לקח הדגים והשמש

מאת האווקה זיסלר

(תורגם ע”י ענת גויכמן)

לאחרונה קראתי בלוג של הרב רון קרוניש, מנכ”ל המועצה המתאמת הבין דתית בישראל, ששיקף בדיוק את מה שהטריד את מנוחתי באותו הזמן והרגשתי שחשוב יהיה להדגיש את תפישתו בעניין תקווה בינות הייאוש, אך מתוך מקום פסיכולוגי. במסגרת סיטואציות שונות שיצא לי לקחת בהן חלק בשבועות האחרונים בישראל הבחנתי כי כישלון השיחות בין הישראלים לפלסטינים גרר גל של ייאוש ותסכול שאפפו אנשים רבים משני צידי הקונפליקט. הדבר הוביל לקיפאון בשיתוף פעולה בין ארגונים פלסטיניים וישראלים ולהפסקה מוחלטת של תהליך השלום.  כחלק ממצב חדש זה שני הצדדים אימצו את עמדת הקורבן אף יותר מהרגיל. דבר זה מהווה עול פסיכולוגי עצום היות ושני הצדדים החלו לאמץ דפוסי פעולה של ייאוש.

במצב בו מאן דהוא מאמין כי ישנו אוייב מאיים ומדכא שהוא בלתי ניתן לעצירה, אדם זה אוטומטית יזהה את עצמו כנחות יותר ובקלות יאמץ את הרעיון שהמצב חסר תקווה. דפוס זה בונה קשרים חזקים בתוך הקבוצה ומחליש כל מוכנות לתקשר או אפילו לבטוח בקבוצה החיצונית. כפי שהראה רוברט פוטנאם, חוקר בולט בתחום הקשרים חברתיים ויחסים חברתיים, בספרו “”לשחק באולינג לבד” שראה אור בשנת 1995, ישנו מין הון חברתי של גישור והיקשרות בכל חברה, הון שהינו חיוני לאמון ולמבנה של קהילות אלו. הוא מזהה נוכחות גבוהה של הון התקשרותי אשר מהווה, למעשה, שלוחה של יחסי הגומלין בין אנשים דומים שחברים באותה קבוצה. פוטנאם מצא שהימצאותו של הון זה הוא כשלעצמו צעד לקראת חברה שלווה ושוחרת שלום בחברה הומגנית. אולם בקבוצה מגוונת ומרובת ההון המגשר הינו חיוני. הון גישורי הינו שלוחה של יחסי גומלין בין אנשים שאינם דומים. אם גישור אינו נוכח בחברה, החברה תאמץ חוסר אמון והדבר יגרור בניית דעות קדומות ובכך ייצור קיפאון חברתי.

במהלך שיחה בלתי פורמאלית בירושלים, מכר ערבי ישראלי אמר לי שהקונפליקט הינו כמו גור אריות. לו יתייחסו לגור זה באדיבות ובכבוד הוא יגדל להיות חיה אדיבה ומכבדת גם כן, אך אם יתייחסו לגור האריות באלימות בשלב מסויים יתקוף את בעליו באלימות (בעיניו, גור האריות מסמל את העם הפלסטיני).  בעוד שישנה מידה של אמת מאחוריי אמירה זו, אני חושב שזה עצוב מאוד שזהו הנרטיב שבוחרים לאמץ. זה מזכיר לי את תופעת “חוסר האונים הנרכש” שהוגדר ונחקר לראשונה ע”י מרטין זליגמן בשת 1967 באוניברסיטת פנסילבניה. במחקרו, עכברושים הושלכו לתוך בריכת מים אשר לא הייתה שום תקווה לצאת ממנה. בשלב מסויים העברושים היו מוותרים ומפסיקים לנסות להימלט. אם אותו עכברוש היה נלקח לסיטואציה אחרת בה הייתה אפשרות מילוט הוא לא היה טורח כלל לנסות והיה מניח שהסיטואציה היא חסרת תקווה. דפוסים דומים נמצאו בניסויים עם בני אדם. הבעיה היא שהתסכול הזה לאור סכנה תמידית של אלימות לשני הצדדים יצר התקרבנות-עצמית הדדית וע”י כך ראציונליזציה של “תקיפת אריות”. אני שמעתי הערות מפלסטינים שיהודים שטוענים בפניי שהם מעורבים בתהליכי דיאלוג ורוצים שלום משקרים. בהקבלה, נאמר לי ע”י יהודים ישראלים כי שערבים ככלל לא מקבלים את היהודים כשכניהם. הכללות המתגברות ע”י תסכול וייאוש ומשולהבות ע”י גורמים שונים, שזה נושא בפניי עצמו, הינן הסיבה לחוסר אמון ולשבירת הקשרים החברתיים.

