Haifa is commonly portrayed as a model of co-existence between Christians, Muslim, Druze and Jews. Haifa is the pre-eminent example of what are known in Israel as ‘mixed cities’. As early as 1868 a large group of German Protestant Templars arrived and created a new town which is still known as the German Colony. In 1909 Haifa became central to the Bahá’í Faith, and Haifa is now considered to be the international HQ of the faith. In the 1920s the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (a liberal Islamic reformist movement founded in India) arrived and established Haifa as their base in Israel. Most Muslims in Haifa are Sunni, although it should be noted that there are a significant number of Christian Arabs too, sub-divided into Catholic, Orthodox and several smaller groups. To complete the picture of this ‘city of six faiths’ are the Druze, adhering to a branch of Shia Islam. The Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies houses a community of researchers, visiting professors and students dedicated to the scholarly study of religions – with an emphasis on interfaith dialogue and interdisciplinary collaborations. At the background of this initiative lies a recognition in the unique features of the University of Haifa as an academic institute that operates in one of the most multi-religious settings in the world and hosts the most religiously, culturally, and linguistically diverse academic community in Israel. These features provide our academic community with a unique opportunity to conduct its academic ventures in conjunction with the human fabric around it. The Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies operates towards the implementation of quality research initiatives as well as a public outreach that will facilitate inter-religious dialogue and understanding. We believe that while political conflicts might hinder peaceful resolutions among different communities, beliefs and religious ideals can facilitate them. To that end, we seek partners who share our vision and goals in order to promote and initiate operative steps toward their realization. Our current activities include a series of dialogues among diverse religious leaderships on select themes; a fellowship program for young researchers dedicated to religious studies; a three-day international symposium on religious diversity in Haifa; and a unique framework specialized for legal practitioners of diverse religious backgrounds in Israel.
Head of the Haifa Laboratory for Religious Studies