On Monday, the paper-back version of my book, Deconstructing the Bible, was launched in a small library in Prestwich, a couple of streets away from where I was born. The Times has written an article about the launch here:
Most thrilling was that my younger daughter, Esther, had just arrived from India and had come up to Manchester specially for the launch.
Also among the audience were friends and colleagues from various study groups: a former Muslim Mayor of Manchester, the Head of the Black Pentacostalist Church in the North West, the Canon Theologian of the Anglican Cathedral, a BBC radio producer, a violinist from Salford Symphony orchestra, members of the Jewish community (including small children) and others who were just interested in having a party, which is what it was.
Kosher nibbles were provided care of the publisheres, Taylor and Francis. The whole thing was organised by St. Denys bookshop, affiliated to the Anglican Cathedral (they are starting their own blog, by the way) here in Manchester.
And Revd Steve Williams, who I taught for the first time 22 years ago, hosted and introduced the whole event on behalf of Bury Libraries.
Later, The Times, invited him to write a few words about the event, which appear in the link above.
I wore a very smart outfit which I had bought in Israel in aid of the Hadassah-Israel charities, so Marilyn Dori, if you see this blog, thanks a million for all your great help in every way in Haifa!
Photos of the event were taken by my friends, Jonathan Kemp and Revd Keith Trivasse, and The Times has used some of them in their article.
A member of the audience, former journalist, Natalie Wood, has also blogged on the event here:
Talking of Keith, the next day, on behalf of the Muslim-Christian Forum
I was invited to visit the Islamic Centre in Bury, in response to an invitation from Keith himself and his Muslim counterpart, Hassanat Ahmed, a lovely guy, who was most welcoming and hospitable. The subject matter was the somewhat delicate subject of Interfaith Dialogue in Israel, but I tried as best I could from my own experience to discuss how well integrated minority groups are in Haifa, especially in the academic and medical professions.
The question session was interesting. I was asked why there are not more Sephardi faces on the BBC. What is the meaning of the word 'Israel', and if Israel is a secular country.
There was great interest in the fact that at Haifa University there was until recently a prayer room for Muslims, but not for Jews. I was asked why by a small child, and I said that probably the Jewish students and staff just hadn't asked for one!
After my talk, there was a lively discussion between members themselves on Forum business, which reminded me of a typical shul meeting. And then kosher fish-balls and accompanying veg were served, courtesy of the local Jewish deli in Bury New Rd! What an amazing surprise. And somehow very moving.
I was thanked for coming, told I was brave for venturing into unknown territory, and invited to future meetings of a Sufi nature, something I write about in the book on ibn Ezra:
Tonight, my daughter Esther and I attended a Yom ha-Atzmaut party in Prestwich, invited by Jonathan Kemp's wife, Sarah. This reminded me so much of the barbecues commonly held in Israel on this day:
Israel is just 61 years old. One of the Christian members of the Muslim-Christian Forum had been critical of Israel, but admitted that she had last visited it only 10 years ago. That is a sixth of its whole life ago. Just as if Britain were judged on how it was in the 17th century: you know - The Civil War, witch-hunts and the like!
The feeling of the place was incredible and I truly experienced a great warmth. Things seem to be happening in Bury and I hope that one day Christians, Muslims and Jews will all sit down together, as they did at my book launch, and begin the real task of repairing the world as one.