The Day the Sheikh visited the Yeshiva

Sheikh Omer Salem, known for his unorthodox take on the Jewish-Moslem conflict, visited Ohr Torah Stone’s Yeshivat Hesder Beren-Machanaim in Gush Etzion, where he spoke with students.

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Arutz Sheva Staff | 07 January, 2019

(Translated from Hebrew) 

Rabbi Vilk with Sheikh Omer SalemA unique encounter took place this week in Gush Etzion when the Egyptian Muslim Sheikh, Dr. Omer Salem, came on a visit to OTS’s Robert M. Beren Yeshivat Hesder Machanaim in Gush Etzion, where he met with students.

This inter-religious meeting, which in addition to other subjects also focused on the peace process, could have been a true sensation, especially because it took place in a ‘conflict zone’; however, Dr. Salem arrived in order to talk with the yeshiva students about the joint future of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Mediterranean area, and, more specifically, in Israel.

I see the Quran as holding the key to teaching us how to achieve peace, as well as paving the paths of righteousness and virtue in the daily lives of Muslims and Jews,” says Salem. “As people of faith and the People of the Book, I believe the solution to the problem to be a very simple one. The Jews see the Land of Israel as the Promised Land; a physical place enabling a connection between God and mankind. Furthermore, following the Holocaust, persecutions and the Crusades, Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel also means having a haven for all Jews. But let us not forget that in wake of Mohammed and his endeavors, the Muslims, too, view the Holy Land as a sacred place. For this reason, the Torah must be the guiding star here,” he says.

Dr. Salem sees no reason why Arabs and Jews should not live side-by-side in eternal peace. “The time has come to stop using politics alone to resolve the conflict between us. We must adopt a new approach, where religious leaders act as mediators: Jewish rabbis who are guided by the values of Torah alongside Sheikhs and Muslim Imams who hold the Quran dear. We must meet face-to-face and discuss the things that are really important. As religious leaders, we believe the following two things take priority over all else: living with a sense of security and being able to enjoy freedom of religion and worship.

For this very reason, religious leaders must take initiative and lead the way in any peace process. If rabbis or, at the very least, religious values and symbols were included in the peace process, things would look very different, and we would probably be witness to meaningful progress on the way to a solution,” he adds.

The sheikh addresses studentsFollowing the words of the Sheikh, the head of Yeshivat Beren-Machanaim, Rabbi Shlomo Vilk, offered concluding remarks and summed up the event. “First and foremost, we can learn a great lesson in principles from the words of the Sheikh, whose modern approach and discourse on peace are not detached from his core values and culture; nor does he confine himself to a discourse on peace that is based on comfort and economy.”

Rabbi Vilk continued: “I think it goes without saying that both parties envision the final Redemption in ways that are very different, and which can never really converge. We believe in the God of Israel, who will rule the world, and in His Torah, which will be a light unto the nations. However, what can still bring hope into the present is our common belief in the worship of God, moral values and human dignity. The question of who will be the ultimate ruler is less important. Especially so because the Jewish People has no desire to control the world; we only seek to control ourselves, in every sense of the word. ”

“Our Sages tell us that because of internal strife over ‘Who will lead?’ Messiah was lost to us in the past, and now, too, we are preventing our Redemption for the very same reason. Instead of concerning ourselves with the question of who will rule, we would do better to focus on tomorrow and consider the best way to build a joint future, based on understanding and a binding covenant. When the true Messiah does come – please God soon – then and only then might we tackle the question of who will lead,” said Rabbi Vilk.


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