Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | June 5, 2012

All Across the Jordan River: An Interfaith Seminar on the Lower Jordan River

Group Photo!

I think of myself more of the pragmatic peacemaking type so when I found a tear coming to my eye after a long day of touring and high-level discussions with one of the most unique groups of people that I have ever spent the day with last week – well, I surprised myself.

Last week, FoEME‘s Tel Aviv office partnered with Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD) to undertake a pilot tour and discussion about the Jordan River with a mixed group of Muslim, Jewish and Christian participants in what proved to be an unexpected day for most.

A discussion between peers.

The participants, students studying to be Sheikhs, Rabbis and Priests, some already ordained, together with representatives from RHR and ICSD joined up with FoEME staff in the early morning hours to get out of our offices and classrooms and visit the Lower Jordan.  After introductions we started to get to know the Jordan from many vantage points, asking questions throughout the morning tour: What stories and themes related to the Jordan resonate in our traditions?  How does the Jordan of our traditions interact with the Jordan we see today?  How can it be that the Holy and once “mighty” Jordan of our traditions is the same polluted trickle that we see before us?  Should the Jordan matter to good Jews? Muslims? Christians?

Together we visited the Yardenit baptism site, the Alumot dam and the Peace Island and learned about the current state of the Lower Jordan, the benefits that rehabilitation can bring to the area and the unique “environmental peacemaking” opportunity that the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan has for the people and nations of the region.

Following the morning tour, we came together to dig deeper into our traditions to learn and discuss the relationship between the three faith traditions and the Jordan River.  Experts including Dr. Nizar Joron from the Al Qassami Academic College in Baka Gharbiya, Abbot Gregory Collins from the Dormition Abbey (which recently awarded FoEME the Swiss Mount Zion Award) in Jerusalem and Rabbi Yonatan Neril from ICSD helped participants delve into the traditions’ holy texts and traditions.  For most of the participants this was the first time participating in an interfaith discussion and the focus on the Jordan enabled participants to find common ground, themes and traditions.

I learned a great deal about the Jordan and the three Abrahamic traditions and left the day enriched from the deep discussions and new ideas.  Despite the many concerns I had, I met a new group of serious scholars, leaders, allies and new friends. And as we stood in a circle together at the end of a long day sharing one word descriptions of the special day, I was blown away by the responses of the participants: “love”, “hope”, “dialogue”, “thank you”, “holiness”, “peace”, “sharing”, “community”, “commitment” …. and a tear came to my eye.

Enjoying the view.

For more pictures please click here!

This post was contributed by Elizabeth Ya’ari, FoEME’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project and SWIM-JR Regional Master Planning Projects Coordinator.  To learn more about how to get your faith communities involved in the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River visit FoEME’s take action page.

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