Sometimes, actually often, when one views the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, fought continually on so many fronts, the idea of realizing peace seems ephemeral at best. Here in America we are separated by the Atlantic, by history and by our military, all of which failed us on September 11, 2001. We as a nation lost our aura of invincibility and much more importantly over 3000 of our fellow citizens were killed.
We live in a world that is getting smaller given the quickening pace of transportation, the nearly infinite speed of communication and the internationalization of our markets. We are reminded many times a day that we are citizens of the world.
That said, it is difficult to wake up each day and enter a planetary game of chess. For both you and I in 2008 we can choose to become increasingly knowledgeable and responsible citizens of the world or not. The Middle East is a quagmire, a good three-dollar word that is full of disaster. Why would we willingly choose to enter the quagmire?
We have a large stake in the Middle East and have been busily pumping billions of dollars in to support a stable enough region to allow us to turn the keys of our cars each day with the assurance that there is enough gas to fire up the engine. We have followed the battles between Israelis and Palestinians, between Israel and Egypt, between Israel and Jordan, between Israel and Syria, between Israel and Lebanon, between Israel and Saudi Arabia, between Israel and Iraq and between Israel and Iran for more than the sixty years that Israel has been an independent nation. In spite of this we know little about the Israeli people and even less about the Palestinians.
So, a remarkable group of interfaith clergy and lay leaders from throughout the greater Philadelphia area will travel together to Israel/Palestine on March 24, 2008 and learn to listen non-judgmentally to politicians, peace activists, religious and secular chiefs and people living each day in harms way. We will be led by Leah Green, Director of the Compassionate Listening Project, (go to www.compassionatelistening.org for more information), and her associate Maha El-Taji. Together, we will hear their stories and respond from our hearts. Together, we will be challenged by people we may not agree with. But, we will hear them and recognize that “an enemy is a person whose story we have not heard.” This is our opening and a beginning….
We are Americans of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith who have joined together on this mission to learn about the conflict, the people, the history, the politics, and religion directly and return home to share their stories and our experiences with congregations and constituencies across the Delaware Valley and beyond.
We have assembled a truly extraordinary delegation including Rev. Blake Blakesley, Newtown Presbyterian Church, Newtown PA; Joan Broadfield, Chester Meeting (serves as Peace & Justice Coordinator, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting), Dr. Susan Burger, Greater Bucks County Peace Circle, Morrisville PA; Rev. Robert Coombe, Yardley United Methodist Church, Yardley PA; Rev. Clifford Cutler, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA; BJ Davis, Executive Director, The Peace Center, Langhorne PA, Rafiyq Friend, Nasir Mosque, Philadelphia PA; Sister Diane Guerin, Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy, Philadelphia PA; Imam Abdul Halim Hassan, Masjidullah, Philadelphia PA; Maria Hornung, Education Director, The Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, PA; Rev. William Jacobsen, Ph.D, Associate Director, Bucks County Human Relations Council, Fairless Hills PA; Rev. Alfred Krass, Buxmont Coordinator, Coalition for Peace Action, Levittown PA; Imam Abdul Malik-Ali, Masjid Taqwa, Trenton NJ; Rabbi Sandy Roth, Kehilat HaNahar, New Hope PA; Andre Salz, Richland Monthly Meeting, Quakertown, PA; Jerry Schenkman, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, Newtown PA; Rev. Charles J. Stephens, Unitarian Universalist Church, Titusville NJ; Rabbi George Stern, Executive Director, Neighborhood Interfaith Movement, Philadelphia, PA, Naeem Sultan, Masjid Muhammed, Philadelphia PA, and Larry Snider, Project Coordinator.
The Delaware Valley Interfaith Delegation To Israel/Palestine has much to do and looks forward to sharing our challenges, our hopes and our dreams right here at OpEd News as we travel across Israel/Palestine. Members of our interfaith delegation will be bringing you along on our journey by providing daily reports on the people we meet and the places we travel to including Bethlehem, the Galilee, Hebron, Jerusalem and Ramallah. We believe that peace between Israel and Palestine is possible if you and I work together to help achieve it!
Larry Snider, Coordinator
Delaware Valley Interfaith Delegation To Israel/Palestine