Essay

The Sheikh and the Rabbi: A Jerusalem Fable

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Both devoted to God, the Rabbi and the Sheikh have more in common than the nightly news might imply.

During our trip to Jerusalem, we interviewed Rabbi Menachem Froman, an Orthodox rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, famous for traveling to the Gaza Strip to meet with the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of Hamas and former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Later we also interviewed Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi Sheikh of the Naqshabandian Religious Method and head of the Uzbeke Community in Jerusalem. 

Both Rabbi Froman and Sheikh Bukhari are committed to inter-religious dialogue and nonviolent means for attaining peace. Both imparted a similar sentiment - when it comes to matters of Jerusalem, the politicians have their role, but the religious leaders have a role too. As Rabbi Froman shared, the issue here is not gold, nor oil; it's God. And since all three Abrahamic religions believe Jerusalem belongs to God, he asks, "Why not give Jerusalem to God?" 

Froman's view is also global. "If we can figure out Jerusalem, we can be a bridge for all humanity,” he says, echoing what many feel about this city at the center of so much conflict.

At least one moral lesson of Jerusalem is simple and perhaps best articulated by Sheikh Bukhari. "Respect is like a mirror; if you show it, you will receive it in return." For him, it's clear that our destinies are entwined. "We all live here together and we are all going to die together. So why not support each other?"

At the end of these interviews, which were also towards the end of our trip, a comment by an Israeli friend left an impression. "Sometimes I feel this is a Godless town. People are tired of being told what to do in the name of religion. And people are tired of being told what to do in the name of politics.”

Jerusalem, an epicenter of faith, fear, hope, and possibility, offers questions that lie on the edge of many of our minds: Has God forgotten us? Have we forgotten God? Or is God present and we just can’t see?

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