אז איך אנחנו נלחמים בזה?
עלינו להמשיך בדרך הדיאלוג ובחיפושנו אחר אנשים המקדמים דו קיום שקט. אל תשבו ותחכו שמישהו יצטרף לאקווריום שלכם. קחו סיכון וקפצו לאקווריום שלידכם. דג אחד באוקיינוס גורלו עגום ומר, אבל כלהקת דגים  תוכלו להגן על עצמכם מפני התקפות התסכול והיאוש. דברים אך ורק יוכלו להשתנות אם התקווה היא המילה החרותה על דגלינו ולא השנאה, התסכול והכעס.

בזמן שאני ממשיך לעבוד על תחנת הרדיו של המועצה הבין דתית המתאמת הנקראת “מיקרופונים של לשלום” נתקלתי ברגעים רבים בהם תהיתי איך למען השם אמצא אנשים בעלי מוטיבציה שיתאחדו כדי להשמיע את קולם. אולם בהמשלך פגישותיי האחרונות התרשמתי באופן חיובי ביותר מאנשים שנרגשים להילחם בייאוש ע”י הפגשת אנשים תחת מטריית האחדות.

אני נזכר באימרה שקראתי לאחרונה בספר “האמת על הג’יהאדץ הספר מתאר כיצד הרעיון של אי-אלימות באיסלאם הינו למעשה (בניגוד למחשבה הרווחת) מהות הדת. הספר אומר כי “ההרגל של סובלנות מונע מאדם לשחת את זמנו וכישרונו על בדיונות בלתי נחוצים. כאשר אדם מושפע ע”י התנהגות שלילית קשה לעיכול של אחר שיווי המשקל הנפשי שלו מתערער. אך אם אותו אדם נשאר בלתי מושפע נפשית ע”י התנהגות כזו, נפשו תשמור על שיווי המשקל (מאוולנה וואחידודין חאן, 2002). אינני מסכים שעלינו להפוך לרובוטים נטולי רגשות שאינם מושפעים כלל ע”י כל צורה של התנהגויות “קשות לעיכול”. אך השאלה היא למעשה האם אנו מוכנים לתת לפחד, לתסכול ולייאוש – שנמצא שם ולא צריך להתעלם ממנו – לכבוש את עצם קיומנו או שאנו ממשיכים הלאה כמו השמש. אנו זורחים בבוקר באותו זוהר נחוש, מפיצים את חמימות הסובלנות שנלמדת בצורה מעמיקה ביהדות, בנצרות ובאיסלאם באותה מידה.

האווקה זיסלר לומד יחסים בין תרבותיים באוניברסיטת ג’ייקובס בברמן שבגרמניה, שם עזר להקים תכנית חונכות מקומית (לחקור את ברמן) והקים תחנת רדיו אוניברסיטאית בקמפוס. האווקה מתמחה בקיץ במועצה הבין דתית המתאמת בדגש על הקמת תחנת הרדיו של המועצה הבין דתית המתאמת – “מיקרופונים של שלום”.

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We need hearts

By Hauke Ziessler

I had the privilege of visiting Hebron in order to interview local Palestinians and experience the conflict that is so real in the area. After an almost 2 hour bus ride I arrived and was greeted cheerfully by a young Palestinian man who has been  interning with an interreligious organisation based in Jerusalem via skype during the past month since he has not yet been granted a permit by the Israeli army to leave the area.

