At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

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9780060505820: At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

A brilliantly observed memoir of an unprecedented and remarkable spiritual journey.

While religion has fuelled the often violent conflict plaguing the Holy Land, Yossi Klein Halevi wondered whether it could be a source of unity as well. To find the answer, this religious Israeli Jew began a two–year exploration to discover a common language with his Christian and Muslim neighbours. He followed their holiday cycles, befriended Christian monastics and Islamic mystics, and joined them in prayer in monasteries and mosques in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden traces that remarkable spiritual journey. Halevi candidly reveals how he fought to reconcile his own fears and anger as a Jew to relate to Christians and Muslims as fellow spiritual seekers. He chronicles the difficulty of overcoming multiple obstacles注eological, political, historical, and psychological注at separate believers of the three monotheistic faiths. And he introduces a diverse range of people attempting to reconcile the dichotomous heart of this sacred place柠struggle central to Israel, but which resonates for us all.

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Review:

Yossi Klein Halevi, born in America and now an Israeli citizen, embarked on a spiritual quest in order to appreciate the religious dimensions of conflicts in the Middle East. Beginning in 1998, he undertook "an attempt at religious empathy" in order "to test whether faith could be a means of healing rather than intensifying the conflicts in this land." Halevi, author of the critically acclaimed Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, chose "to pray and meditate with my Christian and Muslim fellow believers," as "a conscious refutation of the way we religious people of different faiths have always judged each other--by what we believe about God, rather than how we experience God's presence." The holy days of each religion form the structure of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden, and Halevi's encounters with Sufi dervishes, Muslim sheiks, monks, nuns, and laypeople are entertaining, poignant, and sometimes fearsome. The stories do not separate "spirituality" from "politics"--or history, psychology, or theology. His commitment to describing an integrated experience of the many aspects of religious life helps to make the book a successful exercise in empathy, and a book of lasting literary value. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

Yossi Klein Halevi is an American-born journalist who has lived in Jerusalem since 1982. He is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and the author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land and Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. He and his wife, Sarah, have three children.

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