[Episcopal News Service] Palestinian activist Ali Abu Awwad and Israeli Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger have spent their lives living in fear of one another’s neighboring communities in Gush Etzion, located in the Judean Mountains south of Jerusalem.
But when they met for the first time 18 months ago, their worldview began a process of transformation as they heard one another’s narratives and their understanding of truth was broadened.
The two men are now coordinators of Roots, a grassroots initiative that brings together Israeli settlers in Gush Etzion with Palestinians from neighboring villages to promote dialogue and build trust as a path to peace. They believe it is imperative for the communities to put aside political retrenchment, divisive actions and rhetoric in order to begin sowing the seeds necessary to make an eventual peace agreement take hold.
A 15-member interfaith pilgrimage – co-led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America – met with the leadership of Roots in Gush Etzion one Sunday afternoon in January.
The Episcopal Church recently co-sponsored an event with interfaith partners at the U.S. Capitol where Awwad and Schlesinger spoke about their journey together, their experiences of transformation and encouraged.