Maariv reports that Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a dean in the Yeshiva of Otniel, visited a Muslim teacher at Al Azhar University in Cairo.
Al Azhar is the most important Sunni Muslim institution in the world.
He went there together with with Rebecca Abramson, a Haredi peace activist, and Professor Joseph Ringel. They went to visit Sheikh Dr. Omar Salem, whom Nagan describes as a friend, and who also promotes dialogue with Jews.
|Rabbi Nagen and his wife|
"We had a fascinating meeting with Dr. Bakr Zaki Awad, dean of the school of al-Azhar religious law," Nagen told Maariv."His field is comparing the Koran to the Torah and the New Testament. All his life he learns Torah yet he never met a Jew. Suddenly he had a chance to ask all the questions he had accumulated over all these years.
"We went into his office, a huge room full of students and professors, and we had a difficult conversation.
"One of the professors posed a long list of difficult questions about Judaism, we had answers to many of them but we felt that just responding would not allow the positive atmosphere we sought. Instead, I told the professor: these are powerful questions you are raising, much of my life I have been grappling for answers, but I try never to let these questions undermine my knowledge of the essence of the Torah the same way I never let questions I have on the Koran undermine my knowledge of what is the essence of the Koran.
"So I changed the conversation to a language that gives positive energy . I showed them how the Mishna and the fifth Sura of the Koran have virtually identical statement: 'Anyone who saves one life saves the entire world,' that is the essence of the sanctity of life which is also in the Koran and the Torah."
The three Israelis went to visit the Central Synagogue of Cairo, still dressed as Muslims, taking photos and video. People thought that they were performing surveillance for a terror attack and the police detained them until they showed them their (American) passports.
They had one terrifying experience when they went to meet with a professor from the University of the Fayum, the birthplace of Rabbi Saadia Gaon. The soldiers that protect tourists there noticed that they were Jews and started shouting, one asking if they prayed for Palestinian children who are killed. Nagan answered that he did, and asked him if he prayed for Jewish children killed. They were taken to the police and their passports taken away, but in the end they were released.
On Facebook, Rabbi Nagen says "I will end with the powerful story told to us by one of the Al-Azhar professors after hearing that we are Jews: One day someone came and knocked on the gate of the palace identifying himself as the brother of the Caliph. The visitor is ushered in, but the Caliph isn't able to recognize his brother. The Caliph asks "are you my brother through my mother?" "No" is the reply.
"Are you my brother through my father"?
Again the answer in negative.
Again the answer in negative.
The caliph continues to think and finally asks again "are you my brother in Islam"?
The visitor answers "I am not a Muslim"
"So how are you my brother?"
"I am your brother as all of us are children of Adam and Eve."
The caliph responds: "you are right, I will treat as my brother to demonstrate this to the world".
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