PUPILS from two city schools – one Jewish and the other Muslim – have come together to form an after-hours organisation promoting religious education and tolerance.
The Ishmael Isaac Society was launched by pupils from Herzlia High and Islamia College late last year and has more than 120 members. Its founders had taken part in the two-year Interfaith Intercultural Twinning and Exchange Programme, organised by Marlene Silbert, to promote understanding between pupils of different faiths.
Silbert said the pupils decided to keep in touch by forming the society.
“It brings them together so they can talk and have meaningful dialogue. It is wonderful.”
Pupils from other schools had expressed interest in joining the society and it was “expanding exponentially”. They planned to meet twice a term and arrangements were being made to visit a church, mosque, synagogue, temple and other places of worship.
The society is named after the prophet whose name is Ishmael in Arabic and Isaac in Hebrew, and whose story is told in Islam and Judaism.
Islamia College teacher Achmat Marcus said he had facilitated the first society meeting this year and encouraged pupils to say how much they knew about the others’ religion.
“There are so many similarities, yet there is so much we don’t know. We have a lot to learn from each other. Through different perspectives they see things differently.”
Grade 12 Herzlia High pupils Shannon Pincus and Zena Kruss van der Heever said they had enjoyed learning about the differences and similarities between the religions.
“We discussed the importance of the Ishmael Isaac Society and the importance of having that space,”
said Van der Heever.
Pincus said it had been fascinating to see the Islamia College pupils perform their prayers. “You got to see the respect they have for their religion. It was an inclusive thing to understand it by witnessing it.” Silbert said she had begun the twinning and exchange programme with 15 pupils from five schools across Cape Town in 2011.
At first pupils met once a week and got to know each other and each other’s faiths before introducing interfaith clubs and societies in their schools. In the second year, they tutored younger children at Siyazingisa Primary School in Gugulethu.
Schools that have participated in the programme include South Peninsula High, Oude Molen High, Spine Road Secondary, Zola Senior Secondary, Leadership College, Phoenix Secondary, Iqhayiya Secondary, Rylands High and Manyano High. About 60 pupils have taken part.