Analysis: Anti-parade unity, but little else

By MATTHEW WAGNER
July 23, 2006 21:41
2 minute read.

Opposition to the Gay Pride parade seems to be the only issue Christian, Muslim and Jewish spiritual leaders in Israel, involved in interfaith dialogue, are able to agree upon lately. The representatives of the three major monotheistic religions have easily joined forces to declare that the parade planned for Jerusalem is a blatant desecration of religious sensibilities. A relatively weak community with little political clout, the gay event has created a cause for rare brotherhood among religions. On other issues, however, such as the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit or the war in Lebanon, interfaith dialogue has been less successful. Just this week Papal Nuncio to Israel Antonio Franco told The Jerusalem Post that despite attempts to intervene, he failed to secure the Shalit's release. Rabbi David Rosen, the international director of Inter religious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, told the Post on Thursday that hundreds of unsuccessful attempts have been made to use connections cultivated during years of interfaith dialogue to determine Shalit's welfare. Kedem, a group of Orthodox rabbis and Palestinian imams met at Kibbutz Lavi two weeks ago to draft a joint statement on Shalit's kidnapping and Israel's subsequent bombings. But the sides were so polarized that it was impossible to reach even the most innocuous statement. Tekoa's Rabbi Menahem Fromen, a supporter of religious dialogue with Hamas, was contacted immediately after Shalit's kidnapping by the Post and asked if he had gleaned any information from his ties with the Hamas hierarchy. "They are not returning my calls," he replied woefully. Things are not much better regarding the war with Hizbullah. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Sunday address, refrained from criticizing Hizbullah's unprovoked attack on Israel. Instead he voiced concern "for the increasing military activities in Lebanon and for the many victims among the civilian population. At the root of such pitiless contrasts there are, unfortunately, objective... violations of rights and of justice. But neither terrorist acts or reprisals, especially when they have such tragic consequences on the civilian population, can be justified." True, the Catholic Church's Nostra Aetate, a theological watershed that was a direct result of interfaith dialogue, radically improved the Church's approach to Judaism. But that improvement is often theoretical only. When push comes to shove the Church reverts to a political stance that robs Israel of its right to self-defense, a move some would characterize as anti-Semitic. The Inter Religious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), a group of Muslims, Christians and Jews, is encountering nearly insurmountable difficulties in its attempt to draft a joint statement on the crisis between Israel and Lebanon. "Our narratives are so radically different," said Rabbi David Stav, head of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva. "Each side views the same historical processes completely differently." If interfaith is so ineffective when it is most needed, then what is the point? Interfaith supporters say it is important to, "Agree to disagree, to listen to the pain of the other, to understand the narrative of the other, to bringing a human face to the conflict." Another believer in interfaith put it this way: "Just because a relationship does not allow you to achieve everything you want to achieve does not mean there is no purpose in having a relationship. "It is na ve to think that interfaith will prevent Arabs from expressing anti-Zionist rhetoric, or that it will encourage Palestinian Sunnis to support Israel against Shi'ite Arabs. Nevertheless, headway is being made, maybe not at leaps and bounds, but slowly a step at a time."


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