Mediation is not necessarily a new concept. Traditional and religious models of mediation exist in every healthy culture, which consist of a collective responsibility. Such is the case in Arab culture with the sulha model, or the schmagluchs in the Ethiopian Jewish community, or “metavkhei shalom” (mediators of peace) or “rodfei shalom” (pursuers of peace) in Jewish communities, in the past. These mediators were generally considered well respected community members, predominantly older men already operating as community leaders or religious leaders, who possess close and trusting relationships with various individuals and groups within the community. The “insider mediation” model focuses primarily on ethno-religious conflicts that seem intractable and require the active involvement of religious leaders as “insider mediators,” working with external, neutral, and professional mediators or diplomats.
In 2007, the Religious Peace Initiative was established by Mosaica president, Rabbi Michael Melchior, previously a member of Knesset and deputy minister in the Israeli Government, together with his late partner, Sheikh Abdallah Nimer Darwish (1948-2017), founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel and president of the Adam Center for Interreligious Dialogue. The RPI aims to promote “warm” religious peace between communities, cultures, and religions that is based on shared religious values, such as the value of human life. Until 2014, the RPI was managed by Gita Hazani and between 2015-2018, by Roie Ravitzky. In 2019, Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth was appointed deputy executive director of Mosaica and director of the Religious Peace Initiative.
Since its founding, The RPI has established a network of senior religious leaders (primarily Jewish and Muslim) who cooperate as “insider religious mediators” both within Israel, the Palestinian Territories, the Middle East and beyond. Most program activities are conducted behind the scenes and away from media coverage.
However, over the years some of the interventions of the leaders involved in the program have been made public:
- Preventing Violence in Mixed Jewish-Arab Cities: In the 2008 Yom Kippur riots in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Akko, insider religious mediators from Mosaica assisted in gathering religious and community leaders into a “Peace Sukkah” as a public gathering of easing local tensions. Several years later, in preparation for the 2014 and 2015 convergence of Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha holidays on the same day, insider religious mediators from Mosaica, together with the Gishurim Program and other partners, collaborated to prevent the escalation of violence and tensions around the holidays. This was of particular concern at the time in Jerusalem and in the other mixed cities in Israel. In 2019, Mosaica staff were invited to present about their experience to hundreds of senior Israeli police officers as part of an annual Police conference.
- Mediating the Temple Mount/ Al-Aqsa Crisis, 2017: In 2017, during the Temple Mount crisis and the use of magnetometers, Mosaica insider religious mediators assisted in mediating between the parties and facilitated an agreement that prevented further violence.
In September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mosaica insider religious mediators mediated between religious leaders and the WHO/Europe in order to reject a conspiracy theory about Covid-19. This led to Mosaica receiving the support of the WHO/Europe Solidarity Fund, to establish the Kavod/Karama/Dignity project that brings together senior Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders together with health professionals from Israel to meet the religious and community challenges of the pandemic.