Over a local falafel he proceeded to tell me his complicated personal story. During recent months, he has been living in isolation due to threats he had received by people in his society due to his open-minded stance of engaging Israelis during the ongoing conflict. Due to his involvement in dialogue programs with Israelis on “the other side”, he had been accused of being a “normalizer” and a traitor.

He also told me that if the books, which he carried around with him, were found they would be thrown away as they are books from Israel. Furthermore, he explained to me that it would be very difficult to find other Palestinians to interview who were promoting the idea of finding a non-violent solution to peace. Through this conversation, I realized how fragile is the existence of Palestinians in the West Bank who are still interested in finding a peaceful solution with Israel.

This experience created a stark contrast to the very real divide I witnessed in the heart of Hebron’s old city. With only 400 Jewish settlers living in a city of 800 000 Palestinian people, I was surprised by the militaristic presence. In order to reach the cave of the patriarchs I went through 3 checkpoints to enter a building that in any other country would be a heart-warming symbol of interreligious coexistence. Alas, here it was the epitome of the conflict.

The mosque built around the graves of prophets Abraham “Ibrahim”, Isaac “Is’haq”, Jacob (pbut), –and their wives– is also a synagogue. For major Jewish holidays, the mosque is closed and the Jewish population enters their prayer rooms through the inner part of the mosque. The only thing dividing these two areas was bulletproof glass.

After seeing these sites, we were invited into the home of a Palestinian family whose next door neighbours were Jewish settlers. They proceeded to show me punctured water tanks, burn marks where the settlers had set fire to their home, trash which the settlers threw off their roof onto the homes of their Palestinian neighbours; and told me of how in one of the fires a baby was killed. Below this house I had my first and only interview with a local shopkeeper who had not sold a single thing in 2 weeks, as the usual throngs of tourists had dried up due to the conflict in Gaza.

I was overwhelmed by the stories and by the sights I had seen. Not only did the malicious acts of the settlers shock me but the social pressure that existed here was felt while talking to the locals.

The day was not over and continued with a visit to the so called “other side” where I had the privilege of visiting a settlement in “Gush Etzion”, a block of settlements between Hebron and Bethlehem. Here I heard stories of a policeman who had experienced multiple bus bombings by Palestinians, had picked up his own children a half an hour before the 3 boys were kidnapped from the same crossing and had helped apprehend a potential suicide bomber. He mentioned that he was there to uphold the law in his area. As far as he was concerned, Jews or Palestinians should all be equal under the law.

We had a lengthy discussing all the while sitting a stone’s throw away from the Tent of Nations”, a Palestinian organisation on the Nasser farm. The owners of this land have been arguing their case in the Supreme Court of Israel for over 20 years in order to try to prove that this land belongs to their family since the Ottoman Empire. He has proof of violations against him as a person under Israeli law yet the pressure on him continues.
Standing in this settlement, watching the most amazing sunset distorted by the black smoke clouds over Gaza and the continuous sound of explosions over Gaza and Ashkelon, I saw the Tent of Nations below me, I remembered everything I had experienced during the day, heard the explosions intertwined with sheer beauty and I was overwhelmed. The frustration, fear and despair was high on both sides of the conflict.

The injustices were real and yet the solution was being kept under lock on both sides. I have no answer, I have no solution, but I still believe that the answers and the solutions lie in us and so I would like to end with a poem, which I wrote in order to process my experiences of the day:

We need hearts

We need hearts that are so ferociously consumed by hope that the joy bubbles over, froths out of the mouth and splatters on others like a rabid rabies infested animal.
We need hearts that will stand up and take this elixir of hope created trust and eat people up with it.
We need hearts of stone that will be softened into a sponge that is leaking and dripping care and unity onto others.
We need hearts that willingly break off pieces of themselves for peace.
We need hearts that stand together holding hands so that the veins run through us in one continuous flow.
We need hearts that create and not destroy
We need hearts that are cracked open to allow the hurt to be repaired
We need hearts that are exposed to new and revolutionary ideas
We need hearts that pump this hope into the mind opening it to new ways
We need hearts that encourage the tired muscles of fighting to do the opposite and begin work on uniting
We need hearts not guns
We need hearts not hate
We need Hearts not spades that bury the dead
We need hearts not clubs to kill
We need hearts not diamonds of destruction
We need Kings of Hearts and not Kings of revenge
We need a heart and then we can bring together the apart

-Hauke Ziessler

 

Hauke Ziessler, a student at the Jacobs University Bremen, interned with ICCI this summer.

