Common Ground for Peace in Israel and Palestine

ICPJ’s Common Ground Working Group exists to heal the fractured local community on issues of a Middle East peace by addressing issues that divide us.

Main Objectives

  • Organize dialogue-focused and action-focused events and programs for peace and justice
  • Organize events that attract broad participation that promote community cooperation
  • Widen participation in our community on issues of Middle East peace by reaching out to folks from underrepresented communities, especially the Arab and Muslim communities
  • Advocate for a more just U.S. policy on the middle east
  • Continue raising money for humanitarian aid

Current Programs and Events

Common Ground’s Recent Programs (2007-2010)

  • Organized an Interfaith Dialogue Series to share perspectives on Middle East peace and to transform ourselves by opening ourselves to the truths of others for the sake of building common ground and mutual respect (Fall 2009).
  • Hosted Muslim Movie Series: A film series highlighting movies on Islam, Muslim youth culture, and Muslim identity to increase awareness about Islam and Muslim Culture in the U.S., dispel misconceptions, and build understanding

    Dawud Walid of CAIR-MI speaks on informants in Mosques at Journey Into America showing

Common Ground’s Muslim Movie Series has offered four community screenings of current films about Muslims and Islam in America:

  • Drafted the Letter to Annapolis (Peace Statement) (sent to the Secretary of State and the President and to other Annapolis participants).
  • Organized the “Sacred Texts and the Heart of Peace” Event (with speakers of the three Abrahamic religions)
  • Organized Scriptural Reasoning Events #I: “How does our faith teach that we should treat ‘the other, the neighbor, the stranger’? and #2: “This World and the World to Come: How Our Faiths Balance the Present and the Future” with 60-80 in attendance for each
  • Showed “Encounter Point” as a fundraiser for Gaza relief and raised over $200 to send to Doctors Without Borders in Gaza
  • Currently co-sponsoring the upcoming Morikawa Conference with First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor
  • Participated in demonstration on campus for Gaza
  • Co-sponsored IPCRI speakers about “Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations” at First Baptist Church and at the Jewish Community Center

Common Ground is creating stronger bonds between people of different faiths and background and fostering an ability in this community to work together across differences.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009* – An Evening with Alice Rothchild. Dr. Rothchild discussed her experiences as a doctor and peace activist in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as well as her book, Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish & Palestinian Trauma & Resilience. 7:00 PM, Ann Arbor Library (Fifth and William). Book signing following at Primo Coffee House (Corner of Fifth and Liberty). Co-sponsors: Inter-denominational Advocates for Peace, Palestine-Israel Action Group,  & ICPJ’s Common Ground Group.

*View footage of this event in its entirety here! [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 540 410]

Friday, February 27, 2009 Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel, speaks on his vision for peace in the Middle East and on his new book, A Palestinian-Christian Cry for Reconciliation, at St. Clare’s Episcopal Church, Ann Arbor.

Naim Ateek at St. Clare\’s

More speakers and events TBA…

Scriptural Reasoning IV – Reconciliation in the Sacred Texts

Scriptural Reasoning is an emerging practice among and between Christians, Jews and Muslims which involves reading their sacred Scriptures together and reasoning together on particular contemporary issues. The practice grounds discussion in the respective religious texts, encouraging participants to be both self-critical and deeply rooted in their commitments to their own particular faith.

The fourth event in this series took place on Thursday, March 19th, 7-8:30pm at St. Clare’s Episcopal Church/Temple Beth Emeth (2309 Packard St., Ann Arbor).

View footage from this event here: 

Introductions and Christian Text [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 640 510]

Jewish Text [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 640 510]

Muslim Text [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 640 510]

Question #1: On representation of Muslims in the Media [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 640 510]

Question #2: On the role of power in reconciliation [iframe” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash 640 510]

The speakers for this event included: Rev. James Rhodenhiser of St. Clare’s Episcopal Church, Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg of the Pardes Hannah minyan in Ann Arbor and Associate Professor of Jewish Thought and Mysticism at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Soraya Orady, founder and president of the Islamic Education and Resources Network (ILearn).  Light refreshments will be served. These speakers presented texts on reconciliation and brief interpretations. Small group interfaith discussions and a question and answer session with the speakers followed.

Download texts-and-discussion-questions from this event!

Jan 2009 – Article on Gaza written by ICPJ Intern Noor Ali published in Ann Arbor News

Dec 2008 – Candle Light Vigil and Teach-In for Human Rights

December 10th, 2008 is International Human Rights Day, and demonstrations will be taking place across the world to promote human rights. Join us for the action in Ann Arbor! Visit for more info.

Nov 2008 – Morikawa Conference: “Religion and Peacemaking In the Middle East”

Thank you for attending the 2008 Morikawa Conference (! Hundreds of community members of different faith backgrounds came together for this interfaith gathering to promote peace in the Middle East.

ICPJ Dinner & Movie: Knowledge is the Beginning.

Thursday, December 4th, 2008 - Knowledge is the Beginning is the story of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, where young Arabs and Jews perform and live side by side. It is a film about what music can do; the way it can transcend cultural barriers, bring people together, defeat prejudice and overcome religious and political differences. It also demonstrates the problems that crop up occasionally and how music can help people from different points of view find common ground. For Daniel Barenboim, founder of the ensemble, the orchestra is a symbol for what could be achieved in the Middle East.

“I think that the West-Eastern Divan gives us an idea of what the Middle East might be. And I hope that my film helps to illuminate the power of Daniel Barenboim’s vision – of a productive and harmonious Arab-Israeli co-existence.”
–Paul Smaczny, Director

Scriptural Reasoning III focuses on Hunger and Eating in the Scriptures
View these documents for texts and discussion questions from this event:

Scriptural Reasoning II unites Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others in discussion about “This World and the World to Come”
Over 80 local community members of different faiths and backgrounds joined together on August 28th, 2008 for a shared meal and a shared discussion on their faith traditions and the afterlife. Participants heard from three established scholars from the three Abrahamic traditions with perspectives on “This World and the World to Come” using scriptural interpretation. Following these introductions, participants spoke with one another about their own questions, interpretations, and understandings. This event, one in a series of Scriptural Reasoning events, uniquely allows people of difference to discover mutual respect for one another. This process ultimately leads to the establishment of common understanding and common ground on which to move forward for peace in our community and in the world.

Thank you to our insightful speakers:
Heather Laird, M.A. in Political Science and Arabic & Islamic Studies, President of Muslim Social Services of Washtenaw Cty., Fellow for the Institute of Social Policy & Understanding
Rev. Paul Duke, First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, adjunct professor at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit
Rabbi Robert Dobrusin, Beth Israel Congregation of Ann Arbor
And thank you to all who participated!

Download the event TEXTS and DISCUSSION QUESTIONS here.

Download a VIDEO of the event here. (This is the unedited footage of the event thanks to a generous volunteer who video-taped it in full.)