The future of mediation… and me.

October 26, 2009

Out of the blue I received an email yesterday seeking my knowledge of mediation as a career and process in Israel: How do you study? How long does it take? What requirements are there?

The answer I gave is a bit depressing, but I guess, for now, it’s how I see it:


I studied for a Masters at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan. They have a program there called Conflict Management and Negotiation, and a part of it is to take the official Gishur (mediation) course, which, when passed, certifies you to become a mediator. Along with that, if I’m remembering correctly, you need at least five years working for someone (lawyer, etc) related to mediation, a BA in psychology, sociology, law, or something related, and there may be other reqs I’m not recalling.

I didn’t end up doing the Gishur course (life got in the way). They offered by all different organizations, so you could actually be a lawyer and take it, etc. It’s a matter of being officially recognized. But it takes more work than just the course, as I outlined.

Mediation as a private practice is not very popular here – yet. The court system uses mediation in family and small claims cases many times, and that is the main way to break into it. It’s not easy to break into though as there are limited positions. As one of my professors said, if you want to get into gishur here in Israel, don’t make it your main job.

It’s unfortunate, of course. This is a country where many folks are very interested in alternative resolution to many other problems – health, stress, physical wellbeing especially. But culturally, it’s a place where people often have trouble listening to authority. Let alone volunteering to be counseled by it.

Sorry if that sounds depressing! At the same time that I was studying for the MA I was working in hi tech and ended up finding that I could actually make a living in hi tech, and didn’t have time for both. So the mediation is on hold for me now.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

I might be wrong; it might be more optimistic if you ask someone else. I hope it is. This is where I am right now, and I don’t know what will be for me or the future of mediation in Israel in general. There is a lot to be gained here by accepting the process.

The Valley of Peace initiative, in case you haven’t heard.

July 23, 2008

A friend of mine sent me this video detailing the architectural plans for the Valley of Peace initiative in the desert area between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. It’s a plan that has captured the imagination and support of Israeli President Shimon Peres and is being pursued by Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians. It is meant to build communities, businesses, amusement parks, shopping centers, and most of all – a greener and more productive desert, shared by different people with similar interests.

Seems quite grandiose and ambitious; especially from the looks of the video and the optimism in the narrator’s voice.

But you know what? Why the hell not dream. It looks good, it feels good. I could spend afford to spend some energy on making that happen.

Arabs paint mosque blue and white for Israel’s 60th.

April 8, 2008

No, this is not a leftover April Fools’ Day joke:

Galilee Arabs paint mosque blue and white for Israel’s 60th

In an unusual gesture of solidarity for Israel’s 60th anniversary, villagers in one Arab-Israeli town have have painted the dome of their mosque in the national colors, blue and white.

The gesture in A-Taibeh, a village in the Galilee near the Gilboa, comes at a time when Arab-Jewish relations in the reason have been marked by tensions, and many Israeli Arabs have vowed to boycott the anniversary celebrations and commemorations. (Haaretz)

The mayor of the Israeli-Arab town had this to say:

“We are residents of Israel. Our religion encourages love and closeness among nations. Jews, Muslims, we are all cousins, right? …We decided to paint the mosque’s dome, the most important, dear, and holy site for us, in the national colors. We are all citizens of the state of Israel. As far as we are concerned, there is no difference here between Jews, Muslims, and Christians.”

Way to put it, dude. It is such a wonderful thing to read in the paper, especially when we’ve been getting hit with a lot of bad domestic news lately.

Is there really a ‘separate but equal’?

March 7, 2008

So much for optimism in the midst of tragedy. I just found this article on Ynet news:

Poll: 51% of Israelis want separate secular, religious neighborhoods

A majority of the Israeli public believes religious families ought to live in separate neighborhoods, and even cities, to their secular counterparts, according to a new weekly poll new poll conducted by Ynet and the Gesher Organization.

When asked where a national religious family should ideally reside, 51% of respondents indicated that separating the various religious factions would be best. 29% of respondents indicated that religious families ought to live in their own specially designated communities, where as 22% supported the establishment of segregated oreligious neighborhoods within “religiously diverse” cities.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked… I would have thought that most ultra-religious would opt for religious-only communities, and sure enough, according to the survey, the majority do:

When breaking down this survey data according to religious affiliation, it appears that haredi respondents favored segregation most, with 61% of haredi respondents indicating that they preferred to live in separate communities and neighborhoods.

Not sure where the numbers fall for secular populations; personally, I’ve found that secular citizens fall under a scale of possibilities, from religious observance-tolerant, to religious observance-friendly, to religious observance-intolerant, to religious observance-spiteful.

I just don’t think ‘separate bu equal’ works, although I guess that depends what exactly you are trying to accomplish. Without any contact, the differences and view points are only going to deepend, widen and get more intense. What about those mandatory times when we must be unified? How is this one Israel, then? How does the nation stand any chance again enemies without any union?

And, perhaps, forget enemies for a moment: Where is the Jewish value of brotherhood? If the religious communities close themselves off, how do they expect other Jews to love the religion? Where is the good example? And how can secular Jews, with liberal values, expect to be followed in tolerance when they don’t show it?

But there’s always a middle ground, no matter how small. According to the survey, 33% respondents answered that they would favor joint communities with both secular and religious inhabitants.

