"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