Since the 1960's the western world is developing a new attitude and tools to help solving conflicts.
Prof. Jack Himmelstein and Prof. Carrie Menkel-Meadow, world renown figures in the academic milieu of conflict handling volunteered to facilitate a seminar on the issue of conflict resolution to 55 members of the Parents Circle, held in Talitha Kumi, Beit Galla.
None of the professors came to offer an outsiders' solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their aim was to give fundamental tools that enable a proper managing of the conflict. The bon-ton in today's academic world is that the best solution to any conflict lays in the ability to conduct the conflict in an efficient way. This efficient way can be learnt and should be practiced. In order to begin and do so the facilitators brought to the PCFF games and exercises.
After a short warm-up game where each of the participants had to think of 2 words which describes why he came to the seminar, we moved to games who deal with the way we handle conflicts.
In this game the participants are asked to pay attention to the immediate position we all have in a conflict. The rules of the games are that one can get a candy as a reward if he was able to have his opponent's thumb down, after the game we discussed the various options people chose to play the game: those who tried winning, those who gave up, and those who understood that if the both of them will cooperate they will both win more candies. In this game we can learn that for most of us the first reaction will be seeing the "other" as our enemy and rival over the sources we have while if we gave more thought to the situation we could think of more creative ways to find a solution that will maximize the profit for both sides.
So what you were actually saying…. Attentive listening is the first stepping stone in a constrictive conflict resolution situation. Most of the time, we are not aware of the fact that we are not listening carefully. Many times we translate what was said to what we've heard or thought we've heard, or what we've thought the other wanted to tell us. In this exercise the participants asked their partners a question, and then repeated the answer and asked the partners if they understood correctly what they said. This exercise raised issues of the barriers to a attentive listening, and the various feelings attached to listening to the other. The importance of asking question was also emphasized with this exercise.
In the last part of the seminar some of the members raised some questions regarding the importance of those exercises. Some of the members expected to hear about solutions to the conflict and ways to bring the longed-for peace and were not satisfied with the games that were meant to teach us of the "HOW" to practice conflicts. Both Jack and Carrie were very open to the criticism, and demonstrated empathic listening. They explained that the exercises goals were to take the members of the PCFF, who know about grief and pain, and walk with them over the stages two sides has to go through when trying to reconcile.
Prof. Jack Himmelstein
We want to deeply thank our new friends, Prof. Carrie Menkel –Meadow and Prof. Jack Himmelstein for their help, contribution, effort, listening and wisdom. ,
Thanks to the Embassy of the United States of America, Cultural Affairs Office, the entire seminar was translated simultaneously into English, Arabic and Hebrew. The translation was excellent and enabled all participants' full and fluent participation.