Rabbi maintains faith in his hopes for peace

Optimistic vision for Mideast brought to Balto. synagogue

January 20, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Rabbi Ron Kronish's job description might strike some as utterly futile.

Kronish works to forge interreligious and intercultural ties between Jews and Arabs - both Muslim and Christian - in Israel. In the past three months of unrest, which have claimed the lives of more than 300 people, his job has gotten a lot more difficult.

Still, Kronish, a Reform rabbi who has lived in Israel for more than 20 years, remains an optimist. A permanent peace in Israel has never been closer, he says.

"I have lots of anxiety about the current moment," said Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, who was in Baltimore yesterday to speak at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in upper Park Heights. "But I think we'll get past it, and I think we're on an irreversible path to peace."

Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation said Kronish's work stands out as "a beacon of hope" in a time when the temptation is to despair of a better future for the Middle East.

"His work testifies that the spirit of cooperative learning and respect is our best antidote to the disease of hatred," Perlmeter said. "It is through such efforts that we truly become God's partners in creating a universe of creative possibility rather than destruction."

Forums for peace

Kronish's group, formed a decade ago in Jerusalem, sponsors forums that bring together Jews, Christians and Muslims to talk about peace and coexistence.

"We founded ourselves on Jan. 16, 1991. You know what that night was?" Kronish said. "It was the start of the Gulf War. So we came to the first meeting with gas masks on. Things looked a lot worse then.

"That was before [the] Oslo [peace accords]. So step back from the daily news - where have we come in 10 years? Are we closer to peace with our neighbors or further away? I think we're a lot closer."

Although dialogue has been frozen for the time being between Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, where most of the violence is occurring, talks continue between Jews and Israeli Arabs, Kronish said.

Continuing dialogue

The ICCI's Jewish-Muslim dialogue group, which was set up last year, met during the last week in November.

"We had a long discussion on what we call `the situation,'" Kronish said. "Because we built up a relationship, we were able to share our feelings and grievances about it, but in a positive way. And we agreed to continue to dialogue."

Role of religion

Although there is a perception that religion has played a divisive role in the region, Kronish said he seeks to use the religious faith of Palestinians and Jews to bring about peace.

"We're developing a new task force made up of Jews and Muslims that will use a religious model for peace education, based on religious sources of the different traditions on the notions of reconciliation that exist within the different traditions," he said. "I call it religion in the service of peace, instead of terror, occupation or other things that are not too helpful."

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