Jews, Muslims, Christians join

to celebrate relationships and Season of Light

Sunday, 17 December 2006



     Our new author-friend in England, Lynne Reid Banks (INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD) has touched us deeply in many ways.
     Banks' 1995 book BROKEN BRIDGE wove an intricate tapestry of events and emotions of both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land.
     In the very beginning, Lynne remembers Brian Keenan, a Protestant from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
     In Spring, 1986, this young teacher at American University was kidnapped from the streets of Beirut by Islamic Jihad -- Shi'ite militiamen who believed he was British.
     Keenan was finally released into Syrian custody in 1991 after long stretches of solitary confinement, punctuated by brutality and deprivation.
     These five years gave Keenan every reason to forever reject Arabs and Muslims.
     Seeking wisdom about people and conflicts,  Lynne Reid Banks, in BROKEN BRIDGE, draws from unexpected conclusions of Brian Keenan in the five-year captive's own 1991 best-seller, EVIL CRADLING:

     "There are those who 'cross the Jordan' and seek out truth through a different experience from the one they are born to, and theirs is the greatest struggle...For here is the real conflict by which we move to manhood (and woman hood) and maturity.

      "...Unless we know how to embrace 'the other', we are not men (and women), and our nationhood is willful and adolescent.  Those who struggle through the turbulent Jordan waters have gone beyond the glib definition of politics or religion.

     "The rest remain standing on either bank, firing guns at one another."

     Let us determine, person by person, to "cross the Jordan" and any physical and personal barriers between us.
     May these stories -- -- from different people and places remind us that we are not alone.
     In our courage.
     In our increasing understanding of One.
     In each soul's oldest memory -- union.
     In each soul's deepest longing -- reunion.

                - L&L


     The Third Bay Area Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue Season of Light Gathering was Sunday, December 3rd, 2006.
     A hundred Muslims, Jews and Christians gathered in San Francisco's beautiful St. Mary's Cathedral.
     They celebrated sustained relationship building over 14 years, with the oldest group preparing for its 176th meeting.
     There were 10 round tables of ten youth and adults in noisy conversation -- Palestinian citizens of Gaza and the West Bank, Jews and Palestinians from Israel and the United States.
     A 40-foot table was full of everyone's most delicious recipes.
     The Jews and Arabs left $3,333 to assist three Holy Land groups helping people and building relationships.        
     Everyone sneak-previewed short segments of two soon-to-be-released documentary films by the Dialogue, meant to inspire citizens -- youth and adults -- to continue crossing divides and building bridges that are needed, if change is to happen.


        Fifty 10th grade students become more human and grow closer in the classroom.  In pairs, they tell their personal stories uninterrupted, being heard with a new quality of listening.  In the beginning, a Palestinian and a Jew from a local Dialogue serve as exemplars to share their own stirring personal narratives.  The students reveal their hopeful amazement at having experienced a new way of communication for life.  (about 45 minutes)

PEACEMAKERS: Palestinians and Jews Together at Camp

        In September, 2005, 140 Jews and Palestinians of all ages from North American and the Middle East lived together in a resident camp in California -- Oseh Shalom ~ Sanea al-Salam Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp.  They met cautiously and learned to communicate and live life together in new ways.  With community and staff support, they ate, shared life stories and values, confronted difficult issues, studied, sang, danced, recreated in nature, and experienced ceremony together.  Most participants changed and grew closer.  (90 minutes)

     The Arabs and Jews lighted candles around a globe of Earth in a partially lighted room.
     Women and men expressed wishes and blessings to usher in the Season of Light and new year of unprecedented compassion and creativity.


     This is about three congregations meeting each other in Frederick, Maryland.
     The motto of the Islamic Society of Frederick -- -- is:
                "Hold fast, all together, on to the Rope of Allah and be not divided among yourselves." 
                                                                        Qur'an 3:103
     The Jewish community of Beth Sholom Congregation -- -- have their own theme:
                "From generation to generation. . .together we grow"
     Congregation Kol Ami -- -- is inspired by a student rabbi and shares the sanctuary of a neighbor Unitarian Universalist Church.
     Together, with courage and vision, these three congregations brought together about 100 Jews and Muslims to share holidays.

