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Barring Congresswomen from Israel does nothing to help the dialogue

Barring Congresswomen from Israel does nothing to help the dialogue
Israel barred Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting the country after a tweet from President Donald Trump urging so. Officials reversed that decision for Ms. Tlaib, with certain stipulations, but she has declined to visit. (SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

I was very sad to see Israel deny visas to Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Even a brief review of their itinerary makes their perspective clear — they have no intention of being friends with Israel, and I understand the fear at play (“Israel blocks visit by congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib with support from Trump, who asserts the two Democrats hate ‘all Jewish people,’” Aug. 15).

However, as a former Israel skeptic who was a participant in the Christian Leadership Institute at the Shalom-Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, I can say that sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant. After spending two summers in Israel and the West Bank, meeting religious and secular leaders on all sides of the conflict, I have a much richer understanding of the Israel-Palestine stalemate. We spent time in refugee camps and settlements, with the families of suicide bombers and the families of their victims. We all came away with a real appreciation for the different challenges faced by Israelis and Palestinians, for the diversity of Israeli life and the richness of Palestinian culture. Most importantly we left understanding that above all, more dialogue and interaction is needed at all levels of discourse.

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Denying visas and limiting travel only shuts down the conversation. I hope that the representatives will consider modifying their itinerary to include Israeli voices and I hope the state of Israel will reconsider.

Rev. Grey Maggiano, Baltimore

The writer is rector for Memorial Episcopal Church.

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