by: Rachael Sauceda
On Tuesday April 9th, members of ICCI’s alumni community of young Palestinians and Jews for Peace Coexistence held a discussion with a group of about 20 American Jews from the Boston area, who were on a study tour with led by Rabbi Howard Berman, Executive Director of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism and rabbi of Central Reform Temple of Boston. This discussion gave the group, who were mainly from Boston and the surrounding area, a unique view as to what it is like for people living and growing up in a culturally diverse city like Jerusalem during a time of conflict. The young adult alumni, from various ICCI young adult dialogue programs, talked about their experiences, the obstacles they overcame, and how they learned to respect and listen to “the other.”
The visiting group asked questions such as:
“Do you deal with disproval from friends and family for participating in the programs?”
“What were some of you biggest misconceptions of ‘the other’?”
And “How did your perspective change after going through the programs?”
Although the group asked some challenging questions all four alumni –2 Jews and 2 Palestinians –were ready to talk about their experiences and able to give the group a better understanding of the substance and the method of ICCI dialogue groups and how participation in this groups impacted their lives. The discussion –which was moderated by ICCI director, Rabbi Ron Kronish–showed how people who are willing to learn about the other side will find themselves quite surprised that they may have more in common than they think.
Participation in long-term culturally sensitive ICCI Dialogue groups helped participants meet and become familiar with diverse points of view on the conflict. The alumni talked about how the ICCI dialogue groups made it possible to sit down and actually get to know and listen carefully and sensitively to someone from the other side. Not only were they able to listen, but also felt comfortable expressing their honest opinions in a very sincere manner, about many issues the ongoing conflict.
One Palestinian alumnus, who was a member of a young adult dialogue group within ICCI said: People are really good, we are all humans and should respect each other; we need the peace and to respect each other in order to live together.”
Respect was something that each person stressed was of great importance in working to build peace among people from both sides of the conflict.. Without respect at even a most basic level it is hard to try and live side by side in such a hostile area
The Jewish and Palestinian young adults also talked about how important and difficult it can be to sit down and actually listen to another person’s feelings and perspectives, especially when you probably will not agree with anything that they are saying. Through the programs at the ICCI ,the alumni learned how to deal with these challenging situations and learned how to break down barriers to reach mutual respect and understanding.
The formal discussion was followed by a dinner, which allowed for members of the group from Boston to talk candidly with the local young adults about their experiences and daily lives in Jerusalem. Through the culturally enriching and educational discussion the visiting group was given the chance to have a unique educational experience in Jerusalem.