Pub no. 90
In order to resolve conflicts over holy places, complex knowledge is required.
Conflicts over holy sites have a complex, and essentially different nature than other territorial conflicts. This understanding has been gradually increasing among researchers in the past twenty years. A holy site has a deep meaning that combines beliefs, strong emotions, “sacred” values, and conceptions of self-identity. Consequently, in order to resolve conflicts over holy places, complex knowledge is required, which must include an understanding of the cultural, religious, social, and political significance of the holy site for each of the contesting parties as well as familiarity with similar conflicts in other places around the world.
Researchers who have studied the situation in holy sites that are shared by more than one religious group have emphasized in the studies the following variables for understanding the conflict: its nature, whether the conflict is over the right to conduct religious ritual or over control of the site, and the probability of resolving the conflict. However, most do not refer to the efficiency and effectiveness of the various tools for conflict resolution, such as whether preserving the status quo promotes a resolution, or whether the existence of a mechanism for dialog can help prevent the eruption of conflict or resolve them when they do occur.
The series of publications by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research about holy sites and the conflicts that break out in them is meant to add case studies to the body of knowledge regarding this unique topic. A special emphasis is placed on the research of the Temple Mount conflict and the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Researchers point to four main issues related to understanding conflicts over holy places:
- Means that contribute to the prevention of conflict: such as maintaining a dialog between the parties, transparency in the activities of all those that are concerned with the holy site.
- Methods for damage control in conflicts: negotiations that involve concessions of the parties to the conflict.
- Means for managing conflicts: inter-religious conventions and professional committees, such as planning and building committees that can constitute a forum for clarifying the professional aspect of problems.
- Methods of conflict resolution: splitting the use of the holy site by dedicating a separate space for each group (as has been done with the Reform and Conservative movements and the Women of the Wall, who received a new space south of the Western Wall plaza), or a separate time.