March 2007 was the launch of the "Knowing is the Beginning" project, funded by the Japanese Embassy. Both Israeli and Palestinian members of the PCFF participated in this program that aroused emotions, fascination, and brought people together.
Like its predecessor project "History through the Human Eye", funded by the USAID, will generate a dialog between Israelis and Palestinians on their national and personal narratives. However, this time the project is open to the public.
During the weekend of 2-3.7.2010, The new project's discussion leaders, all are members of the PCFF, who have lead dialogue encounters, met at the Everest Hotel in Beit Jala for a bi-national seminar.
Over the weekend, a number of tutoring sessions took place for the various phases of the project. These sessions gave participants personal experience, as well as an opportunity to express their opinions.
Each individual chose a date to represent different events of his national or personal narrative. After choosing, participants were able to move about freely and share stories behind the events. Subsequently, a discussion session was held utilizing the "listening circle" method (a tool used in reconciliation and dialogue encounters). Individuals sat in a circle and spoke once they received an object that was passed within the group. Each participant in turn spoke as much as he wanted without interruption.
Exchange roles –
During another portion of the session Palestinians pretended that they were Israelis, and visa versa. The participants were asked to write down questions they had for the “other side” or things they wanted to discuss. The goal was to try to help individuals enter their perceived enemy’s shoes. Through this activity, participants discovered we cannot actually experience the lives of the “other,” yet we may develop an understanding of what's happening on the “other side.”.
During the subsequent conversations, some Israelis felt comfortable leading conversations through the perspective of Palestinians, which aroused a discussion about the power of the victim. Others said that they felt uncomfortable. Likewise, while some Palestinians were comfortable discussing issues through an Israeli perspective and felt comfortable to belong to the strong side, others felt uncomfortable and guilty when they pretended they were Israelis.
Raa'ed Asman of the Ma'an agency met with the discussion leaders to speak about the importance of identifying a basic common denominator, when conducting an Israeli – Palestinian dialog-session.
Through the seminar, instructors learned to recognize the complexity of the project, discussed its basic premises, raised various concerns, and received tips and guidance. Daniella Kitaein, who specializes in facilitating group meetings, said the atmosphere was excellent. Indeed, a good atmosphere is an important component of success.
During the seminar, outstanding simultaneous translation was facilitated by Ahmed Jafar, a professional translator and a PCFF member. Constant translation throughout the seminar contributed much to its success.
We thank Daniella Kitaein, Ahmad Jaffer, Raa'ed Asman, Mazen Faraj, Ariella Shainok, Nir Yesod and workshop participants.
Translation: Roni Druks