Dialogue with Israel was nearly derailed by the February 6 vote by General Synod “to disinvest from companies profiting” from Israel’s “illegal occupation” of the territories. Jewish leaders had been assured privately by Lambeth Palace before the start of Synod that divestment would not come up for vote and were shocked when it was debated and passed with the endorsement of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A meeting in May with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel was postponed but the new joint dialogue will take place on September 5 after months of negotiation.
Plans for the May meeting were set on January 8 by Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations; Oded Weiner, Director General of the Chief Rabbinate; and Dr Williams’ Interfaith Advisor, Canon Guy Wilkinson. Archbishop Williams has visited Israel twice since taking office in 2003, last meeting the Chief Rabbis in January 2004. “The present stance of the Rabbis towards a reciprocal visit to London to meet with Dr Williams is that they are waiting for additional clarification,” Rabbi Rosen said after the Synod vote, adding that he was “hopeful that the obstacles will be cleared”.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said he hoped the meetings would take place as the proper “response was not to break off dialogue” with the Church of England, “but to intensify it”. Dr Williams apologised for the distress caused to the Jewish community in Britain by the Synod vote, and wrote to the Chief Rabbis of Israel on February 10 explaining his vote was “emphatically not to commend a boycott, or to question the legitimacy of Israel and its rights to self-defence”. The Anglican-Jewish dialogue will entail a process of careful listening that “will take note of such common experience and current situations that can form the basis for further discussion and reflection” between the two faiths.
“The hope is that this dialogue will model ways in which mutual concern for peace, security and respect can be openly demonstrated,” Lambeth Palace stated. In a statement released last week, Lambeth Palace stated Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger would meet Dr Rowan Williams to establish a new joint dialogue process between Judaism and the Anglican Communion.