About The Initiative
The Religious Peace Initiative’s vision for conciliation is based on the assumption that true peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible only on condition of mutual trust which includes the realm of tradition and religion. The initiative seeks to include those whose language is religious and whose political motivation is religious in the effort to find a way out of the conflict.
The Initiative, under the presidency of Rabbi Michael Melchior and Sheikh Abdallah Nimer Darwish, holds its activities in six centers – The Jewish Mosaica Center in western Jerusalem and alongside it the Muslim Adam Centers for Inter-religious Dialogue in eastern Jerusalem, Kafer Qassem, Ramallah, Gaza and Cairo. These centers operate parallel to widen the coalition for religious peace and to implement its vision among the Jewish and Muslim public.
Alongside amplifying existing voices who aspire to peace, we are focusing most of our efforts on influential religious leaders who were heretofore considered extremists and in many cases acted to exacerbate the conflict rather than to solve it. Our partners include important rabbis of all Haredi streams, alongside prominent figures in the religious Zionist world and among the rabbis of Judea and Samaria, as well as Muslim leaders from all the Palestinian factions. Through meetings held behind closed doors, which remain largely confidential, our work enables senior religious leaders to work together for a common future, to support a solution that allows both peoples to live with dignity and justice, and down the road to instill these principles in their students and communities and to encourage the political leadership to act in this spirit.
In addition to the ongoing work with senior religious leaders, the initiative’s centers are operating to implement its vision among the Jewish and Muslim religious populations, and to clarify the importance of religion as a crucial component in resolving the conflict among the general public, opinion makers and decision makers. To this end, the Religious Peace Initiative operates various programs, among them encounters between religious women in prominent positions from both faiths, extensive work with the young religious leadership and establishing wide-ranging data bases that will include Jewish and Muslim religious grapplings, in Halakhah, Fiqh and thought, with the various religious challenges to peace.
Goals and Principles
Since the beginning of the peace process, the moderate political leadership on both sides has worked under the assumption that religious and existential issues are insoluble, and diplomatic compromise is possible only through a discourse of interests. As a result, religions were perceived as an obstacle to peace, and the religious populations of both peoples seemed to impede the possibility of reconciliation. The perception of peace and the striving for it as a secular project, or even a project for secularization, distanced religious elements of both peoples from involvement in seeking a solution, and caused them to seclude and isolate themselves and to radicalize their positions, so that only a handful of religious leaders work to pave the way for worshipers of G-d and worshipers of Allah to live together.
Contrarily, we believe that the involvement of religious leaders, who discuss open-mindedly and out of commitment to their communities the way in which their sacred sources enable them to live in peace with the other, can make the future peace acceptable to the entirety of both societies.
The goal of the initiative is to prepare the ground and the hearts for true peace in the Middle East by involving religious leadership in an effort to find a way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voicing a common religious message for peace, and emphasizing the importance of religious discourse as a key element in the process for sustainable peace.
The initiative is based on recognition of the two peoples’ responsibility for their common fate, the responsibility of the three religions for creating peaceful existence, and the responsibility of the religious leadership to lead those seeking a solution – to stop any violence supposedly committed in the name of religion, to stop incitement, misrepresentation and distortion of the image of the other, and to educate future generations to uphold mutual respect.
Rabbi Michael Melchior
is a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1999 - 2002) and Deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Sport (2005). Today he is a leading advocate for social justice in Israel, education for all, Jewish-Arab reconciliation and co-existence, protection of the environment, and Israel-Diaspora relations. Rabbi Melchior is one of the architects of the first summit for Interreligious Middle East Peace Initiative held in Alexandria in 2002 and a leading figure in the field of interreligious diplomacy which aims to bring change in the Jewish-Muslim discourse.
Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish
is the President of the Adam Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Kfar Kasem. He is a graduate of the Shari’a Institute of Nablus (1971) and founded the Islamic Movement in Israel (1971). In the late 1970’s, Sheikh Abdallah organized an underground group lead by young Muslims. The Sheik was detained and incarcerated until his release in 1985. During his time in prison, he consolidated his political doctrine that calls for Israeli Arabs to actively work at achieving their minority rights within the law by integrating into state institutions. Since Sheikh Abdallah’s release as part of the Jibril agreement, he has worked to indoctrinate the Arab population with the values of peace and coexistence and recognition of a two state solution, even prior to the Oslo Talks. In 1996 he founded the United Arab List whose representatives still serve as Knesset members until the present. In 2001, President Yasser Arafat appointed him head of the Interreligious Council and today he continues to work towards peace through the Adam Center in Kfar Kassem.
