The week has been exhausting and exhilarating! A privileged opportunity to experience first hand something of life for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.
I have discovered how difficult it is to try and separate the 'political' from the 'religious' - both are inextricably bound up with the other. Some of the speakers have left me with a sense of foreboding for the future in the Holy Land, and yet others - often those whose faith was deep-rooted and self-evident, some of the rabbis for instance - have been an inspiration; living examples of how it is possible to be passionate and dedicated to a faith or cause (or both!) and yet be open to and respectful of 'the other'. Words of Rabbi Melchior remain with me, 'If we crush the other person, we crush the image of God.' These people continually rekindle the possibility of peace - as do all those involved in the youth movements such as One Voice - great stuff and great hope!
The most profound experience for me has been to journey with others as part of a Scottish interfaith group. Seven faiths represented, and all travelling from one Scotland!
The mutual respect and trust made challenging conversations 'safe' and possible. And through the week there was plenty of humour and laughter too. For me, this week has brought into relief so much that we have in common as Scottish men and women. We have brought back from the Holy Land a precious shared experience waiting to be shared with others and yet actually I think that we took something 'holy' with us; ourselves - a diverse group who travelled together and who enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends and contacts.
A thoroughly worthwhile experience which has left me with a great sense of appreciation for what we often take for granted here - a beautiful and peaceful country which we make all the richer as people of different faiths.
Andrew Richardson is a parish priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church and Anglican Chaplain at Dundee University. He is a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church Committee for Relations with People of Other Faiths, and takes a keen interest in interfaith matters.