Sunday, December 8, 2013

Interfaith Encounter Association in Israel

A Guest Post -- from Yehudah Stolov, founder of the Interfaith Encounter Association.

I have made Yehudah, and follow and support his amazing work in the Land of Israel.  I encourage you to read/be inspired and support this great work -- and maybe look to connect with them when you visit Israel!

I hope you had a great Chanukah.  Stay safe. . . Jack Chomsky

Now,  heeeeere's Yehudah. . . . . . .

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”  - John Lennon

Inspiring words, aren’t they? Yet we all know that despite the best of intentions, building caring relationships - even with friends, co-workers, family members, or others of our own faith - can be fraught with difficulties. So often we end up talking past each other, or don’t allow ourselves to let down our guard and see things from others’ points of view. And it’s natural to think that if we can’t always speak even to those closest to us, surely a bitter conflict such as the one in the Holy Land must be intractable. I often hear from people that relations within their own faith are so complex and challenging that they simply can’t imagine how people can come to love and respect those who they see as being on “the other side”.

But I am writing today to tell you about how the IEA is making exactly that happen, by cultivating an approach which is truly different, which utilizes the power of religion as a force for peace and compassion instead of conflict. And I’d like to ask you to partner with us by making a helpful financial commitment to our work. Because the dreams we dream together truly are becoming reality.

Many people see religion solely as a source of conflict in the Holy Land, and thus think of it mainly as an obstacle to be gotten around if peace is to someday flourish.  But we believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed we believe that if religion is part of the problem it must - and can - be part of the solution as well. For some 12 years, we have brought together people from all faiths and cultures - over 8000 so far in 58 ongoing encounter groups - to build lifetime bonds through sharing their cultures, beliefs, and traditions, and by creating a “safe space” for friendly disagreement. This way, any potentially divisive issues are discussed between friends, and that makes all the difference.  As one of our members recently wrote,
“I was overjoyed to see that in spite of the differences and varying viewpoints among the girls, and their diverse customs and communities, there was something truly deep that connects us all to each other. We truly felt like one big family. Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity to get to know them!”

Our groups coalesce into passionate, cohesive communities which cherish the unique identity of each individual, empowering members to make a real difference in their broader social circles. Because we successfully reach out to a very wide spectrum of each population, we are building a true broad-based, popular movement for peace. We believe that without this grassroots component, political efforts cannot succeed. Our growth is proof that religion, which so often is misused to divide and inflame, can also serve as a potent unifying force that helps us to tear down walls of ignorance and fear. 

In 2013 we expanded our activity into several new arenas, such as:

·         Groups for Yeshiva students and Palestinians from areas East of Jerusalem
·         Ultra-orthodox Jews and religious Muslims from Jerusalem
·         Joining of the “Visit Palestine” initiative for joint Israeli-Palestinian mutual visits, as part of IEA
·         Joining the EU’s Tempus project which has already led to the founding of 6 new on-going groups of interfaith encounter so far, one in Sakhnin College and five in Gordon College in Haifa. Two more are expected to begin shortly, one in Sakhnin and one at the Interdisciplinary Center in Hertzlia.

      We are  beginning a new project called “Meeting on the Pitch” which will target at-risk children of all three Abrahamic faiths and bring them together to play soccer in mixed teams with children from other faith communities and  dialogue with them
      Lastly, we have begun an ongoing partnership with the prestigious Fetzer Institute of Michigan to support building inter-communal relations by young adults in the Holy Land.

There’s so much more I’d like to tell you about. If you haven’t seen our 2012 Annual Report which details all of our activities, it can be found at

Only through meeting the Other face-to-face will the conflict finally end. Your kind support for our work will make it possible for us to continue to bring hope to the peoples of the Holy Land.

Your donation of:

$30 – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session
$60 – buys food for one encounter session
$100 – pays for transportation for Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session
$250 – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session
$500 – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Youth Encounter
$1,000 – pays for one conference
$5,000 – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.

You can now easily contribute online at

All contributions are extremely helpful and fully tax-deductible in the US (501(c)3). See for how to make tax-deductible contributions if you are a UK or Swiss citizen. 

In the US, contributions by check may be mailed directly to: Friends of IEA, 832 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park, IL, 60130-2039

As always, all contributions of any size are very warmly appreciated!


Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director

No comments:

Post a Comment