Copyright 2014 Michael Melchior               office@melchioroffice.org               +972-72-2400374                 Jerusalem

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Interreligious Peace
 

We humans are supposed to emulate the ways of God, "Imitato Dei", just as He makes peace in the heavens, it is the first imperative that we do our utmost to make peace and eliminate bloodshed on earth. -Job 25:2

 

I believe in Zionism. I believe that the Jewish people's return to their homeland is part of the fulfillment of the dream of the prophets and the fulfillment of God’s will. But I can’t say then that it’s an accident that there’s another people living here. If it’s God’s will that we’re back, and this is a fulfillment of Jewish destiny that we’re back in our homeland, then it’s also part of the divine plan that there is another people -- the Palestinian people -- living here together with us.

 

Just as we expect of the other — the Palestinian people — to accept our right to self definition, we must accept the same for them. That is the basis of Judaism which Hillel taught us, "do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you." As surprising as it might seem, both sides really do want to live in peace. However, each side is convinced that the other wants to wipe them out. Therefore what is needed is to create belief and trust that there is indeed a partner on the other side. Each partner must have a broad ligitimacy within its own society in order to bring a peace which has the potential to transform our future.

Time and again, the religious de-legitimization of the peace process has set us back. The vast majority of people in Israel, the Palestinian area, and the Middle East at large are religious, or at least look towards religion and tradition as a major source of personal and communal identity and legitimization. Because the peace process is seen as a threat to this religion-based identity, the processes and the leaders involved, become an existential threat in their opponents' eyes. With the language of mistrust, fear and distorted perceptions prevailing on both sides, nothing is easier than to turn fear into hatred and violence, tragically eliminating hope and belief that peace is actually possible.

 

My Jewish and Muslim colleagues and I are inventing a new approach to conflict resolution in the religious existential context. We are taking responsibility for an authentic religious process, which can transform religion from being a destructive and deadly sword, into being a powerful lever for pursuing and obtaining peace. 

 

 

 

We are trying something completely new, never tried before. Our approach focuses on belief in the same God, who demands of all of his believers in the Holy Land to prefer life over land. Let us use our sense of morality and justice to build two states, living in peace with each other, with a goal for open borders, with a large Arab Palestinian minority living in the State of Israel, and a Jewish minority living also in the State of Palestine. We are including those who have been skeptical by speaking their language. We are working to motivate religious leaders and traditionally observant Jewish and Muslim communities to educate for peace and a shared civilian life on the basis of belief in the principles of religion. The surprising news is that after the recent violence, bloodshed and public outpouring of hatred, more and more leaders are willing to take responsibility and join forces to change the course of the peace process.

 

In both traditions, sanctity of land is an important religious commandment. However, both traditions believe that all of the land belongs to God and that we, in the end, are only temporary residents in this world. This obliges us to show humility toward other religious values, such as the sanctity of life over the sanctity of land. This does not mean that we need to give up our dreams, but requires us to be willing to compromise in order to achieve other more important dreams.