Prof. Jay Rothman: Seeking Peace and Pursuing it

Bar-Ilan University Professor of Conflict Resolution Jay Rothman recalls with a grin how at his wedding, years ago, his new father-in-law publically proclaimed, "I am so lucky, I now have a son-in-law who will never be out of work - he aims to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict!" Rothman hasn't given up yet and, in the meantime, arriving at mutually agreeable outcomes in seemingly intractable situations has become the professor’s specialty.


He immigrated to Israel in 2012 to teach in the University’s program on Conflict Management, Resolution and Negotiation, becoming the first full-time professor dedicated entirely to the program in its 13-year history. "This dignifies the field as not being just a derivative of other disciplines,” he explains. “And for me personally, it is the fulfillment of a dream, a life-long professional aspiration and the closing of a circle.”


That circle began almost four decades ago when Rothman was just 17-years-old and came to Israel to visit a childhood friend. “I didn’t have any identification with Israel and very little with Judaism. But I got the bug right away and was drawn into the story of the Jewish people and the struggles of Israel.”


Rothman says that, after plunging in to studying these conflicts, it inspired his passion to "seek peace and pursue it." In college he studied modern Jewish philosophy, immersing himself in such thinkers such as Martin Buber who “emphasized the space of authentic encounter between man and God. The implication is that in the encounter with the other, connection can – and must – be made without minimizing different realities, values and perceptions.”


Rothman went on to study International Relations and conflict resolution at the University of Maryland hoping to contribute to the peaceful growth of Israeli society. He subsequently founded and ran the Conflict Resolution Program at the Leonard Davis Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


Rothman is now educating the next generation of conflict resolution professionals at Bar-Ilan. Currently, some 120 students take courses in The Interdisciplinary Program in Conflict Management and Negotiation.


Rothman left his business practice and deep roots in the U.S. to join Bar-Ilan. But he has no regrets. “It feels tremendously gratifying to be back,” he says. “The University has been very supportive and encouraging. I hope that contributing to further developing this program will be the fulfillment of my career.”


And, he adds as a cautious footnote, “I hope that more peace will arrive while I’m here this time. We’ve never tried to build peace from the bottom up, in a participatory, value-driven way that marks the core of what I teach and practice,” says Rothman.
For more on Professor Rothman click here.