went on the Pilgrimage with an open mind. As a Jew I thought I knew the Israeli side of the story but was keen to see the Palestinian view and to get the perspective of the other faiths. I was unsure as to what we could achieve as a diverse group from Scotland.
The overwhelming message I got was that the people of Israel and Palestine want peace, and that this applies to Jews, Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and others. What was very noticeable was that these people ignored much of the day-to-day hardship they faced so that they could strive for a peaceful coexistence. Maybe we got a slightly biased picture as we were on a Peace Pilgrimage, but I hope not, even the politicians were realistic when they spoke to us! The fact that faith leaders in Jerusalem met each other for the first time because we were there was real benefit of our visit if somewhat surprising!
As a group we were very harmonious, learning more about each others’ faiths and beliefs. Spending quality time together sparked lots of thoughts, and these will hopefully generate many ideas to be taken forward now we are back in Scotland. I hope we can all now work together to talk to our communities, preferably in forums where members of several faiths come together, we can thereby spread our knowledge and understanding. By doing so we can try to ensure the Middle East does not distort relationships between the various Scottish ethnic and religious communities.
Visiting the holy sites of the various faiths helped us to realise the physical issues facing the people of Israel and Palestine. They sit cheek-by-jowl, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem. The need for groups within the faiths to address their internal issues were also highlighted and brought home the complexity of the issues of “land” and “possession”.
The organisation was excellent, itself showing lots of cooperation between the various faiths, and having Eliyahu MacLean as out guide was excellent, if somewhat surreal – he is both a halachically orthodox Jew and of genuine Scottish decent (a very rare combination)!
Philip Mendelsohn is President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, Vice- Chairman of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, and member of the Glasgow Forum of Faiths.