Rabbi Ronald Kronish and Professor Mohammad Dajani, believe that the conflict revolves around the issues of learning to listen carefully to each other, studying sacred texts of the other religion and culture, and trusting to take action together.
Many experts view the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as a political battle. Two scholars visiting Philadelphia, however, argue that it is time to take a different approach to the long-intractable situation.
Rabbi Ronald Kronish and Professor Mohammad Dajani, who will be speaking at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City on Oct. 13, believe that the conflict revolves more around the issues of learning to listen carefully to each other, studying sacred texts of the other religion and culture, and trusting to take action together.
The two close friends will talk about interreligious dialogue in the Middle East as part of their 10-day speaking tour in Canada and the United States promoting Kronish’s book, Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel, Voices for Interreligious Dialogue, which features an essay by Dajani. The book, which came out in March, is a collection of essays by Muslims, Christians and Jews about interreligious dialogue.
Kronish said in order to have peace in the Middle East, people must learn how Christians, Muslims and Jews live in Israel — and then find a way for the three cultures to flourish together in a safe, social way. “We’re not solving the Middle East process, but teaching people it’s possible to learn together in peace,” Kronish said.
Kronish, who has lived in Jerusalem for 36 years and has spoken in Philadelphia on numerous occasions, is the founder and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI). Dajani is the inaugural Weston Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C., and is the founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam.
The ICCI, which was founded in 1991, works with 60 Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations in Israel to improve the communication between members of different faith communities.
“We’re not out to solve political problems any more than rabbis,” Kronish said. “There are some people in every culture that think religion is the problem and not the solution. When the peace agreement is signed, the real work of living together will be the issue.”
Senior Rabbi David Strauss of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynewood, who has co-hosted Kronish in Philadelphia and on his trips to Israel with Jews and Christians, said Kronish’s work to create peace on a cultural level is important.
“While it is unlikely that our public pronouncements are going to make peace in the Middle East — that’s the work of politicians — peace will, God willing, one day come to the Middle East,” Strauss said. “In the meantime, there is a lot of work to do on the ground to make ripe the conditions for peace. That means working to create democratic, tolerant, pluralistic, multicultural, multiethnic societies.”
Associate Rabbi Jill Maderer of Rodeph Shalom, who organizes the adult education programs at the shul, has read many of Kronish’s books about interfaith relations and peace in the Middle East, but has never seen him speak.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to think in new ways about Israel and how to share different perspectives with guest experts and members of the community,” Maderer said. “I think it’s always good for Jews to learn more about Muslims. I think there is a lot of fear around Islam.