Reviewed by Dr. Eugene J. Fisher Distinguished Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University
Rabbi Kronish is the recently retired Founding Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel which he lead for a quarter of a century. His book details his personal involvement in what is one of the most significant interreligious dialogues in the world, the relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel and the surrounding areas, and relations with the small Christian minority and its contacts with the larger Christian communities around the world. Kronish, who is a participant and has helped set up ongoing dialogues and programs in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations in Israel, provides an overview of that work, and draws lessons for other interreligious dialogues around the world. Americans, especially can learn from and should be thankful for this excellent book.
The difference between the dialogues and programs described by Kronish and those of other books in the interreligious field is that, as the author states repeatedly, the dialogues in the Middle East can have and in many cases do have a positive influence on the ongoing, crucial and difficult peace process between Israel and Palestine. Lives are quite literally at stake. While not political in nature, these religious peace building dialogues can help bring about a deeper understanding of the needs of the “other” communities and help indirectly the peacemaking efforts of diplomats and political leaders of their respective communities.
Kronish begins with a brief narration of how he became a “humanistic/progressive/liberall/Zionist” rabbi and why, he and his wife made aliyah, moving “up” to live in Israel to devote their lives to interreligious relations as a way of building constructive joint engagement of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the land all three consider to be holy. He gives a sense of the history of efforts to bring peace between Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring Muslim nations. He describes in detail the religious, ethnic, and political diversity within the Arab/Muslim community and the areas of internal agreement, including the Christian communities as well. Through his many dialogues he has come to understand these communities as they understand themselves, and portrays them with accuracy and empathy, noting the shortcomings of Israeli Jews no less than those of other communities.
Kronish details his involvement in the international dialogues between the Holy See and the worldwide Jewish people, narrating the significance of Pope St. John Paul's personal involvement in the dialogue and of his pilgrimage to Jordan and Israel, highlighting the pope's placing a prayer of repentance in the Western Wall for Christian sins and violence against Jews over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust, and for reconciliation in our time (Nostra Aetate) between the the Jewish People and the Catholic Church, worldwide.
The “new model” of dialogue that he presents is not entirely new and has precedents and parallels in the dialogues especially in the United States, but also in Europe. Implementing such dialogues in Israel and Palestine, however, was and is a very difficult process, and indeed a uniquely difficult context for developing such relations. Kronish concludes with the lessons he has learned and some important thoughts on where Jewish/Christian/Muslim dialogue can go in the future. This is a “must read” book for anyone interesting in the Abrahamic trialogue.
Eugene J. Fisher, Distinguished Professor of Theology,