One of the most enriching and interesting parts of CPE education in North America is the interfaith aspect. In training groups, supervision and work settings, chaplains are likely to learn with and from colleagues of various faiths and streams within those faiths. This interface often allows us to look at aspects of our own traditions with a fresh perspective, as well as outlining the common underpinnings of many world religions.

 

In Israel the interfaith aspect is present with patients and medical/ paramedical staff, but so far the training groups and people who offer spiritual care are all Jewish. I really miss this cross-pollination, and Kashouvot is making efforts to identify Muslim and Christian leaders to join our chaplaincy team.

 

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an interfaith seminar on the topic of Pilgrimage, organized collaboratively by the Elijah Institute and Lassalle-Haus, Bad Schonbrunn, Switzerland.

It took place in the magical Ecco Homo convent and conference center deep within the Muslim quarter, with a view of the Temple Mount. Participants could sit in cozy rooms inside or hear the discussions from the expansive rooftop balcony.

 

Some of the group had walked form Switzerland to Jerusalem (a journey of seven months) while others had walked from Aman, Jordan, passing Mt. Nevo and Madaba, a journey of six days. They described how a pilgrim undergoes an inner journey parallel to the outer one, discovers inner blocks and resistance but ultimately has the motivation and determination to wake up and walk, to move forward each morning.

 

Speakers managed to stay away from potentially divisive political areas and focus on the common ground: We seek to be good because we believe it makes God happy; we strive to live according to our stated values; by taking small steps we contribute to greater goals of peace etc. The speakers were world religious leaders and scholars; their voices were calm, genuine, inspiring and refocused me from a mode of doing and accomplishing to a mode of gratitude and humility.

 

Another highlight of the conference was a video message by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth. Ins response to the question “which Biblical verse would you share with this group?” he stayed away from grandiose prophecies of peace and the changing of the world order or human nature. He focused on Exodus 23:5, “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.” By acting compassionately we give ourselves the gift of an open heart, and by helping someone who hates us, we may turn him into a friend.

 

Spiritual caregivers need to replenish their own inner resources, and I hope to have the chance for similarly moving experiences in the future, in Israel and abroad.

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