Understanding My Neighbor: Intro to Judaism

One day a man came to Rabbi Shammai and told him he wanted to become a Jew. This man asked the rabbi to teach him what Judaism is all about while standing on one foot (i.e. very quickly). But, when Shammai heard this he was deeply offended and chased him away. This man then came to Rabbi Hillel and asked him to tell him about Judaism while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel said these words “Do not to others as you would not have them do to you and the rest is all commentary.”

When Praying Becomes Complex

Recently I received a phone call from the pastor’s wife in a northern village close to Karmiel. She called me to ask the Musalaha women to pray for them. This village is mixed, with Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin. There are traditional churches and Evangelical churches for the Christian community, and there are many tensions between the different religious groups, the different denominations, and within the denominations. This woman demonstrated a courageous act of trust in calling me to partner with her in prayer

Imposing, Expressing and Enlarging Identity

In the past we have shared about workshops we lead on Identity. Identity is complex, and in many situations, we find that others want to impose an identity on us. Yet, it is more important to know and discuss how we see ourselves. In many cases, what others call us is different from what we call ourselves. The way people discuss identity in conflict can be very combative, and we often find that people build their identities at the expense of others. As a result, identity tends to be the first casualty in conflict, something we and many others have observed in reconciliation activities.

Raising Our Children in Conflict

Negative images and occurrences of conflict are all around us in Israel and Palestine. Children learn to fear at a very early age, and it is often a reflection of the fear their older loved ones show, or what they see themselves. Adults here talk freely of the conflict, express their anger and frustration at the situation in front of their children, and in some cases, parents expose young children to the violent images and descriptions of current events on the radio, computer or television. Israeli children – even toddlers – who have lived through wars, know that the sound of a siren indicates that the family must quickly run to a sheltered room. Palestinian children learn to fear soldiers as they see siblings, cousins, parents or other loved ones humiliated, arrested, beaten, or as they smell tear gas seeping through their windows at night.

Discovering My Culture by Learning About the Other’s Culture

This weekend, June 17-18, was a highlight in my work in reconciliation. More often than not, recruiting for events is very challenging, and in our anything-can-change last-minute culture, it is difficult to get people to commit to a weekend-long meeting. Why would people take their precious weekends to stare into a mirror, and perhaps see things that need to change?

Teaching Palestinians and Israelis about Forgiveness

Forgiveness is central in Christianity and also in reconciliation. In the past, people from a non-Christian heritage had strong negative reactions to teachings on forgiveness as they felt others were imposing a Christian ideology on them. Many Christian and Jewish scholars discussed forgiveness as it is related to the Holocaust, and in Israeli Jewish society there emerged a saying, “Never forgive, never forget.” While forgiveness used to be a religious discussion outside of academia, it has now moved into academia as scholars are studying how forgiveness relates to the well-being of humans individually and in society.