Earlier this week, my godson, Lev Hirschhorn, and I were fortunate to attend a peacebuilders event in Abu Tor, Jerusalem. The invitation came from my dear old friend and colleague, Jerusalem Peacemakers co-founder, Rodef Shalom, Eliyahu McClain with whom I taught Hebrew School at Beth Chaim in Danville, CA, some sixteen years ago.
Eliyahu is a remarkable person who has spent more than a decade working in Israel, Palestine and around the globe doing critically important and needed peace building in the interfaith community. These efforts are so needed during these difficult times and Eliyahu has modeled for all of us a way to do this important work with grace, unflagging commitment and joy.
This evening’s gathering took place at the Abu Tor, Jerusalem home of Tzvi and Elena Rozenblum who warmly hosted an enormous group of guests on a scorching hot day – feeding and watering us with food, kindness and generosity. The gathering was convened to welcome and to celebrate with a delegation of URI, United Religions Initiative, an organization that promotes peace through dialogue among religious leaders to foster an end to interreligious violence.
The guests, many of whom had just come in from Jordan where they were celebrating the 10th anniversary of URI, included visitors from many countries and religions: Buddhist (from the Himalayas), Christian (from Ethiopia, Brazil, the UK, Israel and the US), Muslim (from Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Palestinian territories), Jewish (from Israel, California and the UK), and Hindu (from India and elsewhere), etc.
I was surprised to learn (but why be surprised at all, anymore) that the main URI office is located in San Francisco, CA, at the Presidio! Hence, more connections upon which to build upon when I return home.
After the walk, noshes and drinks, blessings and greetings, prayers and invocations of many traditions were offered in multiple languages. Then came the sharing of the missions of the various represented peace and co-existence groups and each attendee (possibly as many as 50 of us included 8-10 youths) introduced him or herself and spoke a word or phrase that described their present experience. I heard Lev say, “at home” and I was warmed by the knowledge that he had found a place in Jerusalem where he could truly feel this way.
Following the sharing more food and drink, animated conversation and networking ensued. The evening ended with a remarkable musical collaboration – including the extraordinary talent of Biswadeb Chakraporty, URI staff member from India and world class tabla player!
To alight in peace, safety and joy in a troubled world – is such a gift. Blessed are the peacemakers! May they be strengthened and may their efforts be amply rewarded with good.