The Project for Arab-Jewish Dialogue at Bar-Islan University

This profile was last updated in 2006

Country:Israel
Type of organization:Academic
Constructive practices:Education

Mission

The Project for Arab-Jewish Dialogue at Bar Ilan University aims to promote and research the question of interfaith and intercultural dialogue with the hope of improving Arab-Jewish relations.

Description

The Project for Arab-Jewish Dialogue began its efforts by bringing together Israeli and Jewish students from Bar-Ilan University in Jerusalem and Palestinian students mainly from the University of Hebron. This project specifically involves students who are religiously committed to their own faiths in order to engage in a dialogue concerning each other’s cultural backgrounds. In this discussion, students are encouraged to concentrate on the similarities of both traditions rather than simply the differences.

History

The Project was established in November 1994 under the leadership of Dr. Ben Mollov, a professor of political science at the Bar-Ilan University. He was first invited to a meeting with seven Palestinian students, which prompted him to organize another meeting including students from his one year program course at Bar-Ilan university. This marked the beginning of joint Israeli-Palestinian meetings between students which has continued to today. The success of this Project is also attributed to the co-operation between Dr. Mollov and Dr. Musa Barhoun, a professor of educational psychology and educational technology at the Al-Quds Open University in Palestine.

Programs and Events

Approximately eighty students from each side of the dialogue have participated in this Project. A core group has emerged to organize the events of this student-led discussion group. Topics range from the meaning of the Islamic tradition of fasting during the month of Ramadan to discussion about the meaning of the Jewish song, Shema Yisrael. These discussion groups are also made more interesting with contributions from the teaching faculty. For example, Dr. Yerucham Levitt, an expert in the field of bio-ethics, gave a lecture on medical ethics. The discussion group ultimately talked about the question of abortion in both Judaism and Islam and discovered similarities as to how abortions are interpreted in both traditions. The controversial topic of Middle-Eastern politics was also discussed, at times resulting in heated discussions. Participating in this discussion group led one student to state that dialogues like this should take place “first in the living rooms, then in the garden, and finally on the side walks.”

This discussion group has become the ground for the transformation of many students into leaders. The case of Mr. Muhammad Awad is a good example. As a result of the dialogue, he was accepted to and graduated from Bar-Ilan’s International M.B.A. Program and has used his expertise to better the lives of his own people while he has maintained dialogue ties with the Program in Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University. Another early leader, Mr. Ayman Ismail, a graduate from the University of Hebron, became a key leader of the Palestinian students in this interfaith dialogue project. As an outgrowth of these efforts, he was accepted to and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in the United States with a Master’s Degree in Peace Studies.
The efforts of this project has been recognized by the global community. Dr. Ben Mollov has been invited to various countries to lecture on the importance of interfaith dialogue as a key to solving religious tension. In 2005, he was invited to the Perdana Global Peace Forum in Malaysia and the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid. Various works have also been published on this project such as, Intercultural Dialogue and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Lessons of a Student Dialogue and Building Religious and Cultural Bridges Between Palestinian & Israeli University Students and Culture, Dialogue and Perception Change in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (co-authored with Dr. Chaim Lavie) which appeared in the The International Journal for Conflict Management.