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Yossi Klein Halevi, Interfaith Empathy, Knitting and Me

Yossi Klein Halevi, Interfaith Empathy, Knitting and Me

As part of my interfaith journey with Stitched Glass and The Knitting Pilgrim, I am trying to spend time with people of several faiths, especially Judaism, Islam, and yes, my own faith, Christianity.


On Saturday, November 24th, Claire and I attended a compelling session at Beth Tzedec Congregation with author Yossi Klein Halevi.


This was an especially meaningful moment for me because, 10 years ago, when I was just beginning my research on Stitched Glass’ Judaic tapestry, I met a Rabbi in one of the one-on-one interviews I was doing to discuss the tapestry’s imagery. He asked me if I had read At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land by Yossi Klein Halevi. I hadn’t. He suggested I read the book and come back when I had read it.


The Rabbi was right. Yossi’s book turned out to be a seminal one for me.

KD knitting in front of Beth Tzedec.jpg



So much of Yossi’s book has stuck with me. Here is one passage that I have often quoted:


“If God is literally one, and all of creation is a projection of that unified will, then every living thing exists within the same organism, is in effect a cell in the divine “body,” as mystics insist. I am implicated in all of creation, nothing alive is extraneous to me. And so all love is ultimately self-love; all hatred, self-hate. For the radical monotheist, empathy is the only possible state of being: Human oneness isn’t a philosophical notion or a moral imperative but simply a fact.” (pxvii, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden)


On Saturday night, I realized that Beth Tzedec’s Rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, had also kindly spoken to me during that research period. So I approached him with Claire at the end of the talk to thank him for his help, to tell him about my connection to Yossi, and to also let him know that, after 15 years, Stitched Glass was finally finished.


I showed him photos of the tapestries on my cell phone. He lifted his glasses onto his forehead and looked at them closely.


Then he insisted we introduce ourselves to Yossi, so that he would know the impact his book had had on my work. Rabbi Baruch told us that At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden was supposed to have its book launch on Sept 11, 2001. The terrible tragedy that day prevented the launch from happening, and Yossi thereafter, in the light of 9/11’s events, had ambivalent feelings about the book as a whole. I told him how much it had affected me in a strong and positive way – how much it had contributed to my journey. One I am still on.


Yossi offered to sign my copy of his book, which Claire thought to bring along. I passed it to him, and he thumbed through it. Well-used he said. Yep, I said.


At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden book.jpg


Yossi told us that At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden is being reprinted in a new edition soon. Which is wonderful.


Yossi has written more books since then: Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided A Nation (2013), and Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor (2018), which I cannot wait to read.


Now that Stitched Glass is finished, I finally have some time.  


Coming together in solidarity with Danforth Jewish Circle

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend The Danforth Jewish Circle twice in the last month – both prompted by the recent terrible anti-Semitic events in Pittsburgh on October 27. I can’t say that the reasons we came together are positive – but the act of coming together is positive unto itself. 


On Nov 2, the Danforth Jewish Circle held a “ring of peace” Solidarity Shabbat Service. While the service unfolded inside, the Danforth community, people of all faiths, surrounded the building in a ring of peace. It was profoundly moving.


In this time of polarized opinions about seemingly everything, not just religion, it is good to come together. To remember that we have the same wants and dreams: to live in peace and harmony. It sounds clichéd, but it’s only a cliché because it’s what we all think about and wish for.


On Nov 20, I attended a session at the DJC, which was a chance for reflection and discussion about what happened in Pittsburgh. To discuss our own connections to anti-Semitism, to understand how we feel in a world where this is still a problem, and what to do about it.


Even though I am not Jewish, it felt vital to participate in the conversation about this alarming problem. I am an ally. I am part of the solution. The coming together is part of that solution. Thanks to Olev, the Third Space committee and Rabbi Miriam for the event and their warm reception to me and Claire.


Coming together with friends from all walks – as well as Christians, Jews and Muslims – is the journey that Stitched Glass and The Knitting Pilgrim continue to take me on. I am grateful for that.


I keep thinking of the image of the dove of peace – a common symbol in all three Abrahamic faiths –and one that appears in each of the three tapestries of Stitched Glass:

Judaic Dove.png

Dove of Shalom

Judaic Tapestry

Christian Dove.png

Dove of Peace

Christian Tapestry

Islamic Dove.png

Dove of Salaam

Islamic Tapestry

Peace is the thing we all want. Where we fall down is how we try to achieve it. Those who try to achieve peace through violence will find it elusive. The best they can hope for is a victory resulting in a temporary cessation of hostilities. Real peace can only be achieved through justice, communication, patience, and compassion. Much more difficult work than violence.