Eldad Rafaeli

Texts for Tolerance

At the Hinam Center in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, in a stone structure more than one hundred years old, a group of men and women, Arabs and Jews, and religious and secular Israelis come together to read texts. Not just any texts: The Koran, the Torah, and other religious writings. And by this very act, they’ve established — in both theory and practice — a different type of study hall. A study hall for tolerance.

At the Hinam Center, everyone of every religion, every nationality, and every gender — is invited to study together, and to learn from one another. Who attends? Haredim from Telz-Stone, residents of the nearby kibbutz in Kiryat Anavim, neighbors in Abu Ghosh — everyone with an open mind and heart. In a practice nicknamed “barefoot reading”, they approach texts without reference to prior knowledge, and without the help of an interpretative tradition. Rather, they strive for a raw and authentic encounter, the kind that leaves you with food for thought.

At Hinam, there is no attempt to resolve disputes or patch over disagreements. Instead, the only goal is to get to know one another. Politics, like coats, are left at the door. Everyone enters in his or her natural state: as curious, knowledge-seeking people. In a country as small but as diverse as Israel, this curiosity and search for knowledge can be a very good thing, as the growing, thriving community that has sprung up around Hinam makes clear.