Rabbi Yakov Nagen Reflects on URI's Interfaith Community

2 February 2018, 7:29 PM
Rabbi Yakov Nagen celebrates Shabbat with an interfaith group.

The Jewish members of the conference did a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony, in which many of the other participants, Muslim and Christian – from Egypt, Tunisia, the PA, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq joined in.

Rabbi Yakov Nagen of the Abrahamic Reunion Cooperation Circle attended the 15 Annual Assembly of the United Religions Initiative MENA region, in Amman Jordan, between 23 to 26 of November. He shares this report:

I was privileged to represent the Abrahamic Reunion at the annual event with this year's theme: "People Against Violence". 

When arriving, I was hugged as a brother by leaders of the URI who had never met me but felt a deep connection because of our common vision. Indeed, just as I always feel at Abrahamic Reunion events that we are a family, so too I felt this with the leaders of the various Cooperation Circles of the Middle East and North Africa region of URI.

I presented: "The Other as Brother: Stories of Hope and Reconciliation in Hebron and Jerusalem." I shared with the participants the techniques of the Abrahamic Reunion and told about our activities; in particular, stories from the annual Iftar and the visits to educational institutions both Arab and Jewish. For me, one of the most significant teachings was in the session of the NGO "Hope for the Children of Palestine" in which they shared their slogan "Connection Before Correction." An idea that always took me so many words to say, I now can do in three words!

"Connection Before Correction." An idea that always took me so many words to say, I now can do in three words!


Click the yellow arrows to scroll through the photos in the slideshow below.

Slideshow: Rabbi Yakov Nagen and the Abrahamic Reunion
Slideshow: Rabbi Yakov Nagen and the Abrahamic Reunion
Slideshow: Rabbi Yakov Nagen and the Abrahamic Reunion
Slideshow: Rabbi Yakov Nagen and the Abrahamic Reunion
Slideshow: Rabbi Yakov Nagen and the Abrahamic Reunion

One very moving moment was when a young woman from Iraq asked to say a prayer in her native language. To my great surprise, her language is a form of Aramaic; the ancient language that Jews spoke 2000 years ago and in which the Talmud was written.

Another memorable session: The Jewish members of the conference did a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony, in which many of the other participants, Muslim and Christian – from Egypt, Tunisia, the PA, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq joined in. Elana Rozenman lit Shabbat candles and invited all to light. I sang the traditional songs. The Kiddush was performed with grape juice instead of wine in order not to offend Muslim sensitivities that forbid alcohol. After the blessings on the Hallah, I divided the eight Hallot (pieces of bread) I brought into little pieces to be enough for all.

The connection to URI...gives hope that together we can really make the world a better place for all on a global scale.

I am so much grateful to have met each of the people I encountered at the conference, but most of all I feel gratitude to the organizers, most of them volunteers, for taking care of all details. In addition, I appreciate the efforts they made to make Israelis and Jews feel at home at a conference that was primarily Arab. The ability to go beyond politics fulfilled for me the saying of Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, who once said, "Out there, beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." In a region with conflicts and diametrically-opposed narratives about its rights and wrongs, we must find that field. For me, the URI conference created that field.

The connection to URI makes our organization one of 894 Cooperation Circles, with more than a million members. This scope gives hope that together we can really make the world a better place for all on a global scale.


Rabbi Yakov Nagen is co-chair of the Abrahamic Reunion NGO in Israel, together with Sheikh Khalil Albaz, Imam of Tel Sheva. Rabbi Nagen teaches Torah in Otniel yeshiva, in the south Hebron hills.

Cooperation Circles Involved

The Abrahamic Reunion CC

“Our purpose is to bring healing and reconciliation to the Children of Abraham in the Holy Land. Religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze communities come together to rebuild trust in the religious community. They travel as a group throughout the world speaking about the Holy Land and giving hope that peace is possible.”