In order to understand Israel’s conflict in mediation processes, one must consider Israel’s culture, norms, and values. This article is a comprehensive examination and insight into the history, life, culture, religion, and practices of the people of Israel and outlines the mediation strategies used. Mediation encapsulates the resolution, agreement, and facilitation, of bringing a dispute to a conciliatory outcome. Mediation facilitates disputing parties to come to an agreement by a third party neutral. Jan Ki-moon states that: “The premise of mediation is that in the right environment, conflict parties can improve their relationships and move towards cooperation.”
Mediation is a part of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process and is an alternative to resolving disputes in court. In the article Ethics in Alternative Resolutions: New Issues, No Answers from ‘The Adversary Conception of Lawyers’ Responsibilities,’ Carrie Menkel-Meadow, states that the early proponents of ADR reiterated that the courts were not meeting the needs and underlying interests of the parties. In his article, Don Peters states that “participation by parties with authorities to settle is usually critical to a successful mediation.” Smith and Smock, describes mediation as “an art form, incorporating, intuition, subtlety, and vision.”
It is said that the most noted forum to deal with conflicts in Israel is through the courts. Although there is no data to ascertain the number of mediation that takes place in Israel, it appears that mediation is usually used in family disputes, and handled in family courts. Cultural aspects appear to play a significant role in family mediations in Israel. The role of culture in family mediation has also been seen in other societies, such as Australia and New Zealand, where mediation has been integrated into the divorce process.
In Israel’s culture, there are religious tribunals that do not have official status but act as special courts in the community, and the disputants agree beforehand to their adjudication. It should be observed that the word adjudication is used because the tribunal uses Jewish religious law or the law of ‘Torah.’ The relevance is that adjudication is usually used in the context of the legal system and not mediation. The significance of religion in mediation is noted by Kamila KLINGOROVA and Tomas HAVLICEK: It is noted that every religion promotes somewhat different norms, creates different institutions, and builds on different cultural and historical foundations.
In Israel’s culture, mediation is historically relatively short, dating back to 1972, when a lady by the name of Sylvia Maundelbaum at 92 years old and originally from the US, assisted her daughter in her divorce, after her migration to Israel. According to Ronnen mediation in Israel was a new way of dealing with conflict and emerged mainly from the expertise of the US, where the mediators used rules to create new methodologies into the local system. The growth of mediation in Israel was seen in 1990 when an open organized mediation course was given by Shamir in 1998 and Dotan the head of one of the first mediation centers took a course in the US.
Before 1992 parties in dispute had to rely on the law of torts, contracts, and advocates. During the period of 1992, there was an amendment to the Courts Law, and ADR legislation was enacted, enabling the court to rule by compromise with regulations following in 1993. Even after legislation, the judges did not refer parties to mediation. The Bar Association felt that lawyers by virtue of their training did not need additional training to mediate. This is contrary to the ethical responsibility of mediators, which is pronounced under the rules on Dispute Resolution of The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusettes which illustrates the basic approach of neutrals: “The neutral shall make every reasonable effort to ensure that each party to the dispute resolution process…amongst other things understands the nature and character of the process…”
The Court System
The court system in Israel was reviewed and major changes occurred between 1995 and 2000 with Aharon Barak, the President of the Supreme Court of Israel. President Barak understood a very important aspect of mediation which is consent, along with the compliance of the community. In this approach, the results were positive and successful, allowing communities to solve their own problems.
The right technique is an important part of the mediation process but in Israel, there is another aspect. It is the consumption of coffee that is said to be part of the culture of Israel. It is interesting to note that drinking coffee has been added to the mediation process, with a specific style of drinking inculcated into the mediation room. The ritual of the coffee preparation and drinking helps not only the mediator in relaxing the environment but assists the parties in conflict to be more amenable to the discussions. Coffee drinking is said to bring a connection between personal and public dynamics, which creates empowerment.
Israel is rooted in its culture, religion, and legalism. The ethnographic dimensions of Israel’s culture and norms are seen in the history of mediation. The history of mediation in Israel began in an ad hoc manner and was conjoined with court proceedings. This lent itself to numerous challenges especially when mediators had to rely on the judiciary for clients. A positive aspect was that the President of The Supreme Court, President Barak was instrumental in causing an amendment to facilitate mediation.
The examination reveals that living in a conflict society does not impede Israel in its hope of conflict resolution. Although, there is still much more to be done in having a more independent process, which is free from judicial influence. It reveals that Israel has a very strong and religious culture that does not diminish the actualization of conflict resolution. Understanding the culture helps to understand the mediation process and conflict resolution. The understanding of Israel’s culture can assist substantively in mediation success. If culture and national ownership are integrated into the mediation process, it is anticipated that this will cause the society to promote more independent institutions which can facilitate mediation resolutions, nationally and internationally.
Edite Ronnen, 1. “Mediation in a Conflict Society, An Ethnographic View on Mediation Processes in Israel” (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2011).
Kamila Klingorova; Tomas HAVLICEK, 1. Religion and Gender Inequality: The Status of Women in the Societies of World Religions,” Moravian Geographical Reports 23 (February 2015): 10.
Lela P. Love and John W. Cooley, 3. “The Intersection of Evaluation by Mediators and Informed Consent: Warning The Unwary,” Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution 21 (January 20, 2005): 19.
Madelene de Jong, 3. “Divorce Mediation in Australia – Valuable Lessons for Family Law Reform
Smith and Smock, 7 “Peacemaker’s Toolkit, Managing a Mediation Process.”