Dr. Rabbi Ron Kornish, a Reform rabbi, trained in the US and moved to Israel in 1979 where he has been living since. In 1991, he founded the Interreligious Coordinating Council (ICCI) as a safe place for Muslims and Jews to come together and get to know one another. Kadi Iyad Zahalka is a citizen of Israel, and is currently serving as head of Shariah courts in Jerusalem. Kadi Zahalka made a point to note that the Muslims living in Israel have been living there since before 1948 and enjoy Israeli citizenship. Zahalka’s family is among those Muslims who decided to stay in their lands and not join the exodus while maintaining their identities as Palestinian Muslims.
During the Ottoman times, the Empire established sharia courts to mediate cases between Ottoman citizens. After the First World War, the Ottoman Empire drew out of the land, and the British mandate took over. The British decided to adopt the sharia court system with some amendments. The court adjudicates cases based on the Hanafi madhhab. It is a vibrant part of the Israeli judicial system.
Kadi Zahalka explained some of the most common cases that come before him such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, legal contracts and the clash between culture and religious rulings.
A recurring theme throughout the talk was human dignity and how the work of the panelists fosters understanding and coexistence between people everywhere. Kadi Zahalka believes shariah helps to preserve these humanistic values.
Kadi Zahalka continues, “We are living in the midst of a very difficult conflict. There are people who have suffered and are suffering by the conflict, on both sides. On the Palestinian side, we see it on the TV and all over. It does not mean the conflict is the lens through which we see the world. We have a difficult conflict, but we are humans. The political side should deal with the conflict and work hard to solve the conflict. The rest of us can play our various roles whether through dialogue or writing papers”.
Rabbi Kronish sees the world in rabbis and lawyers. “Peacemaking is pieces of papers and treaties.” Peace building, on the other hand, requires community and both sides need to come together with a common goal.
Today, both men see themselves as peace builders rather than peacemakers, as they implement their daily roles in the lives of Israeli citizens, building blocks of peace.
Photos on Flickr