What do a Jewish Rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Muslim archaeologist have in common? No, this is not a set up for a joke! They are “three wise men” who met in Magdala on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the three kings who visited Jesus after his birth. In a country that suffers from tensions between factions of these 3 faith groups, a semblance of reconciliation and peace came to life here in Magdala. Rabbi Knafo of Paris, Fr Eamon Kelly from Ireland, and Arfan Najar, Magdala’s on-site archaeologist and a Muslim from Israel, came together spontaneously for a friendly meeting.
Last month Israel could have boasted of a multitude of celebrations and conferences related to inter-religious dialogue. In light of Nostra Aetate’s 50th anniversary, several universities, organizations and churches hosted events to reflect on progress in this area. While the events focused primarily on Jewish and Christian dialogue, the Focolari Movement organized an event also highlighting positive relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Despite existing tensions, my impression after living in Israel for a year and half is that the majority of people from all three religions seek peace and fraternal living. What, however, is the key to this goal? It starts with an encounter. To know the face of the other, to know the heart of the other, opens the pathway to reconciliation and peace. Our prayer at Magdala, every Friday especially, is that the Prince of Peace will assist us in these encounters where mutual respect and fraternal brotherhood transform dialogue into a living reality.