DIALOG - In conflict situations


International project of encounter for Israelis, Palestinians and Germans
12. - 15. Juli 2017 in Beit Jala (West Bank / Palästina)
18  participants from Israel (4), Palestine (6) and Germany (8)
director/fascilitator: Dr. Björn Krondorfer

organisation: Daniela Falkenberg, Andrea Leute

organisation on site: Julia Lex

 

This time, the group consisted of four Israelis, six Palestinians and eight Germans, from their early twenties into the late sixties, some with experience in previous FAB seminars, other newcomers. As it turned out, I was far from alone with my skepticism: several others, in particular Palestinians, but also Germans came with their own reservations about the seminar and its ambitions. They found the first two days tough going. In our work in the whole group, or in smaller groups, reasoning prevailed over listening and empathizing, we repeatedly stumbled into discussions about historical rights and wrongs, and there was palpable resistance to opening up all around.

 

On the morning of the third day, news reached us about an attack by three Palestinians on the entrance to the Holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as the Holy Sanctuary. The attackers killed two Israeli Druze policemen, and were then shot and killed themselves.  Once more, we were confronted with the deadly realities of the conflict outside; once more, that helped concentrate minds and move on from there to where we wanted to go. To get there, it is necessary to open up and expose ourselves as human beings, with our vulnerabilities and flaws, our emotional baggage and our conflicted personal histories. Once that happens, reasoned arguments lose their importance, and empathy wells up.

 

On this third day of the seminar, and into the following day, Björn Krondorfer made us work with a powerful technique called “living sculpture”. This technique consists of breaking into smaller groups of six to eight participants around themes (in this seminar, the themes were “dignity”, humiliation” and “fear”), which then have to work out how they can assemble themselves into a “living sculpture” that represents the theme in ways that one could envisage, as a sculpture, in a public place. Each group “performs” its living sculpture without giving explanations; the other two groups share their impressions and reactions with the performing group, which in turn reflects on their own emotional responses to their performance and the reactions it solicited. In the evening of the third day, in the context of this work, the whole group listened to a deeply moving, impassioned and earnest exchange between two of our initially skeptical Palestinian participants: they, and we all, had arrived at where Björn wanted to lead us: unsettling empathy.

 

We left in the afternoon of the following day; there was no skepticism anymore, only a deep sense of gratitude for the shared experience and the bonds created by it between the participants. One of the Israeli members of the group later wrote this about his experience:

 

"For me the Fab seminar was an extremely important experience. I have tens of little stories of  things that were said and that happened that made a profound impression upon me. All told, I have been on a journey of pulling my head out of the sand for the past 3 1/2 years, and this seminar was a very meaningful way station in this journey. I live in my own closed Israeli society with so many different unacknowledged prejudices and blind spots. It will take a life time of work to find them all out, to overcome them and not to revert back to them during trying times. This seminar made a really deep impression on me as part of this continuing life long process.”

 

The seminar also confirmed, I think to all of us, the continuing relevance of our specific tripartite format. Not only are the Germans at the heart of the Jewish national trauma and therefore intertwined with the collective traumas of both peoples that today live and struggle in Palestine, the Holocaust and al-Naqba, the catastrophic displacement of Palestinians in the war of 1948. Their presence in those settings also allows for what Björn Krondorfer calls “triangulation”: breaking up a polarized conflict through introducing a third party as a catalyst.

 

Hanns Maull August 2017

 


 
 

 

"National Identity" - Palestinian Group

 

"National Identity" - Israeli Group

 

"National Identity" - German Group

 

 

 

 

 

Risk the Encounter

 

International project of encounter for young Israelis, Palestinians and Germans
23rd- - 30th September 2016 Beit Jala (West-Banc, Palestine)
22 students from Israel (6), Palestine (9) and Germany (7)
Initiation and organization: Dr. Andrea Leute
International FAB-facilitation-team: Andreas Beier, Dr. Julia Chaitin, Dr. Avner Dinur, Ahmed Helou, Dr. Andrea Leute, Miriam Meyer, Antwan Saca
Film documentary: Gerburg Rohde-Dahl

 

Each of the 3 groups had been prepared for this encounter in advance, in a number of sessions and meetings, by their national facilitators. Since over the last year the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have increased (there were fatal stabbings), the students spoke about their fears and worries. In a safe atmosphere there was a lot of space given to witnessing and to listening to the personal stories of the participants. All participants had become involved in their own personal way, and they took a “little spark of hope” back home.

 

What does it mean for a Palestinian teenager to witness that his friend next to him is being killed by Israeli soldiers? Or what does it mean that the father is taken away by Israeli soldiers and put into prison? What does it mean to grow up as a Palestinian child in a refugee camp and feel like a beggar, when asking for food from an international NGO and having no private space.

 

Some of the Israeli group spoke about the inner conflict within their own society, and what it means to them. Travelling abroad, they would like to feel welcome as an Israeli instead of feeling rejected. Some of them feel like strangers in their own society, which they think of as a “sick society”. And yet, they want to live securely in this society without constant fear of a terror attack.

 

The German participants expressed their concern about the increasing racism and neo-Nazism in their own society. They also spoke about the “burden of the past”: the grandfather of a participant had been stationed during the Second World War close to the place where one of the worst massacres of Jewish people took place during this time. He did a lot of research and developed the deep wish that “the horror of the Holocaust never should be forgotten”.


A bus tour in the West-Bank brought the reality of the daily life in an occupied territory into the seminar: when our group met a woman settler who acted in a provoking way towards us and who finally called the nearby soldiers for help, the Palestinian students felt threatened and full of fear. A few hours later a very different meeting took place for the students: they had a very inspiring meeting with the founders of a growing  local Palestinian Israeli Peace Initiative for Understanding, Non-Violence and Transformation (ROOTS): Hanan, a Jewish Rabbi, Zionist and Settler and Ali, a Palestinian who provides his land for encounters “with the other” (Ali´s Land).

 

Being creative together in different ways deepened the process of opening up for “the other”: like forming a “human sculpture” together in order to portray the topic of “national identity”; like forming sculptures out of clay about the topic “Hope and Despair”, or having an intercultural evening together. In one exercise the participants confronted each other in a respectful way with loaded words such as “Zionism”, “Naqba” “Nazi”, “Victim”, etc. In this exercise an Israeli soldier who had been stationed in Gaza during the last Gaza War 2014 and a Palestinian participant who had lost 15 relatives in Gaza during this war, told each other about their experience of fear and despair – and while doing it, felt seen and recognized by “the other”.

 

Some feedbacks from the closing round:

 

“The word occupation shocked me. We connect it with conquering land. But in the seminar I realized and understood that it is not only about occupying land but occupying freedom. I think all Israeli society should know that.”
(Israeli participant)

 

“For the first time I was with Israelis and felt safe.”
“I want to tell my people that the Israeli listened to me; they did hear my pain. The encounter with Hanan (the Rabbi) gave me a way how to open a conversation with my friends.”

(Two Palestinian participants)

 

“I realize that I want to stand up against neo-Nazism and racism.”
(German participant)

 


Oktober 2016, Andrea Leute