Musalaha is a non-profit organization that promotes and facilitates reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, based on Biblical Principles of Reconciliation.
Musalaha, which means "reconciliation" in Arabic, was founded in 1990. Since its creation, an executive board of Palestinian and Israeli community and church leaders has led this ministry of reconciliation in taking steps towards unity in our society.
On a rainy afternoon in Jerusalem, fifty-seven women arrive at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, seeking reconciliation against the odds. Despite common faith in Jesus, the group is far from ordinary---composed of Palestinian Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinian women living in the Palestinian Authority.
Recent political activity tried to exacerbate the distance between these communities; so everyone who walks through the door is performing an act of courage, vulnerability, and gentle defiance against stereotypes. Still, each person carries a unique set of expectations or doubts.
A patchwork of mismatched, ambitious youth step off the bus into an enclosed garden in Ness Ammim, Israel. We have twenty-seven hours to cross a line that no one names, but everyone can immediately feel.
It is a time and space just for 33 Israeli and Palestinian young people. It is not a group of people meeting for the first time, but instead, teenagers who have known each other from childhood through their participation in Musalaha's Children’s Summer Camps. Musalaha’s reconciliation training on identity is not for the faint of heart. It is challenging, emotional, and comprehensive.
Last Sunday our preacher reflected on passages from Matthew 2, which tells the story of the Magi from the east. It is interesting that this record appears in the Gospel of Matthew since scholars see this book written for a Jewish audience.
Matthew 2:1-12 deliberately presents us with a specific narrative about wise men who were learned scholars and searching for a sign. Their study confirmed this sign was a star, telling them that the “King of the Jews (Matt 2:2)” was born.
Two months ago, Musalaha was asked to conduct a reconciliation seminar for Palestinian and Israeli school principals in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is undoubtedly a center for tension between these two communities and young people are increasingly taking part in the conflict, initiatives to build bridges, first between them and later among their students, have potential for great impact. This group of principals came to a deadlock in their ability to progress, so we were asked to come and present our model to help them move forward. To our great delight, the group was very excited to learn about our model and the six stages of reconciliation.
November 2nd marked 100 years since the public announcement of the Balfour Declaration, which stated the British government’s support for a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. To this day there is quite a bit of controversy as to why Britain or Lord Balfour made this declaration. Religious motives? Colonial or empirical considerations or even a means to draw the US into the war? Whatever the reason, it can’t be denied that its effect has consequences to this day. While Israelis celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian remember it as a day of broken promises and betrayal.
From the beginning of Rosh HaShana until the last day of Sukkot, all you hear in Israel is "Acharei HaHagim" (After the Holidays). Whenever we try to move forward at work or get something done in the banks, we're told "Acharei haHagim." The same tends to be true when it comes to the difficult work of reconciliation; but how much longer can we afford to put it off? There is too much at stake to continue avoiding these issues. Today it is the last day of Sukkot - It's Acharei haHagim. Let's get to work.
By making cross-community encounters possible, Musalaha strives to provide a safe space for Christians and Muslims to get to know each other and talk about the issues that divide us. We find that these divisions are often based on misunderstandings and false perceptions. By reaching out to their own people with a testimony of their personal experience, our young leaders become key figures in spreading the positive message of community building and peacemaking.
Working for reconciliation is extremely challenging. In general there are not thousands of Palestinians and Israelis rushing to participate or engage with the other side. But there will always be a few who are willing to take on the challenge seriously and engage with the other side. The faithful few shine a small but vital light in the midst of hopelessness and despair, a light that shines on a new path of peace, reconciliation and hope.
In times like this, it takes a conscious effort not to give in to frustration and depression even for adamant peace optimists. I took comfort in my daughter’s shared experiences and allowed my heart to fill with hope as camps like this allow Israeli and Palestinian children from different backgrounds to connect and see their neighbor in a new light, or even for the first time at all. Let us be encouraged and continue to invest in a new generation of peacemakers.
Two years ago a group of Musalaha’s Young Adults travelled to Ireland for a reconciliation encounter and to learn from from the conflict in Ireland. During their trip, Board Member Lisa Loden, who was leading the trip, and a few others were invited one evening to join the Bangor Missionary Convention taking place at the same time.