This pioneering Beit Morasha program fosters the spirit of religious understanding and pluralism in Israel by transforming study and dialogue among faith leaders into grassroots programs.
The genesis of this program began in October 2018 when, at the request of the “Division of Non-Jewish Affairs” of the Israeli Interior Ministry, Beit Morasha developed and implemented a pilot program to promote interfaith tolerance and create an interfaith task force of 20 faith leaders in Haifa and Akko. The participants represented all major religions in the region – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druse, and Baha’i. Over the years both cities suffered from interfaith tensions and crises, and the focus of the program was to establish an urban “task force” composed of the participating senior clerics for preventive and/or crisis treatment of events arising from tensions between religious communities in their cities.
Beit Morasha developed the program in partnership with the head of the Division of Non-Jewish Affairs of the Interior Ministry, Mr. Yaakov Salame, and with Sheikh Dr. Ziad Abu-Moch, the head of the Muslim Department of the Division and founder and former President of the Al-Qasami College of Education and Islamic Studies in Bakaa-El-Gharbia.
The pilot program was evaluated as successful and the Interior Ministry therefore invited Beit Morasha to refine and expand it to other mixed urban centers in Israel. In 2019 the program expanded to the Ramle-Lod municipalities.
In 2015, President Barack Obama established a council on interfaith leadership (The President’s Committee on Interfaith Action). A report it published noted that interfaith leaders will address completely new challenges, which stem from the changes in the world, alongside a need to cope with historical pains and traumas. “Interfaith leaders are transformative figures with the capacity to identify social problems, formulate a vision that encapsulates key views, and mobilize social change.”
What is making the Municipal Forum of Interfaith Leaders special is how it is moving inter-faith values into action through a yearlong program that combines techniques of group dynamics, lectures on topics of relevance to the participants’ communities, encounters with national and municipal religious and political leadership, and workshops on conflict resolution.
The goal of faith leaders is to make a difference to the lives of the people in their communities and our mission is to help them achieve that. To use the military idiom – this is a program where the faith leaders are putting their “boots on the ground” and working together on joint projects for the betterment of their communities. Most important, they are coalescing as a task force to prevent and, if necessary, respond to, inter-religious crises.
We are proud to acknowledge the encouragement and support of this project by the Matanel Foundation