     "I thought it's a dream coming true," said Palestinian Imam Yahya Hendi ( ) who has publicly called for dialogue among Muslims and Jews locally, nationally, and internationally.
     "You have to start somewhere. You have to start small. You can't start big," said student rabbi Dan Sikowitz ( ).
     "Hopefully this will provide a model for the Middle East," added Imam Hendi, who says much more at:
     Here is their full story.

Published in the Frederick (MD) News-Post -- Saturday, 16 December 2006
On the Web at

Jews, Muslims join for winter celebration
Hanukkah-Hajj event brings together members of both faiths
By Geoffrey D. Brown
News-Post Staff

     FREDERICK -- A dialogue between Muslims and Jews reached its first major milestone as members of Frederick County's two Jewish congregations and the Islamic Society of Frederick broke bread together and shared their cultures at a joint holiday celebration last week.
"It was wonderful," said Andy Carpel, president of Beth Sholom Congregation. "All my members said they had a great time."
     About 100 people attended the joint Hanukkah-Hajj celebration Thursday at the Lynfield Event Complex on Hansonville Road. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, began Friday. The Hajj -- an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam's holiest mosque -- begins Dec. 29.
     "I thought it's a dream coming true," said the Islamic Society of Frederick's imam, Yahya Hendi, who has publicly called for dialogue among Muslims and Jews locally, nationally, and internationally.
     Student rabbi Dan Sikowitz of Congregation Kol Ami said he was delighted with the turnout, and he looks forward to joint outreach programs among the three congregations.
     "You have to start somewhere. You have to start small. You can't start big."
     "I was surprised at how laid-back it was," said Jamie Hendi, president of Congregation Kol Ami. "Everybody was very friendly and very warm. There was a good vibe in the room." Ms. Hendi is no relation to Imam Hendi.
     Especially touching was the way children of members of the congregations immediately warmed to each other and made friends, participants said. Children of all ages played together, sat and drew pictures together, and, in a few cases, ran cheerfully amok.
     "The kids looked like they were enjoying each other," Mr. Carpel said. "The parents, too, they were just as kind as they could be."
     The get-together was the result of months of talks among members of the three congregations and others. Imam Hendi and members of the Islamic Society of Frederick have been eager to engage Christian and Jewish congregations, and have held a number of joint celebrations, dinners, and holiday observances, both at their masjid, or mosque, on Key Parkway and at churches and meeting halls.
     Imam Hendi has been on a public mission to educate Americans about Islam, and he repeatedly stresses the ties of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, the world's major monotheistic religions that each trace their roots to Abraham.
     Thursday's celebration was especially poignant because it not only brought together Jews and Muslims in celebration, but also established stronger ties between Frederick's two Jewish congregations, Mr. Sikowitz said. Beth Sholom is Frederick's oldest congregation, led for nearly a half-century by Rabbi Morris Kosman, a scholar and teacher of enormous influence in Frederick's Jewish community. Beth Sholom is nonaffiliated and has a diverse congregation.
     Congregation Kol Ami is a much newer, Reform Jewish congregation, led by Mr. Sikowitz, who looks forward to his ordination in New York next May.
     Members of both congregations have had contact with members of the Islamic Society of Frederick, and participants from all congregations stressed that the beginning of a dialogue at the Frederick County level is different from the political dialogue in the Middle East.
     Still, participants said they hoped the development of bonds here can touch the world beyond Frederick. Members of all three congregations have close personal ties to people in the Middle East and around the world.
     "The Arab-Israeli conflict should not jeopardize the relationship of Jews and Muslims in the United States," Imam Hendi said. "Hopefully this will provide a model for the Middle East."