Local pastor shares experiences from interfaith trip to Israel



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Local pastor shares experiences from interfaith trip to Israel

Nov. 17, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011 
tparham@flumc.org   Orlando {0399}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

ISRAEL — The Rev. David McEntire (center), pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, and other religious leaders from the United States talk with Khalil Shikaki (left), a Palestinian researcher and statistician, during an interfaith trip to the Middle East to learn about the peace process in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Photo courtesy of the Rev. David McEntire, Photo #05-277. Web photo only.

WEST PALM BEACH — As Israelis completed their withdrawal from the Gaza strip, an interfaith group from the United States made a historic trip to the Middle East. 

The Rev. David McEntire, senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, was one of 15 Protestant pastors and 10 Jewish leaders who participated in the weeklong journey last September.

The trip was coordinated by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and cosponsored by Jewish Communities. Its purpose was to enable the participating religious leaders to learn more about the search for peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The group met with military, religious, legal, business and political leaders.

McEntire said the group visited grassroots efforts to establish peace, including Umm el' Fahm, a unique art museum in an Arab village. The owner of the museum chooses a theme and then finds both Palestinian and Jewish artists to display their works together. McEntire says the goal is to transcend what the naked eye can see on canvas.

"It didn't matter if you were Palestinian or Jewish. You were an artist. Cultural and national boundaries seemed to dissolve," he said.

The organization that impressed McEntire most was Sikkuy, a non-partisan association that works to advance civic equality between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Both sides work in tandem on common farmland, growing crops and marketing vegetables together. Sikkuy is also looking for investors for a technology park that will provide jobs for Jewish and Arab people.

"I saw the difficulties of creating justice and mercy," McEntire said. "Spiritually, there's nothing like it. It captures your heart."

Despite attempts at peace, McEntire said it's apparent deep divisions persist. He said the Western Wall or "Separation Barrier" showed the magnitude of the unrest that exists.

"Jews and Muslims are separated by about 50 yards," McEntire said. "Both are praying and both feel they're right. Tension could erupt at any moment."

ISRAEL — U.S. religious leaders participating in an interfaith trip to the Middle East to learn about the peace process in Israel and the Palestinian territories visited the Western Wall (Temple Mount), also known as The Wailing Wall. Photo by the Rev. David McEntire, Photo #05-278.

Israel built the 40-foot concrete wall to serve as a clear barrier separating Palestinian territory from Israeli boundaries.

"I could see houses on one side and an olive grove or school on the other. The barrier prevents some Palestinians from traveling freely and enjoying their livelihood. In a way it's unjust, but it's a necessity to stop the violence," McEntire said.

Since his return to South Florida, McEntire has shared his experiences several times with his own congregation. Next, he plans to speak to the South and North Palm Beach County Jewish Federation boards of directors. He's offering his insight as a panelist at a Presbyterian women's meeting. He'll also speak at a Muslim gathering at the end of Ramadan.

McEntire believes it's his responsibility to make sure the Christian church stays involved in the quest for peace in the Middle East. 

"I want to keep the dialogue open among Christians, Jews and Muslims. If an issue ever comes here, we're already friends," he said.

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This article relates to Interfaith Efforts.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.




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