Israel: Latest achievements of the religious initiative

October 3, 2012

Since 2004, Base for Discussion (B4D), the Interpeace programme in Israel, has been working with previously excluded, yet influential, sectors of Israeli society. B4D engages them in dialogue and enables participants to reflect on the range of opinions that could be solutions to the conflict in the region. The programme is currently engaging with the following groups: the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, the traditional religious population and the Russian speaking population.

Over the course of the next year the initiative aims to reach out to even more groups of Israeli society such as government representatives, the Palestinian religious leadership and representatives of the Arab League, to launch a ‚ÄúReligious Peace Initiative‚ÄĚ.

The religious lens

One of the achievements of B4D‚Äôs project with the traditional religious population is the establishment of a ‚ÄúCommittee of Rabbis.‚ÄĚ The graduates of B4D‚Äôs 18-month educational programme decided to establish the Committee, in partnership with the Van-Leer Institute in Jerusalem, to share what they have learned with their own communities. Encouraging broad-based dialogue among rabbinical leaders will bring change to their communities.

Showing support across religious boundaries

Following the religious slander at the Latrun Monastery, the ‚ÄúCommittee of Rabbis‚ÄĚ reached out to the members of the community there. The rabbis visited the monastery and offered their support.

This incident highlighted the need for an inclusive strategy and might have escalated had the ‚ÄúCommittee of Rabbis‚ÄĚ not promptly organized a meeting. This kind of work is essential to improve understanding and promote an environment in which as many different groups as possible can solve conflictual situations through discussion.

In mid-September, graffiti was discovered on the door of the Latrun Monastery in Israel. The incident was condemned by the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and other high-level Ministers immediately. Photo credit: B4D

Members of the "Committee of Rabbis" visit the Latrun Monastery

The Interpeace team in Israel, B4D, was able to quickly arrange a meeting between the Rabbis from the Religious Initiative and Father Paul from the Monastery to mediate before the problem escalated. Photo credit: B4D

Members of the "Committee of Rabbis" visit the Latrun Monastery

At the meeting, the Rabbis expressed their solidarity and condemned the incident. Photo credit: B4D

Members of the "Committee of Rabbis" visit the Latrun Monastery

The two sides were able to talk about the issue in a long and heartfelt discussion. Photo credit: B4D

Members of the "Committee of Rabbis" visit the Latrun Monastery

The incident attracted a large amount of media attention. However, the team’s quick and reaction prevented the problem from escalating. Although there have been similar cases of vandalism during the past few years, these incidents remain relatively isolated and do not reflect the aspirations of the majority of the population. This is yet another example of how encouraging timely dialogue and mediation is an effective way to diffuse the tension before it reaches unmanageable levels and helps build confidence and trust between different groups. Photo credit: B4D