Unfortunately not all our encounters were free from hatred! And events also conspired to affect our planned programme. We had arranged to begin the week with the British Ambassador discussing the international political perspective, but unfortunately he was recalled to London and had to cancel. We were also unable to meet either President Abbas or Saeb Erekat, as they were all involved in the Mediterranean Basin conference in France, so instead of a Palestinian perspective on the way forward to a settlement, we were treated to Mustafa Barghouti's partial (in both senses) historical narrative, leaving room for not a glimmer of hope. It was unfortunate also that this was our last day, and the bitter taste it left was not much relieved by the negativity of Mustafa Abu Sway about the "elitist" nature of interfaith dialogue in general. Our final session was only marginally less depressing, with two Israeli victims of terror at least showing us how it is possible to rise above bitterness to work for the common good.
Next time we need to end with something more positive, optimistic, and uplifting - perhaps as on the previous evening, on a roof overlooking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where Alon Goshen-Gottstein drew a comparison between the holiness of Shabbat which was ending, and the holiness of the purpose of the pilgrimage. Just as Judaism has the Havdalah ceremony to mark, and indeed metaphorically compensate for, the departure of that holiness, so our group needs a ceremony to mark our departure from the holiness of the Holy Land.
We will have an event, but not here or now - it will be some weeks before we can all meet again back in Scotland, but that is certainly our intention. We all undertook, when we signed up for this experience, and when the organisers sought public support for the project, that we would share our feelings, not only with each other, but with the wider public, and this we must now do. Media interest has not been exactly overwhelming - when is good news ever? - but that may change, and we need to devise a programme to promote our message to interested groups. We must also prepare to be assailed by the critics and the nay-sayers - and prepare to show them wrong. No harm can ever come from dialogue, for without dialogue how can there be understanding, and without understanding how can there be peace?
Ephraim Borowski is Director of Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Vice-Convener of BEMIS (the Scottish minority umbrella organisation), former treasurer of the Interfaith Council, and member of the Scottish Government Faith Liaison Committee.