Day 6 of Elijah Interfaith Summer School
Sunday 9th August 2020 — Hosted in Jerusalem, participants zoomed-in from around the world
I needed Friday and Saturday to recover after week 1 before beginning week 2.
We were working of United States’ Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) which meant we started at 09 15 hours which was 14 15 hours here in England. It was hot yesterday making it somewhat uncomfortable and therefore difficult to concentrate. Maybe in Jerusalem, we would have had air conditioning.
I can’t help think that there is material for drama from this summer school although not quite Shtisel.
Shtisel | Netflix
A Haredi family living in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem reckons with love, loss and the doldrums of daily…
There were fewer of us for the second week which may indicate the intensity of the learning.
In the first session as we regrouped we were looking at the theme,
‘Religion shapes social relations, cultivating morality, teaching us how to act towards one another — across religions’
The question was, ‘How do our religious foundations inform or interactions with other people?’
Implied was that our religion must account for something by way of how we live our lives in relation to the other.
We were asked to take some time to write our response.
I was keen to identify for myself when religion began to inform how I behaved. I started out as emotionally sensitive which didn’t discriminate. Sunday school largely gave me my Religious Education (RE). I easily identified with this character Jesus as a child in a similar way to the good guys on TV such as Spiderman. Maybe Spiderman informed my RE more than I realised!
I think it was good for a child such as me to have one central character to the story. It meant I didn’t confuse him with other figures. That said the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Daniel, Jonah, Ruth, David, Elijah, all made for great stories for children.
Jesus was the guy that when the people were hungry he fed them with 5 loaves and 2 fishes when they were sick he healed them when troubled he exercised their demons when dead he brought them back to life. He also told stories and like many kids, I loved stories so I was listening when I heard them relayed, The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, The Rich man and Lazarus, The Widow’s mite.
Somewhere along the way, my open heart started to discriminate. Yes God loves all people so we need to tell them to repent and become like us. If they didn’t become like us I rejected them as they rejected us.
Further being a Northern Irish Protestant we (at least some of us) believed we were God’s chosen people hence the reason a battle was being raged against us by the Roman Catholic church. Some considered that we living out the Book of Revelation. This narrative did not help in a place where the religious division was rife and every day someone was being killed by one side or other for being identified as either Catholic or Protestant.
In this, I see that religious instruction can be for the good but it can become narrow and elitist conveying on one group the status of being superior to the other.
It was the kindness of the other that took effect and worked change in me. The other may have been informed by their own RE.
There are people from my own community who internally remain with me. It was their kindness. A kindness born from their personality but I would also think informed by their religion.
When we shared back others quoted from passages such as Micah 6 verse 8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Another spoke of ‘social murder’ when we dominate and squeeze out the equality of another.
Alon wanting to push our thinking asked, “So how did this inform our response to COVID 19 as religious people?”
Words such as, solidarity, justice, humility, love came in the responses but it would take the rest of the day before we may have hit on the word that makes the difference.