Like many communities in Israel with a substantial English speaking population, my Jerusalem suburb of Ma’aleh Adumim has an active chat group on the Internet.
Usually, it’s pretty mundane stuff – looking for a good electrician, some old kids clothes to give away, advice needed on some immigrant issue. But occasionally, there’s a posting which sparks some excitement.
For a while now, an enterprising resident has been organizing interfaith meetings between Jews in Ma’aleh Adumim and Arabs from the neighboring town of Abu Dis in east Jerusalem.
Called the Interfaith Encounter Association group – ADAMA – the meetings of the two worlds have taken place six times. According to the organizer, Leah Lublin, “we do not talk politics, but get to know one another through our respective religions and customs.”
Sounds like a nice idea, especially considering most Ma’aleh Adumim residents only have dealings with Abu Dis residents when they decide to remodel their kitchens and need inexpensive contractors and day laborers. I haven’t attended a meeting yet, so I don’t know if the Jewish participants are primarily English-speakers like Lublin, or native Israelis, and if the Arab participants are professor types or mechanics.
Anyway, Lublin recently posted on the MA chat a notice about the next meeting, to take place at her home this week, focusing on fasting in Judaism and Islam and featuring a special vegetarian and kosher meal celebrating both the High Holidays and Ramadan.
In response, another Ma’aleh Adumim resident quickly posted a response claiming that meeting with Arabs in Ma’ale Adumim will only encourage them to move in to the neighborhood, and “will change Ma’ale Adumim from being a
safe neighborhood” to one wrought with potential terror.
She cited the Jerusalem neighborhoods of French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev, which both have tiny Arab populations as examples of places that have seen “terror with Arab gangs fighting Jews in the streets, terror in car thefts etc. Do we need to encourage this on the MA Chatline?”
I’m not going to respond to her assertions, but I am certainly going to try to make it home tonight in time to attend my first Interfaith encounter.