The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Women building peace

Jerusalem's Christian, Jewish and Muslim women let their hair down

Inside the sheltering walls of the Swedish Theological Institute, day-to-day tensions of life in Jerusalem fall to the wayside. Here 25 Christian, Jewish and Muslim women — members of the Jerusalem Women's Interfaith Encounter — gather monthly to learn about one another's faith.

Meeting in a female-only group allows them to talk more personally, say the women, whose ages range from 25 to 82.

"We can just let our hair down on all levels," says Elana Rozenman, the group's co-coordinator with Aida Shibli. "The Muslim women can take off their veils, the Jewish women can sing, we can all dance — all things traditional religious women wouldn't do in front of men. There is an atmosphere of familiarity and ease."

The two-year-old group is meant to be a nonpolitical forum. But it's hard to avoid politics, the women say. They've even met during difficult times, including right after the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin and several terrorist attacks.

They talk about everything from personal stories to the status of women to such topics as purity, forgiveness and marriage. They observe holidays together. They've also celebrated a member's engagement, compiling for her a cookbook with traditional recipes. Now they're trying to arrange to paint an elementary school in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanina.

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