The Harvest is Plenty


Musalaha recently conducted a research project for the Palestinian Bible Society, the purpose of which was to identify organizations in Jerusalem involved in reconciliation and peacebuilding. We looked at over 120 organizations which we evaluated by their target groups and type of work. It was fascinating and encouraging to see so many organizations interested in peacemaking, yet when we began to evaluate each of the organizations by assessing their methodologies, we discovered that there are only fourteen organizations that are actively involved in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in some sort of forum where they can interact with one another. The majority of the organizations have a non-religious focus, many of them had an interfaith focus, and only two of them (including Musalaha) were Christian. The majority of the organizations had a strong emphasis on dialogue, seminars and training, and the rest focused on advocacy, camps, education, non-violence, research, sports, and trips.  
In 2011, an important article entitled “Does contact work in protracted asymmetrical conflict? Appraising 20 years of reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians”[1] was published by Ifat Maoz, an associate professor of social psychology in the Department of Communication at Hebrew University. Her article emphasized the paradox of bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in order to promote cooperation and generate equality, while there is an imbalance in power between the two groups. This is even seen in how the organizations are run, and who runs them. The majority of organizations are run by Israelis as they have access to more resources compared to Palestinians.
The article identified four major models that are used in encounters between Israelis and Palestinians:
1. The Coexistence Model (promotes understanding and tolerance between two groups through focusing on common identity)
2. The Joint Projects Model (attempts to reduce hostilities between two groups by working toward a common goal and focusing on a common identity)
3. The Confrontational Model (encourages greater awareness of imbalance of power through intergroup confrontation regarding aspects of the conflict)
4. The Narrative Story-Telling Model (combination of coexistence and confrontational models through sharing of life stories as related to the conflict, both personal stories and collective stories)
The research evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each mode and found that 60% of encounter programs use the Coexistence or Joint Projects Model, while only 34% use the Confrontational or Narrative Model. The first two models have dominated encounter programs for more than the last decade, although researchers do note that these two tend to preserve the status quo and encourage the minority (in our case, the Arabs/Palestinians) to take a passive role in engagement; organizations that prefer these first two models tend to have low Palestinian representation in management. On the other hand, the less popular Confrontational and Narrative models are considered capable of countering some of the social injustice and imbalance of power that exist in Israeli society and organizations that utilize these models tend to have both Jewish and Arab representation in the organization’s staff, including in higher level management.
Musalaha is unique in that it uses all four of these models in our stages of reconciliation, encouraging coexistence while addressing issues of narrative, confrontation, and working together through joint projects, all within the context of relationships. Also, our commitment to continued relationships through regular follow ups allows for the maintaining and deepening of interpersonal relationships. Our methodology utilizes a relationship building interpersonal approach prior to engaging more difficult intergroup issues which lends a level of flexibility necessary for dealing with challenging issues as they arise.
People question why there is an increase in hatred, intolerance, and an increasing number of obstacles to peace in Israel/Palestine. One of the main reasons is that the workers are few. It is our hope that more organizations that bring people together will be established. Please pray with us and for us as we see a plentiful harvest in our land, and a great need for the work of reconciliation. Our believing communities are just a snapshot of the greater work that remains for the rest of society, and we pray that more will rise to the challenge and blessing of partaking in this work.
[1] Maoz, Ifat, “Does contact work in protracted asymmetrical conflict? Appraising 20 years of reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians,” Journal of Peace Research 48(1) 115-125, 2011.