Dormition Abbey3.jpgJERUSALEM (CNS) — Perched atop Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, just outside the walls of the Old City, the Benedictine Dormition Abbey has long been a place of informal encounters among all residents of the city. Through its concert series held monthly in the basilica, the Benedictine monks have brought adherents of various traditions and many tourists to their monastery to be inspired by the beauty of the music and the monastery. They also quietly have hosted other ecumenical meetings, peace dialogues and interreligious gatherings over the years. But following the outbreak of the second intifada, the monks sensed an urgent need for a more formalized format for peace encounters as a response to the suffering in the Holy Land, said Benedictine Father Johannes Oravecz, a monk at the abbey and director of the new Beit Benedict Peace Academy. But with the increasing level of violence and the ever-growing impasse in Palestinian-Israeli dialogue, the monks felt an urgent need to do more. Thus, in 2003 at the height of the intifada when they presented their annual peace award to two young peacemakers — one Israeli and one Palestinian — the monks realized that they were in a unique position to create a peace academy where both Israelis and Palestinians felt safe and comfortable to meet.