MEETING ABRAM - session organised as part of the pilot workshops run by The ELIJAH Interfaith Institute, Jerusalem, Israel, June 2012

Coaches: Yael Unterman and Peta Pellach Jones

Text: Torah, Book of Genesis (11, 27-32)


WHAT ARE WE LIKE? The exercises in the beginning serve as an introduction to group work and reveal the topic of the session. Sitting in a circle we introduce ourselves to the group; we give our names and their interpretations by choosing a word that starts with the same letter. “Maria. M for Mind.” The next game we play is more dynamic – we express our preferences and choices by choosing a spot in relation to the far ends of the room marked by two scarves: “Yes” and “No”. We can stand next to one of them or somewhere in between. The leader asks the group some questions: “How much do I care about being fashionable? Am I a rule-breaker? In my spiritual life, am I different than other people, am I a spiritual nonconformist?” This exercise is sociometric in character; it shows some common grounds as well as the differences between members of the group. At the same time, it prepares us for in-depth analysis of words, which is the core of the Bibliolog method. The leader asks some people (especially those who presented resolute standpoints) further, more detailed questions. This way she's provoking them to speak more precisely and showing us the ambiguity of each statement, its multidimensionality.

GOD AND GODS. The leader gives each participant a fragment of text from the Book of Genesis (the beginning of the story of Abraham) which will be the subject of group analysis. They're given a short introduction to the biblical situation – those are the times of the fifth generation after the flood. Consecutively, everyone is reading out a sentence from the story – both in English and Hebrew. At the end, the leader repeats the most important facts, events, names of the characters and goes over the situation depicted in the text. She proposes that the participants embody four characters – Abram, his wife Sarai, his father Terah, and his Nephew Lot, who are setting out from Ur of the Chaldees to Harran. Everyone is sitting in accordance with the role they chose – in four separate spots – and they're asking each other questions from the perspective of the characters they're playing. Everyone can ask a question and give an answer based on their knowledge, sensitivity, and interpretation of the biblical text. “How is it, being a wife of Abram? He's great. He loves me, even though I can't have his child. What do you think about Lot? I feel very attached to him. I don't have my own kids, so I'm like a mother to him. Do you know why you can't have a baby? It's just a matter of time, a trial for our relationship, our unity. We're waiting.” The next stage of the game is Abram's confrontation with the people of Harran, believing in multiple gods. Again, everyone gets the chance to choose a role for themselves. The people of Harran arrange scarves to depict their gods and Abram asks them about their beliefs, the objects of their worship. “This is a star. Stars are always in the sky. This is the sun. Stars are only reflecting its glare. The sun is the source of the whole energy.” The leader is focused on Abram, asking him what he feels. “I have mercy for these people. They don't understand anything. I feel love and sympathy. I can see a real zeal of faith in them. But they're missing something...” Now the people start asking Abram some questions (during the conversation participants may change roles, switch sides): “You're lying. You're telling us you don't want to convince us of anything, but you're doing it all the time. Every one of you has a different god, so you can't be a community. I want to offer you unity. You're talking about some important matters, but you don't even have a child, unlike me.” One of the participants playing a member of the people of Harran starts to defend Abram: “I have many questions, but you only have answers – each of you a different one. I prefer asking.” At the end everyone has an opportunity to point out a moment of shared experiencing that was the most moving, significant to them. We're standing behind a chosen person and we're recalling one of their roles, repeating a line that we remembered. “You have many gods who divide. I have one God who unites.”

In Bibliolog the emphasis is placed on the in-depth analysis of texts. During a shared studying of the biblical content we always stay close to the word; we're looking for hidden truths and messages, information about the world and ourselves. The elements of acting, improvising, theatrical expression are irrelevant here. Verbal expression, naming, interpreting, defining terms and reaching to their meaning become the main methods of cognition and communication. The possibility of changing roles repeatedly during the activity is very valuable. It enables us to directly experience different perspectives and points of view, which is conducive to verification of attitudes and opinions; it facilitates dialogue with people who think differently.