Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.
NES AMMIM 2010
An important fact that people should know about Israel is that roughly twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Muslim, Christian and Druze. The seven million citizens of pre-1967 borders manage to live together in a fairly democratic, but far from perfect society. Many Israelis of all backgrounds are trying to improve our society and its political awareness.
Once a month I participate in a joint prayer meeting with the Focolare. The Focolare is the largest Catholic outreach movement with five million members. The Focolare movement is an international organization based on ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. The movement was founded in Trent Italy 1944 by Chiara Lubich. Chiara was just a teenager when she decided to found the movement. During this period, Italy was occupied by the Allies. Chiara made a choice to stay in Trent to help the wounded and the homeless. Seeing the horrors of war first hand she and her friends had vowed to live a humble life and yet to promote peace and brotherhood throughout the world using Catholicism as their base. However, they have strong connections to different denominations and various faiths. The Focolare movement is present today in 182 nations. Through a network of eighteen branches the Focolare has an impact on both eclectic and secular life. Our meetings are held at Or Hadash Synagogue in Haifa, and hosted by Rabbi Edgar Nof.
Each summer the movement holds local retreats over 100 worldwide, where members and new comers come together to discuss the movement and enhance spirituality. The first such meeting was held in Italy in 1949, while today 200.000 people participate from all over the world. Many of the people who attend are Catholics, but members of other faiths participate as well. I and my fellow congregates from Or Hadash attended this year’s event in Israel. Kibbutz Nes Ammim hosted the activity.
The Nes Amim Christian kibbutz is located between Naharia and Nazareth (all in the area of west Galilee) the home of Mary Magdalene and residence where Jesus was raised. The kibbutz was founded by various Christians from different European backgrounds. The term “Nes Amim” means “banner of nations” it was used in Isaiah 11:10. The theology of “Nes Amim” refers to the need for dialogue between Jews, Christians and all religions.
Nes Ammim 2009 was a successful and memorable experience. It was the first time in history that Jews, Muslims, and Christians from both sides of our borders participated in the convention. We were blessed be chosen as the first Jewish attendees. This year the attending participants came from very diverse backgrounds. There were individuals from Ramala, Ra’anana, Haifa, Jerusalem and even Egypt. There were also participants from Italy, Brazil and Uruguay, who traveled half way around the world to attend the occasion. The convention’s program was similar to last year’s. The three hundred participants were divided into several small groups to enjoy spiritual, artistic, and social activity. There were art classes, drama exhibitions, knitting instruction, meditation, and of course the beloved hiking trails and swimming pools. Nes Ammim hosts a church, a synagogue, and mosque. Many of us attended each other’s weekly prayers.
The three hundred individuals that attended Nes Ammim had their own beliefs, values, goals, and lifestyles. These diversities are a reflection of life in Israel and Palestine. That is the reason that this type of activity should continue in growing numbers, and that the world should be aware of them. I firmly believe that the people of this region can be an example to the rest of the world that the ploughshare can indeed replace the sword.
About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist, currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.