Though awash in news and media full of the Gaza War, there are constant occasions and efforts at harmonious interfaith relations in the region that are less known, but more hopeful. In 2012, a Palestinian-owned tree-processing plant in close proximity to a Jewish settlement took the high road after a plant producing dust irritated its neighbors. While the owner, Abu-Taled initially erected a wall to prevent the dust’s circulation, he later took on a more hands on approach by planting trees on Tu B’Shevat together with Oded Ravivi, the Erfrat settlement’s mayor. In an interview, Ravivi described the act as a chance to “fulfill the mitzvah while also tightening our ties and work towards peaceful coexistence.”
Efforts to communicate more broadly these times when Jews and Palestinians rise above the temptation to hate was attempted through a world tour by Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Robi Damelin, an Israeli traveling together. Aramin’s daughter was killed in 2007 by Israeli border police, Damelin’s son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 20002. They are members of The Parents Circle, an advocacy group uniting those whose relatives have been killed in the conflict. Aramin and Damelin ask for people “to stop treating the seriously fraught global conflict like it’s some sort of Super Bowl game in which rooting for one side or the other is a pastime.” In fact, Damelin believes that taking sides merely “is importing our conflict into your country and creating hatred between Jews and Muslims.”
A key ingredient for peace lies in growing in the ability both understand each side’s perspective, and in the willingness to invest in enduring interfaith relations. Religion when properly lived allows human beings to unite with one another in an effort to create a more harmonious world. Healthy religious communities can guide members how to sacrifice and unite under a common goal shared beyond the mere welfare only of themselves. These interfaith instances show that people do want peace, even in the face of direct causes and invitations to hate.