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Interview Archives

Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Yehuda Stolov

Yehuda Stolov brings together Christian, Jewish and Muslim Israelis and Palestinians for dialogue sessions and weekend seminars about each other's religions. His work facilitates interaction between communities and encourages individuals to confront their own prejudices and fears of the other side. He deems what he calls the "human infrastructure" as the core of any successful peace process. Before founding the Interfaith Encounter Association, Yehuda Stolov participated in other interfaith dialogue organizations in Israel. He says he found his inspiration to pursue interfaith work in the writings of Rabbi Kook, whom he calls, "inclusive in spirit towards opinions and people." To hear a radio interview with Yehuda Stolov produced by Chicago Public Radio, click here.

  • Have you ever had arguments on any side?

    No. There are disagreements during the discussions, so there are disagreements within the Jewish group and within the Muslim group. The Christian groups are usually much smaller. There are fewer Christians here, but even they disagree occasionally. Disagreeing is fine. We're not scared of disagreeing; it's fine. Our challenge, I think, is not agreement but rather to learn to disagree amicably. How does this relate to peace work? What does it contribute? Let's say that in my opinion it's the main peace work being done. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I don't think our main challenge is to bring people with no influence whatsoever in their societies together and find out which political issues they agree or disagree on, trying to lead them towards agreement. I think that's an unsuccessful approach; even if it were successful it still isn't of any significance.

  • What is your name and where are you from?

    My name is Yehuda Stolov. I'm from here. I was born in Tel Aviv and "immigrated" to Jerusalem 26 years ago or so. How did you get involved in the work you are currently doing? Truthfully, for me becoming active was coincidental; it happened 14-15 years ago. For a long period I was involved with this type of activity because I was interested in meeting with different people. I found interfaith dialogue novel and surprising, because prior to that, when I found myself interested in other religions, I would simply take a course at a university or read a book. I had never considered the possibility of actually meeting with other people. That in itself was interesting for a certain period. Later, I began to understand the force of interfaith dialogue and its ability to be a facilitative mechanism between communities. This prompted me and some others to found a new organization-- we had all been active in organizations with interfaith discussion and felt that [the element of interfaith dialogue] wasn't prominent enough there. Where were you active prior to that? I was in the Israel Interfaith Association.1

    • 1According to its website, the Israel Interfaith Association "is an independent organization that has been working since its inception in the year 1959 throughout the country to promote understanding and mutual respect between all the sects, religions, and ethnic groups within Israel." See the Israel Interfaith Association website http://www.israel-interfaith.co.il/.

  • How does your new organization differ from the one you were previously involved with?

    It doesn't really. Our direction was different from interfaith discourse or notions of classic dialogue. In regular interfaith dialogue the initial objective is to teach people about the other's religion. When that is the objective, the stress during the activity falls on the lecture. A lecturer is selected to be someone you rely on to share accurate information, so that whoever is listening and taking notes learns about the religion itself. I don't think that's necessarily what happens, but that is the aim. The audience comes to listen and not to speak. Most of the time there are lectures and then there are some questions from the audience, which actually ends up meaning that people talk. If we want to employ interfaith discussion as a mechanism for constructing mutual respect and friendship among communities, then we need to stress interaction. This is a means that is both positive and profound, and it happens between people. We organize our activities so that we have a short introductory lecture, which is not the center of the activity, but is intended to frame the discussion and supply material or questions that can be discussed. Most of the time is dedicated to discussions in small groups where people can talk to each other. This method obviously undermines the goal of talking about the other's religion, because often people will say things that are inaccurate about their own religion. Our goal includes learning about the other's religion, but that's the secondary objective and not the main one. That's why we prefer this format.

  • By inviting settlers to participate, are you asking the Palestinian participants to accept the status quo, and accept settlements as permanent?

    No. We are very careful about this so as not to have any political message. The settlers are a part of Israeli society, for better or for worse. Because I think that making peace at the level of the people must include all parts of society, both on the Palestinian and on the Israeli side, I think that they [the settlers] must not be excluded from this. Similarly but more extreme, Hamas members aren't banned; we've had Hamas members participate in our meetings. I once participated in a different organization's meeting that was very small and there were ideological settlers and an ideological Hamas member—meaning non-violent and not supportive of violence but he believed in Hamas' ideology, and the meeting was great. The organizers as well as myself were astounded at how smoothly it went.

