Last night I ran a session for a group of Australians, British and South Africans from the Netivot-Yeladim Israel program at Beit Bnei. For me, the discussion was insightful as we delved into the Palestinian mind - a truly interesting and somewhat eye-opening experience.
Through clips and interviews from TV news broadcasts and through written sources, I presented the group with a unique opportunity to develop an understanding of 'the Palestinian' - his leaders, his family and himself. (Him includes her of course!)
A CNN interview with a 'failed' female suicide bomber triggered debate on the thinking of such people, who describe themselves "as happy at the thought of fulfilling martydom". How often do we get to interview a suicide bomber? Not often, for obvious reasons!
From fanatic to political leaders - Abbas and Erekat. Who are these men and what do they really stand for? We contrasted them with Arafat and analysed Erekat's quite incredible ability to make the world believe that all the news is as it appears through his eyes.
Families and feelings. We attempted to build an understanding of Palestinian fear, sadness and frustration by reviewing last week's prisoner release and by reading an email received from a Palestinian young man in Gaza who spoke openly about his life, his anger and yet his hope to end the waste of holy blood on both sides. Refreshing hopes from a man who was clearly another victim of Palestinian incitement and education.
And then there were the Gazans begging to cancel the Disengagement, for Disengagement only meant unemployment for them and poverty for their families. Palestinian men who told us that Rabin should have never made peace with Arafat and his men.
All this made me think about train tracks. I'd just read that Sharon had agreed (in theory) to the building of a train route for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank.
Trains? Hmmm... it made me contemplate whether things would be different if every Israeli (and every Jew) undertook the intellectual exercise that I facilitated for these students. And what if every Palestinian (and every Arab & Moslem) took 90 minutes to watch some clips of real Israelis - people with pain and fear, but with love, with compassion? What if we all sat on trains together on the way to work and on the way home to our families? Imagine...
And yet, we seem destined to be on two parallel train tracks, on separate trains in two opposite directions. And when the two trains pass each other, the two peoples seem to be looking the other way, at the view through the windows on the other side. Each person feels a small rumble as the other train passes, but passes it off as an overhead plane, or his own train or the two young children jumping on the seats behind him.
I'm no raving optimist - who is these days? Yet, I was pleased with the message that came out of yesterday's KIC session - a message of recognition - that we must take the time to understand the other (and them us) if we are to progress.