That would be where I fit in. I’ve chosen to live in a mixed community, myself – majority secular, but religious-friendly – and I hope to raise my children here so that tolerance is ingrained in their mindset. That’s an extremely important value to me and look forward to a future where that only gets easier and easier. But if this survey has any grain of truth to it, well… It’s just more work for me and the rest of the 33%.

Any partnership – however unlikely – needs communication.

March 7, 2008

Last night, Jerusalem experienced a shooting massacre by an East Jerusalem Arab resident at a religious Zionist yeshiva towards the center of the city. Eight boys, between the ages of 15-26, are dead and dozens are wounded. This was the first terror attack in Jerusalem since April 2006 and it completely caught us – at least, regular residents – off guard.

I’ve been a hawk about the news since it happened, and just learned something new, and somewhat positive, amidst all this terrible information. Apparently, the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian security forces hold meetings every few months in order to discuss strategies of keeping both sides safe and at bay to avoid conflicts or flare-ups:

After a week of violent demonstrations in the West Bank in response to IDF activities in the Gaza Strip, IDF commanders and PA security chiefs met Thursday to review the recent incidents and to reach mutual agreements on preventing further flare-ups.

Such meetings between IDF and Palestinian security counterparts are held once every two to three months, and this meeting was scheduled long before the recent flare-ups. But hours before the two sides met, IDF troops were hard at work overnight in the West Bank, intercepting a truck filled with a material that can be used in producing explosive devices. (jpost)

It’s nice to see that there is at least some mode of communication between the security forces on both sides; I guess there is a mutual need for that communication which is why it exists. If I can even call it this, it’s at least a minute bit of comfort after last night’s tragedies. Although, if I think about it for another second, and consider the celebrations in Gaza last night, I suppose the IDF and PA communication doesn’t add up to very much.

Yesterday was actually Jerusalem’s first day of spring, weather-wise. There’s something about the weather getting warmer and the terrorist attacks starting up. The words “third intifada” are creeping from people’s lips.

It’s going to be a long season this year.

Israeli student representatives mingling in Qatar.

January 29, 2008

Here’s a little contact theory for y’all on a dreary Tuesday:

Israeli, Syrian high school students meet in Qatar

“A delegation of Israeli high school students attended an international convention in Qatar, simulating the United Nations…

The 30 Israeli students, along with their peers from other countries, got a taste of real-life international politics, as the UN-Model had them “represent” different countries around the worlds in various political and diplomatic situations…” (ynet)

Reading things like this used to make my stomach churn. Israeli representatives? Within this crowd? But it seems the students made quite an impression:

“The Israeli delegation reportedly made an exceptional impression, showing great proficiency in debates mimicking Arab League meets and US Security Council sessions, as well as excelling at describing the Israeli-Palestinian reality and issues involving the Iranian nuclear program, winning eight awards by the time the convention came to its end.”

Apparently the Israeli delegation was one of the largest, which is nice to hear. The article continues to describe relations between the Israeli students and their counterparts from what are considered ‘hostile’ countries – especially Syria and Lebanon. It seems at first, debates were heated and very political, but as time went on (and contact increased) the students engaged in other forms of conversing – gadgets, soccer – and relations warmed somewhat:

“Undoubtedly, a large part of the convention took part on the sidelines of the official debates: The Israeli students soon befriended their Jordanian, Palestinian, Gulf and Lebanese peers, and eventually even the Syrian ones, as the heated debates soon turned from politics to soccer and electronic gadgets.”

I always wonder, if to some degree, world leaders do the same when they meet. Of course, I don’t just mean the friendly ones. Is there a point where they are worn down enough to crack a joke? To make a comment about the upcoming Olympics?

Anyway, back to our students:

“‘With everything happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians, what happened here is very important… Arab teens found out first hand that the Israelis are not monsters, but people, just like them,’ [said Israeli commerce attache Roi Rosenblit]…”

Well, good for them! Pats on the back all around. I hope to read more stories like this more often.

Professor of intercivilizational conflict resolution.

January 27, 2008

A professor of mine was interviewed for a piece in the Bangkok Post. The article details Dr. Ben Mollov’s work in intercivilizational conflict resolution and conflicts in the Middle East:

Working for Peace

“A professor of social sciences at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Mollov has made the study of managing and mediating conflict through cultural and religious dialogue the basis of his life’s work.

A prolific writer and lecturer on the subject, Mollov was in Bangkok last week en route to a conference in Malaysia, where despite the lack of Israel-Malaysian diplomatic relations (Malaysian passports read “valid in every country but Israel”), he was invited to speak about moderating intercivilisational conflict. He also spoke there in 2005, when, in his first visit to the country, he was pleasantly surprised to be received by audience applause, a prominently displayed Israeli flag and inter-faith bonding with Muslim conference participants over the troubles in finding Halal and Kosher food when traveling.”

Dr Ben MollovIt’s nice to see some positive, enthusiastic work coming from my department’s faculty, as well as some major steps taken to ‘speak outside the box’. What I mean by that is Dr Mollov’s work spreading to Southeast Asia – Malaysia, especially – as opposed to just keeping within the Israeli/American/Anglo academic scenes.

I’ve been critical of my program, but I think with a little open-mindedness and patience, I can really learn a bit more from my professors’ actions in addition to their words. If we can’t all learn one-on-one, the least we can do is watch from a distance and pick up what we can.