The Power of Knowing Your Neighbor by Ariela Rosenberg

by tuftsigl
Aug 03

Last week, just outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls, I had dinner with a group of Mount Zion tenants in the Jerusalem Intercultural Center's (JICC) beautiful garden. The social event was the culmination of a year of work on behalf of Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and JICC to increase inter-religious understanding and decrease tensions between the tenants. Mount Zion is home to King David’s Tomb / the Room of the Last Supper / Nabi Daud – one building which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and that has been the site of religiously motivated hate crimes.

SFCG and JICC have partnered to not only create tenant meetings, but also to run workshops and site visits for Israeli youth, the police force that operates in Mt. Zion, and volunteers that help to inform tourists of the three religions and act as a buffer during religious ceremonies.The dinner was an amazing window for me into the success of the program, as it was a very pleasant evening filled with good food and great conversation. However, prior to SFCG and JICC's work, the tenants had never met one another and shared deep suspicions of each other. The ability to have dialogue on the communities' shared problems, and to be able to address existing tensions, has made such pleasant and productive interactions possible. It was a great lesson for me in the power of knowing your neighbor, even in as complicated and fraught of a neighborhood as Jerusalem.