by J-Wire Staff
January 30, 2017
A group of Islamic leaders and educators from six cities in Indonesia has completed an eight day mission of dialogue, study and mutual learning in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The group with President Rivlin and Jeremy Jones
The visit honoured the vision and wisdom of former Indonesian President and religious leader Abdurrahman Wahid (“Gus Dur”).
Gus Dur, who passed away in December 2009, was Indonesia’s first democratically elected President and a three-term leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia (and the world’s) largest Muslim organisation. He was a strong proponent of better Muslim-Jewish relations and of Indonesia developing a mature relationship with Israel.
Accompanied by Jeremy Jones of The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, who organised the visit, the men and women mixed formal meetings, briefings, travelling and dialogue with informal discussions with Jews, Muslims and Christians in a number of cities and towns.
Wahid worked closely with Rabbi David Rosen, of the American Jewish Committee, in major international interfaith organisations,including the International Abrahamic Scholars Trialogue (Jeremy Jones is the only Australian to be invited to participate in the IAST), and Rabbi Rosen addressed the first session of the mission.
“Many Jewish people will know of Rabbi Rosen’s exemplary knowledge of, and passion for, Judaism and Jewish history, but at this meeting he demonstrated an impressive knowledge of Islam and the way Jews and Muslims understand our religious identities”, Jones said.
The late Indonesian leader was also active in the World Religious Leaders’ Board of the Elijah Institute, based in Jerusalem, and the eight days concluded with a workshop on “Praying for Peace in Jerusalem”, organised by the Elijah Institute and hosted by the Ecce Homo Convent.
“To see Jews, Muslims and Christians, at the points of a triangle on a rooftop overlooking the major religious sites of Jerusalem, each involved in afternoon prayer, then coming together for Jewish and Muslim-led songs celebrating peace, before the three-faiths text study, conducted in English, Arabic, Hebrew and Bahasa Indonesian, was to witness something indescribably inspiring”, Jones emphasised.
One aspect of the visit which has received enormous media attention in Indonesia was the dialogue with Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin.
“Gus Dur had been close to Shimon Peres and President Rivlin honoured the memory of both leaders by welcoming and listening to these outstanding Muslim personalities”, Jones said.
“The critics, none of whom made even cursory efforts to establish what was canvassed during the discussion, should have instead applauded the proud and dignified Indonesian Muslims outlining their views, and listening respectfully to President Rivlin’s calls for a revival of Jewish-Muslim cooperation in the interests of all humanity”, Jones argued.
During the course of the trip, delegates made three visits to the Palestinian Authority where they met religious leaders, political and cultural personalities and business leaders, as well as individuals involved in Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
Prayers took place in the Omar Mosque in Bethlehem, President Abbas’ Mosque in Ramallah and at the Roots dialogue centre near Beit Umar.
“At the Yasser Arafat Museum, the new ‘planned city’ of Rawabi and throughout Bethlehem and Ramallah, the Indonesians were able to hear from a variety of Palestinians about their understanding of the past and present and their visions for the future”, Jones said.
In Israel, religious highlights included Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque, Shabbat with an Orthodox Rabbi and his family, prayers at the impressive new mosque in Abu Ghosh, the historic Hassan Bek Mosque in Tel Aviv, the shores of the Dead Sea and some small mosques in Jerusalem, and a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchure.
The group had a deeply moving, as well as educational, visit to Yad Vashem, toured Israel’s Gaza border and areas which had come under Hamas rocket attacks, the borders with Syria and Lebanon, and travelled up the eastern border with Jordan.
Time was also spent in villages in the Galilee, Lake Tiberias, Tel Aviv, Sderot and Tszfat, where they saw first-hand Israel’s humanitarian work with Syrians.
“Highlights included the afternoon spent at Save A Child’s Heart, where they met children who were undergoing life-saving operations, their families and the wonderful staff and volunteers, meetings with a number of top journalists and analysts and a dinner with young Muslim, Jewish and Christian Israelis, for a discussion of Islamic history, Indonesian foods, President Trump and many other topics”, Jones noted.
As part of AIJAC’s engagement with Indonesia, Jeremy Jones conducted multi-city speaking tours, to audiences of Islamic scholars and students, in 2015 and 2016, where he met significant leaders including those who went to Israel in the mission.
“They are serious scholars and respected leaders, and their willingness to participate in this trip and their positive attitude, is a real cause for optimism regarding Muslim-Jewish, and a constructive Indonesian role in peace-building”, Jones concluded.