event successful.

There are hundreds more who want to come to these breaking of the fast dinners – we actually have a waiting list of hundreds of interested people for these events – so this year we are doubling our Iftar capacity to try to meet the demand.

Please bear in mind that we now know that if 450 people are touched, the word will get out to ten times that many people, and the idea that peace could prevail becomes more of a reality every time we have a major event.

Many of you are donors already and we deeply appreciate that. But the need seems to be ever-present.

We really are making a difference and by donating you become part of something that you can truly be proud of.

All of us are fortunate in that we live in places that are not overly traumatic, and we are helping to create more places of peace and healing rather than trauma and tragedy. Please give what you can. 

A $100 donation will cover 3 people, $1000 will cover 33, and $10,000 will cover either dinner, start to finish, from planning to reporting. All this money will be spent on these programs in the Holy Land. Please give.

With profound hope,

David Less
Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board
[email protected]


England Iftar with A’laa and His Family

Blogs From the May 2018 UK Peacemaking Tour

England Iftar with A’laa and His Family
May 20, 2018

Tonight Ghassan and I have invited A’laa and his family to celebrate Iftar with us.

For those of you who have read my blogs in the past you will know that two years ago when Ghassan, and I first came to England for an Abrahamic Reunion tour, we gave a presentation at the New North London Synagogue and afterwards Rabbi Wittenberg (who is the head Rabbi there) invited us to his home for an interfaith Iftar celebration he was offering for members of his congregation and the Syrian Refugee community that had newly settled in their neighborhood in North London.

Rabbi Wittenberg was anxious for Ghassan and I to attend so Ghassan could help translate for the Syrian refugees. At that Iftar Ghassan and I made a connection with a young Syrian father named A’laa, who expressed a desire to start an Abrahamic Reunion text study group. A’laa saw Abrahamic Reunion text study sessions as a perfect way to help his family practice their English, learn about the new culture they had found themselves thrown into, and also help his new English, Jewish neighbors, and his multi faith class mates at college get to know one another more deeply.

However, before A’laa could start his text study group, tragedy struck, and he contracted intestinal cancer.

Ghassan and I continued to visit A’laa and his family. During our visits A’laa’s wife explained how grateful she was for the opportunity to practice her English with us. It is a skill she desperately needs to develop so she can support her young family in this new land.

On our last visit Ghassan and I introduced A’laa and his family to Judith, an elderly Jewish woman we had met at a dinner party for the Abrahamic Reunion here in London. Judith had grown up in Jerusalem prior to 1948, when Israel became a state. Although Judith was Jewish, like her other Jewish neighbors in Jerusalem at that time, she grew up speaking Arabic and most of her siblings had Arabic names. As a child she played freely with her Muslim and Christian, Palestinian neighbors in the streets of Jerusalem. But as a young woman Judith married and moved to England. She became involved with her synagogue here, and her Arabic faded. She also became a psychotherapist, specializing in healing childhood trauma, and she began making trips to the Holy Land to help families who had lost family members to the conflict there. Judith had recently retired from this work, and was looking for something. When I met Judith and told her about the work we were doing for the Abrahamic Reunion in the Holy Land, she wistfully expressed that she wished she could remember how to speak Arabic.

It seemed like a perfect idea to introduce her to A’laa and his family, so during our last visit to London in November 2017, Ghassan and I brought Judith to A’laa’s home and introduced her to him and his wife, Tahgrid and their daughter, and to A’laa’s brother Bahaa and his wife Raada (who also happens to be Tahgrid’s sister) and their two children. Since then Judith has visited A’laa’s family almost weekly, and on each visit they spend an hour speaking English, and an hour speaking Arabic.

I am delighted when we meet A’laa’s family at the restaurant and the women are able to converse with me in English as a result. I tell them that I had tried to call Judith to invite her as well, and I am shocked when they tell me that Judith’s own daughter recently died unexpectedly of cancer only 3 weeks after being diagnosed. They say they have been helping her, but that she often doesn’t see her phone messages, and they will let her know that I had tried to invite her.

We learn that A’laa’s cancer treatments have been successful, and as of a few weeks ago he has been able to discontinue chemotherapy. He will go back for a check up in six months to be evaluated to see if he will need any follow up treatment.

In the meantime A’laa is going to college, but he has decided to switch majors, and study media so he can become a film editor. He says now that he has had cancer, he will no longer to be able to stand on his feet all day as a pharmacist as he did in Syria and Jordon. But he assures us that he loves his new career choice, and is doing well in school.

The children are also doing well in school and speak English fluently. If one did not know their background one would think they were born here and grew up speaking English as their mother tongue. Bahaa has been able to get a part time job as a bookkeeper, and he continues to go to school to earn a Master’s degree in English accounting so he can return to his former profession in his new country. Tagrid and Radaa are excellent cooks and get some catering work from people in their new community. They are settling in, and they see the possibility of being able to work full time in a few years.

They invite us to their home for an Iftar on Friday night and say they will also invite Judith. The adults say that as they adjust to life in England they have been able to remain in touch with their families who still live in Damascus, which is still relatively safe. Although they have been unable to start a text study program for the Abrahamic Reunion, we feel that we have been able to help them and Judith form a cross faith support system that has served them both. And we hold this family dear to our hearts.


Listen to the Whispers of Your Soul Concert

Blogs From the May 2018 UK Peacemaking Tour

Listen to the Whispers of Your Soul Concert

May 14, 2018

Last night the quartet The Garden of the Spirit performed an exquisite concert and offered a poetry-reading event called Listen to the Whispers of Your Soul as a fund-raiser for the Abrahamic Reunion.

Together pianist Azima Melita Kolin and her nephew cellist Sebastian Kolin performed duets by Bach, Schubert, Schuman, and Beethoven.

Between each musical interlude Ann Marie Terry, Anne Louise Wirgman, and Azima read poetry by Rumi, Hafiz, Rilke, and Machado.

The effect was absolutely mesmerizing and transportive.

After the concert we held a meet and greet so people could learn more about the Abrahamic Reunion and our activities in England, and in the Holy Land.

The Centre for Counseling and Psychotherapy Education provided the venue for the event.