Rescuing peace in Israel

During tense religious times in Jerusalem, Israeli Arab leaders step up for peace, challenging the views of Israeli Jews.

Palestinians protest at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City April 22.

Peacemaking is hard work in Israel, especially during the rare times when Passover and Ramadan are celebrated at the same time. This year’s overlap of religious calendars did create some lethal tensions between Jews and Muslims over access for worship at their holiest sites in Jerusalem. Yet the real story is why tensions didn’t erupt into a deadly war like the one during last year’s Ramadan.

One reason is that the Israeli military hit hard last year against Hamas, the Islamist rulers in Gaza who had backed violent protests in Jerusalem and fired rockets in Israel. Another is that Israel has had a remarkably diverse government for 10 months, one that includes the first Arab party to be an active member of a ruling coalition. (A fifth of Israeli citizens are Arab.) In the wider Middle East, the 2020 Abraham Accords led to more Arab states recognizing Israel. That was a breakthrough in Jewish-Muslim understanding.

One overlooked reason is that more Arab leaders in Israel are offering alternatives in their communities to the popular hate over Israel’s crackdowns on violent Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

One leading Arab politician, Mansour Abbas, worked behind the scenes in recent days to prevent chaos at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, an area known to Jews as the Temple Mount. He is a prominent member of the ruling coalition and head of the United Arab List party, also known by its acronym Ra’am. In a recent speech, he explained why he works for the good of all Israelis and why most Israeli Arabs are against what he called terrorist attacks by a minority of Israeli Arabs:

“It is inconceivable for someone to come and decide that he is taking the lives of innocent people – this must be a basic value rule that has nothing to do with anything else. Secondly, there is a citizenship contract between us of living together – such acts violate the contract.”

Another example is Samir Mahameed, mayor of Umm al-Fahm, Israel’s largest all-Muslim city. Last Friday, he peacefully stopped young men who were blocking roads and destroying property in protest over police actions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“I’m in favor of legitimate and nonviolent protest,” the mayor told the Haaretz newspaper. “There is no place for a protest that violates public order.” A former principal of an elite high school for Arab students, he says he strives for a kind of leadership that listens with respect.

Such motives and actions stand out because only 56% of Israeli Jews believe that the majority of Arab citizens oppose violence carried out against Jews, according to a March survey by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s aChord Center. The survey found that 98% of Arab citizens of Israel actually do oppose acts of violence against Jews.

Changing the perceptions of Arabs and Jews toward each other in Israeli democracy takes more than speeches. Actions aimed at calming fears and raising up shared ideals can reduce violence. They also notably reflect the spirit of inclusivity in both Ramadan and Passover.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Rescuing peace in Israel
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today