Undeterred by recent political and security events, TRUST WIN - Women's Interfaith Network - celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Center for Hagar and Sarah in Fureidis, Israel, where 35 women were hosted and fed a delicious home-cooked meal by Ibtisam Mahamid and local women. Siham Halabi brought Druze women from Daliat Al Carmel, and Rabbi Judith Edelman-Green brought women from her synagogue in Kfar Saba and surrounding areas. We offered prayers from the different religions before beginning our meal together and we had continual translation between Arabic and Hebrew.
"We offered prayers from the different religions before beginning our meal together"
We learned about strong women from each of our religions. Nihab spoke of the Druze leader Nazira Jumblatt who took over the leadership of her family's influential political affairs after the assassination of her husband -- a very exceptional role for a woman at the time of the beginning of the 20th century. She forged partnerships with Christian politicians and sent her son Kamal to live and be schooled with Christians. Eventually he took over the family leadership when she died. Hediya spoke of Amal al-Atrash who was a Druze and became a singer known as Asmahan and was one of the most distinguished Arab singers of the 20th century. She was a strong woman who broke from conventions to pursue her career and continues to inspire women. They played her music so everyone could dance together and enjoy her exceptional voice.
Rabbi Judith spoke about Bat Paro - the daughter of Pharaoh from the Tanach: what she saw and heard, how she acted in rescuing the baby Moses and making him her son, and what we can learn from her example. She brought study sheets showing the text from the book of Exodus in Hebrew and translated into Arabic. In responding to this, a Muslim woman told the story of Musa (Moshe) according to the Koran.
"We danced to Hebrew and Arabic songs. We painted and created together"
Ibtisam spoke about Rabia Al Adawiyya - a Sufi mystic and poet who lived 1300 years ago and is the most famous and influential Sufi woman in Arabic history. She developed her piety while enslaved and devoted herself totally to God. Till today she is regarded as a saint inspiring to women spiritually. We danced to Hebrew and Arabic songs. We painted and created together three large medallions symbolizing our gathering with beautiful images and words in Hebrew and Arabic for love, peace, and prayers. One medallion was taken to the Community Center in Daliat where we have our Garden of the Mothers. Another remained at the Center in Fureidis, and the third went to Rabbi Yehudit's Synagogue. Rabbi Judith led a prayer for healing for some of the women present and their loved ones.
"We create an oasis of peace where we experience the reality of interfaith sisterhood"
We closed in a circle with the women expressing how we create an oasis of peace where we experience the reality of interfaith sisterhood. One woman said that with each meeting a stronger sense of closeness and commitment can be felt. We are the microcosm for a process that we expand outwards to our families, friends, colleagues and co-workers, and to our communities. We ended with our traditional hugging ceremony and planning for future gatherings in each other's communities. These women all returned home to their communities to share what they learned together about powerful women in different religions, and their experience of interfaith harmony.
We are grateful to the URI Middle East and North Africa region and to California women for their spiritual and financial support for our celebration.
Blessings and love,
Director, TRUST – Emun
Global Trustee, United Religions Initiative
See more URI World Interfaith Harmony Week 2018 celebrations here.