In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the enduring violence around holy sites, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) and Search for Common Ground’s Jerusalem office started a field project in the Holy Land in 2013. The project seeks to promote interreligious dialogue and cooperation around Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites through research, monitoring, and education.
This initiative specifically focuses on youth. It includes visits of high-school students and pre-army groups to Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where tensions have flared due to the significance the place holds for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Questionnaires completed by participants after the visits showed that 80 % of the students thought it was important to learn about other religions in Israel. 82 % of pre-army group responders are confident that the project is stimulating dialogue and indicated that more activities on religious tolerance should be included in pre-army programming.
Mount Zion is indeed a focal point of the project. In 2014, the implementing organizations developed an iPad application, which provides balanced information on the mountain’s holy sites to tourists. Furthermore, in the context of an initiative called Window on Mount Zion, led by Search for Common Ground and its partner, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, the at times tense atmosphere on the mount is improved by promoting dialogue among the various stakeholders, including the police and both Jewish and Christian religious representatives. Volunteers are recruited to monitor Mount Zion and expand pluralistic activities there. Meetings between tenants of Mt. Zion are being held to promote collaboration and dialogue. To date, Window on Mount Zion has had big successes in improving relations between the different stakeholders. As one of the tenants put it:
"Congratulations for your success in gathering all the residents of Mount Zion in one room. It's nice to get to know the neighbors. We’ve been located here for years and we didn't know who lived around us."
Launched in 2013
Advances interreligious cooperation among religious leaders and across communities
Educates about mutual respect for holy sites with a focus on youth
Compiles and monitors data of attacks on holy sites
Additionally, in partnership with CRIHL, a joint educational program for Christian and Muslim religion teachers in Palestine has been developed and implemented, which increases mutual knowledge about the other religion and builds trust between groups.
A registry of attacks has also been created. It keeps track of episodes of violence on holy sites in the Holy Land, and is maintained in collaboration with the local NGO Tag Meir. It also includes information provided by Israeli Police records. The registry is accessible online. click here
We have also organized and hosted three annual conferences in Jerusalem to discuss current controversies around religious sites in the Holy Land and to offer constructive solutions.
WATCH: This video, produced by Search for Common Ground Jerusalem, explores five personal perspectives on sites that are holy to Druze, Jews, Ahmadis, Christians and Muslims.