Editor's note: Len and Libby Traubman started a Jewish-Arab-Muslim/Christian interfaith dialogue group more than 15 years ago. They are considered the "godparents" to many other interfaith groups springing up around the country.
Len & Libby Traubman
Hosts of Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
“You Arabs want to drive Israel into the sea, and you’re blowing up buses and lobbing bombs on citizens,” said the Jew with dual Israeli-American citizenship.
“Last week, you Jews murdered my two innocent cousins and their sister and mother in Gaza, then demolished their home,” said a young Palestinian Muslim studying in the U.S.
This is real. A recent conversation in our California living room.
Believe it or not, these “enemies” and other Muslims, Jews, and Christians like them continue to meet, insist on returning to face off every month. After 9/11, there was a windfall of even more citizen interest in Arab-Jewish and interfaith communication.
Realizing “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard,” our 16 year old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group, the oldest of its kind, is revving up for its 198th meeting to continue learning and changing. We’ve helped begin and encourage many dozens of similar groups across North America and beyond.
People still ask: Why keep meeting when inept government professionals keep failing decade after decade, resorting to violence – the dependable failure? Some Palestinians say, “Dialogue just makes the Jews feel less guilty.” Some Jews will tell you that “Palestinians think they are the only victims and don’t understand Jewish fear.”
Committed Dialogue participants will tell you that “Dialogue permits both stories, all stories. We share the need to be heard. My story is incomplete until you hear it. I long to hear your story so I can feel complete. The best way to defeat your enemies is to make them your friends.”
So what changes? This: becoming human to each other, we begin to want the best not only for ourselves but for the “other” equally – so far, the missing part of the peace process.
While we are not depending on politicians to build relationships, to their credit this Sept. 23rd Congress passed H.R. 1369. This historic first “Peacemakers Resolution” acknowledges “the vital role of nongovernmental organizations in peace-building efforts between Israel and Palestinians.”
This “citizens’ century” demands face-to-face meeting on vastly larger scales, from which will come the healing, trust, and unprecedented creativity beginning at the grassroots. This isn’t the role of government. This is the Public Peace Process.
The process of change does not begin with issues, but with people making heart connections. In today’s world of interrelationships and interconnections, there is no individual survival. We are all in the same boat together. Familiarity decreases fear and allows the brain to finally work right.
The 1948 Palestinian refugee who joined the Dialogue “to tell those Jews what they did to me and my family” can now feel and explain the great need for Jews to feel secure. The Holocaust refugee who entered the Dialogue to “tell those Palestinians they are terrorizing us with threats to drive us into the sea” can now feel and explain the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe that displaced hundreds of thousands when the state of Israel was born. Thus begins a new, better relationship.
For our handful of Jews, Muslims and Christians, the results are hundreds of previously unimaginable victories. Google “Jewish Palestinian Progress” to see them. Or go right to our site.
To see over five hundred stories of other Arab-Jewish and interfaith triumphs, Google “Jewish Palestinian Success" that leads to this page on our site.
Elie Wiesel said “People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.”
These samplings of increasing citizen peace-building are on the rise.
Such stories power us forward, emboldening our underlying faith and experience that everyone has a soul, an inherited, deeply held quality, whose oldest memory is of union, and whose deepest longing is for reunion.
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