יום שישי, פברואר 16, 2007

 

Abraham's path

Two researchers are following the footsteps of the religious patriarch, Abraham, in the hope that people will rediscover their common roots, reported the Christian Science Monitor on February 13. Briton Daniel Adamson and Jordanian Mahmoud Twaissi are tracking Abraham's route from Haran, Turkey, through Syria and Jordan, and into the West Bank, using GPS devices and Google Earth. Later they will continue their research into Egypt. They hope eventually that conditions will allow them to include Iraq (where Abraham's initial home of Ur is located).

To its initiators, the dream of building the path presents an endless array of possibilities: for religious pilgrimages, for developing the region's underrealized tourism potential, and, most important, for breaking down barriers of fear and misunderstanding between East and West.

Of course, the goal of a tourist path and multi-faith pilgrimages through this trouble region is quite distant. But their fusion of religion and ground-level peace-making is a welcome change. The project is being sponsored by the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard University.

"I've worked in the Middle East on and off since the late 1970s, and it seemed that among those of us who were looking for political solutions tended to kind of steer away from religion," [Howard] Ury [of Harvard] says in a phone interview from his office in Boston. The feeling he says, was "Don't go to close too religious issues – because that's too regressive, it's too hot."

"The Oslo process [to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] failed in part because of that. The question came to me, 'What if you actually welcomed in the constructive role of religion, the ancient beliefs and ancient texts?'

"It occurred to me that Abraham was the single most underutilized resource in the Middle East. He represents faith, hospitality, kindness towards others. So the question was, could one somehow evoke the ancient stories to be a catalyst for coexistence, as well as understanding and even an economic source for growth."

It is a fascinating story and project. Ury notes in the article that the Jordanian government may be ready to work on expanding its own tourism potential by developing the Abraham Path through its territory.

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