Tree of Life Educational Fund
Our Work in Palestine and Israel
Following the tragedy of 9/11, our Board of Deacons raised the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Recognizing the fundamental role of religion in Middle Eastern conflicts, it was determined that we needed to not only encourage unity among Christian communities, but also help build more of an interfaith community in Southeastern Connecticut, in order to constructively address those conflicts.
These discussions ultimately led to the “World House Journey to Israel and Palestine” – an overseas visit led by the ministers of our church and the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. The original group of travelers included people with a variety of beliefs – Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Native American.
During this journey, we established a special friendship with Beit Sahour, a small, predominantly Christian community neighboring Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank. .
In 2002, we established the Tree of Life Educational Fund – a new nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide cross-cultural opportunities that educate and enlighten our congregation and local community, and help foster a more just and peaceful world.
Each year, the Fund organizes a new journey to Israel and Palestine. On these journeys, we continue to strengthen and deepen our friendship with the community of Beit Sahour. Since 2004, we have welcomed a number of young Palestinians musicians from Beit Sahour and other communities, who have performed wonderful concerts at special events here in Connecticut and, sometimes, across the U.S.
Through the Fund, we have established partnerships with charitable organizations both abroad (the Shoruq Organization, the Parents Circle/Family Forum, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) and at home (the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Council on American-Islamic Relations).
Our church also holds Tree of Life events throughout the year that bring together Jewish, Muslim and Christian voices of conscience from across the U.S., Israel and the occupied territories; and provides scholarship assistance to students at Bethlehem University.