Rabbi Avraham Gisser
is an ordained rabbi from Jerusalem’s Merkaz Harav Yeshiva and holds a law degree from Bar-Ilan University. He is Rabbi for the town of Ofra since 1990. In 2000, Rabbi Gisser founded the Mishpetay Eretz Institute – the Institute for Halacha and Law of which he is head. Rabbi Gisser is also Council head for the state religious educational system and is also a member of "Tsohar", the rabbinical council of religious Zionism.
Sheikh Imad Abed Al-Hamid Al-Falouji
is the Chairman of the Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations in Gaza. Born in the Jabalya Camp (Gaza) he holds an Engineering degree and was one of the five founders of Hamas and movement spokesperson. Sheikh Imad was detained and incarcerated by the IDF from 1991-1993 and was released as part of the Oslo Accords. He served as the Minister of Post and Telecommunications in the unity governments in 1996-2002. In 2009, President Abbas appointed him as a member of the Islamic-Christian commission for patronizing Jerusalem and the holy sites. Today, Sheikh Imad is an independent leader in Gaza, and is widely accepted by the various Palestinian branches and sections in Gaza and the West Bank. He works to promote religious peace values in cooperation with Mosaica.
Rabbi Benjamin Lehman
is a graduate of Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva and Netiv Meir. He is an educator and a clinical psychologist and specializes in teaching Jewish Philosophy and Talmud. He has taught at "The Lindenbaum Academy for Girls", the "Herzog Institution” in Alon Shvut and is currently a staff member at the Har Etzion Yeshiva, teaching Jewish Philosophy. Rabbi Lehman works as clinical psychologist in private practice in Jerusalem.
Sheikh Raed Badir
is the Executive Director of the Adam Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Kfar Kasem and is a prominent leader in the Islamic Movement in Israel. Sheikh Raed is the leading Islamic law (Shari’a) arbitrator and member of the southern branch of the Palestinian Ulama Council. Sheik Raed is an attorney, trained in Shari’a representing clients in religious court on personal and family matters. He holds an MA in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence from An-Najah University, Nablus, and a BA in Islamic Law and Arabic Literature.
Dr. Izzat Jaradat
is the former Jordanian Minister of Education and today is the Secretary General for the World Muslim Conference for Jerusalem as well as a member of the Economic and Social Welfare Council of Jordan.
Judge Dr. Maher Alian Ahmed Khudair
holds a PhD in Islamic Jurisprudence from the Cairo University. Dr. Maher is a Supreme Court Justice and a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Courts, in Gaza. He has authored several books dealing with jurisprudence, finance and divorce
Chief Operating Officer
Fiqh Database Program Coordinator
About the Mosaica Center
The Mosaica Center is the Jewish center of the Religious Peace Initiative. The Center, which is based in West Jerusalem, is responsible for expanding the participation of rabbis in the work of the Initiative and in its activities, and for strengthening its ties with leaders in Israel and in the Jewish world.
The Mosaica Center offers a platform in which religious leaders can address the challenge of peace in their own language, and ask how should peace look like if it is to include the religious public, and how can it fulfill the words of Torah rather than violating them. The Center works together with senior Rabbis from the religious Zionist world and among the rabbis of Judea and Samaria, alongside prominent figures from all the Haredi streams, to expand the Jewish religious discourse around finding a way out of the conflict.
The Mosaica Center also works to incorporate the vision of the Initiative into various religious communities in Israel, to strengthen the recognition of the importance of religious discourse for peace among the general public, and to challenge the prevalent views of the Jewish public regarding political Islam as a possible partner for reconciliation and dialogue.
About the Adam Center
The Adam Centers for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue operate in order to connect the Muslim religious leadership to the work of the Initiative, and to involve the Islamic public in striving for peace which is consistent with its faith. To date there are five active Adam Centers: in east Jerusalem, Kafer Qassem, Ramallah, Gaza and Cairo. Some of the most important religious leaders of the Palestinian Muslim public are partners who participate in the centers’ activities. In that framework they courageously deal with the religious challenges for peace, and meet with their Jewish counterparts to deliberate and carry joint responsibility.
Thanks to the work of the Adam Centers and in cooperation with the Mosaica Center, the initiative received wide support in the Arab world, from both the political leadership and the religious leadership. Members of the centers have close ties to senior religious authorities throughout the Muslim world, and the activities of the Religious Peace Initiative have won their blessing and support.
In addition, the Adam Centers conduct regular seminars to disseminate the vision of the initiative among the Palestinian public, which focus on the importance of dialogue and the place of religion as the key to an honest, fair and stable peace. The Adam Centers place great emphasis on training a young religious leadership that will enable the principles of the initiative to be heard by the younger generation, a baffled generation lacking direction.