Hearing the Hard Truths

By Heather Renetzky

(as part of our Stories of Inspiration series)

Hani Salman first got involved in ICCI and interreligious dialogue during a time very different from today. It was 2008 and[R1]  Hani was 16 years old. As he describes it, this was a time when “everyone wanted to engage in dialogue” and people were optimistic about the possibility of achieving peace through discourse. In addition to being a participant in an ICCI young adult dialogue program, Hani served as a facilitator for 2 years on ICCI’s innovative “Kickstart Peace” program for Arab and Jewish teenagers , and he served on the staff of the Face to Face/Faith to Faith program in the U.S.A –in cooperation with Auburn Theological Seminary—for 2 summers.

Hani, a Palestinian Muslim living in the Palestinian Bet Safafa neighborhood/village in the southern edge of “East” Jerusalem, chose to engage in dialogue and joined ICCI’s “Jerusalem Interreligious Young  Adult Forum” because he wanted to “speak about [his] cause.” He also hoped that engaging in dialogue would allow him to broaden his understanding of the Israeli perspective:

“I was satisfied that I could talk about myself really, and not be diplomatic,” he said.

“[In dialogue], you hear the things that are hard for you to hear and you start to try to understand it from another perspective.”

Although Hani saw benefits in participating in ICCI and other interterreligious  dialogue programs, his friends and family were skeptical. His family told him that they thought his effort was a waste of time, and his friends accused him of contributing to “normalization”, establishing normal relations with Jews in Israel, despite the ongoing occupation..

“It’s not understood that Israelis and Palestinians sit together in one room and talk together at the same eye level, considering each other as equal human beings,” Hani said.

Hani, like many, has himself grown less hopeful about peace due to current events, but he still thinks that there is some value in dialogue. He said that at minimum, bringing people together is important:

“Everything you do to bring people together is better than not doing it,” he explained.

“One of the best things you can achieve from dialogue is to be able to listen to stories that are really difficult for you  ,to listen and to try to accept it.”

One of the friends that Hani met through ICCI was, an Orthodox Jew studying to be a Rabbi in the United States. In 21st century fashion, Hani and [R2]  recently had an argument on Facebook about what they were each posting. However, the two were able to move beyond the argument and to have a genuine dialogue via social networking.

“We’re still friends and we’re enjoying our friendship because neither of us deny the right of existence to each other,” Hani explained.

He also called for this attitude among others:

“I wish that before jumping to a conclusion, everyone would try to listen in order to hear the side that he may not want to listen to—even the side that is difficult for him to see—and to then form an opinion.”

Heather Renetzky, a Core 18 Fellow interning at ICCI this summer, is finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from Macalester College.

LANGUAGE AS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE OTHER

By Heather Renetzky

(as part of our Stories of Inspiration series)

Elhanan Miller believes that language is the best way to begin to understand the other side. A Jewish Israeli who is now a journalist, Elhanan grew up in Jerusalem in what he calls a “liberal environment.”

Elhanan learned Arabic from an early age and felt that he was able to connect to the area he lived in on a deeper level. Through language, he has felt more “grounded” in the region and geographic area and hopes that others can feel the same. He  wishes that Arabic were taught at a better level in schools as that would make a variety of news outlets more accessible to Jews in Israel. In his eyes, this increased availability of information would help Jewish Israelis understand their neighbors better and work together  with their neighbors towards peace. He explained how simple and effective this method is:

“[Teaching Arabic] doesn’t cost you anything in terms of land or concessions; it’s something you can gain for free,” he said.

As a reporter on Arab and Palestinian affairs for the internet newspaper “The Times of Israel,” Elhanan is constantly using his Arabic skills to find out more and inform the public. He makes a concerted effort to bring many quotations into his articles in order to reflect the voices of the people he is writing about. In part, he said that this commitment to connecting with the people he works with derives from his participation in dialogue programs within ICCI.

