Interfaith Groups Struggle to Keep the Conversation Going as Middle East Conflict Heats Up

July 20, 2006

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: RNS

On July 20, 2006 Religion News Service reported, "Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein received a phone call this week (July 18) he's not sure he would have received a few years ago. A Syrian-American friend called to say how sorry he was about the violent conflict now roiling the Middle East. Not sorry for any particular group, stressed Stein, a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. 'He was sorry for it all. And I'm sorry for it all, and that's where our common ground is,' Stein said. Such encounters between Jews and Muslims in America might have been hard to imagine for many members of both communities during earlier periods of violence in the Middle East. But an unprecedented swell of interfaith activities followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and Muslims and Jews have since discovered common ground as U.S. religious minorities with shared theological and social values. Agreement on Middle East politics has been far more elusive. This week's events -- Israel's bombing of Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and launched hundreds of missiles -- has challenged those new relations. Both Muslims and Jews are deeply connected to the region through family ties but more often through religious bonds."