In each of the last two years, Debate for Peace and the Jerusalem Peacebuilders have brought high school students from all over Israel to spend a weekend interfaith retreat together.
From February 2-3, 2018, a retreat was held in Tel Aviv and Jaffa. On Friday morning, students participated in a debate workshop. They then participated in an interactive workshop with Corey Gil-Shuster about the “Ask” project, and learned about Islam and religious textual interpretation from Imam Ismaeel Malik via a Facebook videochat. Students attended shabbat evening prayers and had a group dinner at the Libyan Synagogue in old Jaffa, a synagogue from the 1740s. Over the rest of the weekend, students discussed the importance of Jerusalem in the different faiths, the challenges facing Bedouin communities, and ideas for empowerment and improving Israeli society and promoting peace. For part of the weekend we were also joined by Palestinian students from the West Bank.
On March 3-4, 2017, the group was hosted at the Ahmadiya mosque in Haifa, with kosher food catered in. Students had the opportunity to observe and participate in observe Muslim and Jewish prayers, and the meals over Shabbat included blessings recited in Arabic, Hebrew and Armenian, by Muslim, Jewish and Christian students. Participating students came from at least 10 cities and 15 different schools, bringing a range of perspectives and views.
Over the course of the weekend, students discussed dialogue and debate; identity; stereotypes and prejudices; religion; similarities and differences; self-criticism and social activism; challenging prejudice and misunderstanding in their schools, and recognizing the underrepresented groups in society. The schedule was rigorous and intense, but the students had a great time, and no one was ready to leave at the end of the two days.