Israeli scholars Dr. Eldad Pardo and Poetess Shelly Elkayam spoke at the UTS community chapel on Wednesday October 31. Dr. Wilson opened the service by reading from the Jewish parsha (Torah portion) for the week, Genesis 23-25 concerning the death of Abraham and Sarah. Remarkably, this portion contains amazing interfaith material, particularly Genesis 25:9, in which Isaac and Ishmael, representing Judeo-Christianity and Islam, cooperated as one in burying their father Abraham.
Mrs. Elkayam lifted up another verse, about Abraham's second wife Keturah and her children, who, she pointed out, represent the wisdom of the Eastern religions. Abraham sent the children of his second wife and concubine "to the east country" and gave them the gifts of wisdom about God, which according to Kabbalah means that the eastern religions are also connected to Abraham.
Dr. Pardo spoke about a conference in Qatar, where he presented a paper on the different and clashing views of unity in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, which he regards as at the heart of the mideast conflict.
According to Dr. Pardo, the Islamic vision of unity is a single state, a Caliphate, in which all people bow before Islam; and this can be installed by force. Christianity promotes a spiritual unity. Judaism, on the other hand, regards respect for particularity as the basis for peaceful community. Thus the Jews in their particular chosenness can respect the other faiths for their particular chosenness, each being chosen for some special and unique mission.
Shelly Elkayam ended the service with a beautiful prayer in English and Hebrew.
Dr. Eldad Pardo is a professor at Hebrew University, an expert on contemporary Iranian religious and political affairs, and the chairperson of the Study Group on Religious Actors in Conflict Situations at the Truman Institite for International Peace. Shelly Elkayam is a well-known Sephardic poetess in Israel; she is studying Kabbalah at Bar Ilan University for her Ph.D. and is also a fellow at the Truman Institute. Both are Ambassadors for Peace, and were instrumental in hosting Martin Luther King III and Hyun Jin Moon at Hebrew University earlier this year.