“ICCI gave me a higher level of sensitivity to the emotional and religious aspects of the conflict. It’s not just numbers or facts; it’s people’s stories,” he said.

Elhanan also works towards understanding through his greater involvement in other ICCI programs. He is a member of Kodesh–a group of religious leaders, educators, community leaders,  academics and journalists– who get together to study texts, discuss contemporary issues, and take action. In addition, he has previously served as a Hebrew-Arabic-Hebrew translator for many of ICCI’s dialogue groups, especially those involving youth and young adults.  He also conducted several interviews for “All for Peace Radio” with graduates from ICCI dialogue and action programs.

“Just meeting on a personal level between Jews and Palestinian Arabs is important in and of itself,” he explained. “People live in very separate societies and it’s good to bring them together.”

According to Elhanan, peace is only possibility if  there is a grassroots effort to complement the political effort. In addition to literally understanding each other, Elhanan said that each side must legitimize the other’s narrative.

“There has to be an understanding of narratives—an acknowledgement that the others have a legitimate claim to the land, “As long as either side does not acknowledge the other’s legitimate claim to live here, I think the conflict will just be perpetuated.”

Heather Renetzky, a Core 18 Fellow interning at ICCI this summer, is finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from Macalester College.

Building Bridges: An Israeli’s Search to Connect

By Morgan Furlong

(as part of our Stories of Inspiration series)

David Goodman has a lot to say about meeting “the other.” No, not just the Palestinian “other,” but other interfaith-minded Israelis whom he met through the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel.

“I’m used to hearing univocal voices on Israeli side, and to hear other voices and different voices from within my society, and to feel like I’m not totally alone, and to work with them, was something very good for me.”

David, a producer and host of the Jerusalem radio station JLEM.FM, is pursuing his Masters in Philosophy at Hebrew University.  He first got involved in ICCI when his then girlfriend (now wife) told him about the “Present Memories” program, a five-day dialogue program with a group of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian young Israeli adults, and a group of German young adults from the organization “Evangelisches Jugend.” which took place in summer 2011

The trip started off with a field trip to Zochrot, where the group spoke about the “Nakba”. Growing up with a right-wing Zionist religious education, David remembers that this was the first time he and other Jewish Israelis had heard Israel’s Independence referred to as a “catastrophe” that displaced the Palestinian people. While it was a very difficult topic to discuss, David reflects that it was a good way to begin the program because emotions poured out from all sides. This experience set the tone for the rest of the program.

Within a few days, the group already felt familiar enough with one another to ask tough questions. David said that a Palestinian participant asked him direct questions about what it is like to live in a Jewish part of the city, and what he was taught in elementary school about the conflict. In return, David asked about life in an Arab village and what was taught on the other side growing up. David felt that he was in a unique situation where he was close enough with “the other” to raise a question on a sensitive subject, and so David asked him about his attitude towards the former leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat. Always viewing Arafat as the reason behind the Second Intifada, David asked, “Why did Arafat refuse to come to a deal when Israeli Prime Minister Barak offered him everything?” The answer he got opened his eyes to a whole new viewpoint.

His new friend explained that Barak offered almost everything in terms of land, but land was not the only issue; in order to build a state, you need to have the opportunity for independence and sovereignty, and Barack refused to give the Palestinians the opportunity to control their own electricity, water, airport, and army. David reflects, “I still have mixed feelings about Arafat […] I don’t know […] maybe my starting point was right, but it’s interesting to see that a simple point can be seen in different perspectives.”

ICCI helped David stop, take a step back, and see the argument from both sides before jumping to conclusions.

Furthermore, speaking with Palestinians made David realize that his perspective sometimes aligned more with theirs than with the Jewish Israeli group. While the program did give him the opportunity to meet Jewish Israelis with whom he shared many views, he commented on how he still felt disconnected from them, as his views sometimes seemed to cross the line:

”How can I make a bridge between myself and other Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs that I know? It raised a lot of questions between me and Israeli society. I live within it, I like it, I like the people and everything, but I think there are few things to criticize about it.”

