Prof. Yitzchak Reiter
Prof. Yitzchak Reiter is a Lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, and a Research Fellow at Truman Institute. His research mainly focus on the Islamic Institutions; The Arabs in Israel; Social and Political History of Jordan; Holy Places in Jerusalem; Social and Political History of Jordan; The Shari’a Justice System in Israel; National minority, Regional Majority and Palestinian Arabs versus Jews in Israel.
"Conflict Resolution in Holy Places in Palestine and Israel"
The proposed study is based on methods and insights acquired and developed in the last few years of Prof. Reiter’s research, teaching and joint studies with Palestinian scholars. This research aims at filling the gap in the body of knowledge between empirical studies on the one hand, and analysis regarding conflicts in holy places. What hasn’t been done enough is a systematic investigation of the social, economic and political conditions that fuel conflicts over holy sites or that creates toleration between two religious/political communities. In this study, case studies will be used from the Israeli-Palestinian sphere and will be compared to case studies from other regions of the world, particularly India, the Balkans and Morocco.
The study will relate to research questions which over the last decade have been debated, such as: is a site holy to more than one religious conviction necessarily a place of ongoing conflict, or could it also be viewed as a site of tolerance?; Could a conflict in a sacred place develop and be settled according to rational considerations of maximizing the benefits of the involved actors according to cost/benefit interests, or are the actors driven by ideological and moral values to be perceived as "protected values”, not to be trade-off or ceded on any account? The existing theories and models in the literature will be examined in light of my findings in each of the case studies investigated in this research. The study will also draw on the political reality at specific holy places; on the dynamics of the outbreak and the development of conflicts at holy sites; and on examples of toleration. Investigating methods of conflict resolution regarding shrines will also be conducted in this study.
Research deals with holy places as a "political field” in which the political interplay with religion in an ethno-national conflict is being investigated. I will deal with the following aspects of conflict development: status-quo and its change over time; change in ownership and jurisdiction; politics of identity involving holy places in which a community struggles to put its imprint on the public space and landscape, such as "converting” a praying hall or a tomb or utilizing sacred spaces for urban development; the issue of waqf assets and its political implications; sharing places holy between more than one religion; and conflicts over preservation of abandoned holy buildings or cemeteries.
The research will investigate thirty holy sites, twenty in Palestine and Israel and ten comparative cases abroad. The empirical information would be classified according to the intensity of the conflict (high, medium, low and co-existence). In addition, a special chapter will deal with conflict management and resolution strategies such as commissions of inquiry, legal tribunals and the involvement of a third party.
The study will contribute to the body of research on two levels: first, in theoretical and methodological insights related to the dynamics of conflict versus toleration at holy places; and second, adding a substantial empirical knowledge on the political reality at sacred sites in Israel and Palestine. The final product of the study will be submitted in a book form in English, in addition to a few articles aimed at publication in scientific journals. Finally, the research is also expected to make a significant contribution to the policy shaping to be used by decision-makers as a manual for preventing the outbreak or the escalation of conflicts in holy sites and how to deal with such conflicts once they have erupted.