Where Jews and Arabs Get Along

By Armbruster, Deanna | The Christian Science Monitor, August 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Where Jews and Arabs Get Along


Armbruster, Deanna, The Christian Science Monitor


In Israel, there is a village where Arabs and Jews live as neighbors. Both groups endeavor to create a just society that can be a model for peace in the region.

What's it called? "Oasis of Peace." Though the town's name gives the impression that it's some sort of magical, idealistic utopia, the people living there are challenged daily and deeply by the reality of an intractable, painful, and violent conflict. Like anything worth attaining, peace comes with hard work.

There are fears that the village will somehow threaten the 5.4 million Jews in Israel and 5.1 million Palestinian Arabs in the area. It won't. Only one couple, living there now for more than 25 years, is mixed. The other 54 nonmixed families are Jewish, Muslim, and Christian; they share strong convictions about their own identities, but have made a determined effort - for more than three decades - to live alongside one another and thus affect society.

Much can be learned from Neve Shalom, its Hebrew name, or Wahat al-Salam as it's called in Arabic, about inter-faith relations.

In the local Jewish-Arab primary school, children study one another's faiths with natural curiosity. Students break the fast together at Ramadan, share a sukkah booth at the festival of Sukkot, and exchange small gifts at Christmas. And dialogue begins, but never ends, in its Pluralistic Spiritual Center where discussions transcend religion to recognize that this conflict is not Torah versus Koran versus Bible.

The difficulties lie when the issues of the conflict are placed on the table.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political strife between two national groups about land, resources, security, freedom, equality, power, identity, and justice. Productive dialogue must include recognizing this and not limiting the conflict exclusively to inter/intra-religious issues.

Seeking a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a look at the big picture. The ultimate goal should be to create stability for Israelis and Palestinians so they may live securely and freely alongside one another in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.

That means building common ground, sharing narratives, and acknowledging the pain and suffering of others. Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and Christians need to show a willingness to recognize one another. …

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