Despite differing ideologically between both Palestinians and Israelis in the group, David spoke about the importance of deepening the connections with them and moving from dialogue to action.

A Palestinian friend from the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa told David that the city was building roads to divide the land in his neighborhood. Even though David is not usually a big believer in demonstrations, he went to this Arab village and brought his Jewish Israeli friends to join together and protest. His friend’s family was excited to see David supporting their cause.

“You don’t need to wait for government to solve the situation. Do your own small thing. Show, ‘Here I am; I am coming from one side of the conflict, but I have good intentions… and I want to give a message of respect and hope.’”

David has a big dream about his own “small thing” for action: an Interfaith Beit Midrash. He and a Muslim friend from ICCI discussed an interest in studying together. In the Jewish tradition of Havrutah, two or three friends take a book and have a regular meeting on it. Beyond learning the text, people discuss other subjects they choose.  He wants to translate this Jewish tradition into an interfaith model and adopt it for multiple places of study.

“In my point of view, I think that if more people in the world study together, the world will be a better place.”

Morgan Furlong graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in International Relations and is pursuing a career in interfaith work.

 

Empathy First

By Heather Renetzky

(as part of our Stories of Inspiration series)

Avital Hahamy joined the program “Between Memory and Reconciliation” in 2008, primarily motivated by the program’s trip to Japan. What she came away with, however, was a lot more than a trip abroad.

This program was based on a yearlong dialogue between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and included a 10 day study tour to Japan. For Avital, the program was a “real milestone” in the way that she views the conflict. Before joining the ICCI, she never had meaningful interactions with a Palestinian person, and her view on Palestinians was therefore mediated by (mostly negative) reports in the media. Her perspective has since become more complex, and this change of view was accompanied by a thought provoking process.

One such process was the exposure to multiple historical narratives which Avital gained by participating in the dialogue group

“I was amazed to find out that the ‘absolute truth’ that I learned in school, was not considered true by others,” she said.

“I tended to think of history as based on mere facts, but I realized historical narratives are greatly shaped by interpretation of events.”

Avital said that it took her a while to reach this conclusion, and it required some retrospective reflections.  This was partially due to the intense emotional reactions that arose during these meetings and made the dialogue experience difficult at times. Avital said that she can now better understand the emotional processes gone through by both sides, in part because of knowledge of psychology she has gained since the program.

She explained one instance in which the dialogue group visited Kvar Etzion, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, where Jewish people were murdered in a massacre that occurred during Israel’s war of independence. During the visit, the Jewish group members were frustrated by the lack of empathy the Palestinian members expressed for the Jewish victims. Now, in retrospect, she can understand why it was difficult for Palestinians to express such emotions.

“Can the weaker side really afford to express empathy for the stronger side?” she questioned.

“There’s a relationship between how much power you feel you have in a dialogue, and how much empathy you can actually afford” she explained.

She also added that the narrative of each side is profoundly shaped by such emotionally loaded events, which are seldom experienced in an empathic way by the other side. In that sense, accepting the existence of a different narrative first requires understanding the pain of the other side, and that can be extremely difficult when you predominantly feel your own pain. Avital, however, doesn’t feel it is essential to reconcile these narratives.  Instead, she believes we should focus on the present.

“I sometimes feel that historical claims help each side feel like the ‘true’ victim of the conflict. Adopting such a view emphasizes our own pain, and therefore prevents us from showing empathy to the pain experienced by others. Perhaps if we could stop focusing on who we feel was right, we could focus on how to put an end to this situation now. ”

For Avital, dialogue is an integral part of this process, as we “need to acknowledge what hurts” for all people involved:

“Engaging in dialogue is very important because it’s the only way to understand how the other side feels. If you’re willing to go to places that are emotionally hard for you, you will gain insights about yourself and about your surroundings. Dialogue could really offer an exceptional opportunity for both individuals and societies to grow.”

Heather Renetzky, a Core 18 Fellow interning at ICCI this summer, is finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from Macalester College.