  • Take the Palestinian woman whom you invited to come and tell the settlers what she had to say. Is there a place for this type of thing within your meetings?

    I think so, depending on how things are said and at what point. I expect things like that to come up once or twice in groups that have been meeting for a while. We need to get to know each other first, build together, build dialogue.

  • What made you want to take part in interfaith discussions?

    At first it was personal. After that it became a matter of wanting to contribute to furthering and improving relations between the communities here in the "Holy Land." Who do you work with? Who participates in your activities? We work with three circles, geographically speaking, and are in the early stages of developing a fourth. The first circle is comprised of Israeli citizens: Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze. Since there aren't any travel impediments here [in Israel] we try to establish regular groups that meet once a month. We select neighboring communities so that people won't have to travel a long way, and because they usually have no contact with each other. Gradually, we build a joint community in which the personal identities aren't threatened. On the contrary, there is respect for the separate identities, yet there is friendly interaction between the groups. This is a model that we think needs to be developed until it spans the entire population. The next circle is the Israeli-Palestinian one. Theoretically, we cooperate with seven Palestinian organizations from Nablus, Qalqilia, Gaza City, and Khan Yunis. We've held 12 weekend meetings and our main partner was from Nablus. One organization from Ramallah sent representatives once, and one from Bethlehem did on another occasion. We are organizing a conference for the beginning of February for a group from Bethlehem; we've started working with an organization from Ramallah who potentially will follow the model we developed for the groups within Israel.

  • How does your religious community regard the meetings?

    Most people are fine with it. Some are passive supporters. Some think I'm naive and that the effort is useless because it is bound to fail ultimately, but nobody thinks it isn't okay. What do you say to people who think you are naïve? I tell them to come and try it out. Occasionally it works and they do come.

  • You talked about building joint communities in which people's identities aren't threatened. What do you do to ensure that identities aren't threatened?

    It's incorporated into the activities. Of course, our activities are mostly the encounters with the other's culture and religion; in principle, every person is allotted an equal amount of time, receives equal treatment and consideration and the same dignity, so there is no discrimination between participants from different communities. How do you deal with the matter of language? Inside Israel it usually doesn't pose a major problem because the Arabs speak Hebrew. We also have one group in Jerusalem that operates in Arabic. In Jerusalem occasionally there are groups where there are Arabs whose English is better than their Hebrew, so sometimes we use English.

  • What does Zionism mean for you?

    I don't know, the regular definition is the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. What is it for you? For me too. That's what it is, isn't it? Initially it's the physical return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. After that it means constructing a Jewish society here. To me building a true Jewish state and society here includes addressing the issue of the stranger living amongst us and our neighbors, just like when we had a lawful Jewish state. Which period are you referring to? The period of ideal Jewish existence is pretty much depicted as being the end of [King] David's1 reign or the beginning of King Solomon's.2 During that period, internal relations in the kingdom, including between Jews and non-Jews, were proper.

    • 1Refers to King David, the second king of Ancient Israel who ruled from 1000 BCE to 962 BCE.
    • 2The third king of the ancient Israeli kingdom.

  • Where do the conferences take place?

    For example, we organized a joint prayer session with the organization from Ramallah in Nebi Samuel1 [tomb of the Prophet Samuel]. It's a special place. It's one of the only places that has both a prayer hall for Jews and a prayer hall for Muslims in the same building. They're actually right above one another and both have a tombstone for the Prophet Samuel. We prayed there, but we can meet there or in places that are easily accessible to both peoples. The group from Bethlehem is situated very close to Efrat ; it's actually in area C, so it is accessible [to Israelis]. It's also easier to receive permits nowadays, so we also managed to obtain permits for them. The third circle is the Middle East. We are under the auspices of an international interfaith organization that's called United Religions Initiative,2 based in San Francisco; we're part of the Middle East - Northern Africa region. We have groups in Israel, of course, in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, and we are trying to found new groups. The fourth circle, which I hope will work out, is the rest of the world. We want to found more groups of Friends of Interfaith Meetings,3 who, as I have implied, are expected not only to contribute funds, but also to establish groups wherever they are.

    • 1The largest settlement in geographic size, but not population, in the West Bank, comprising a total land area of 3,125 acres, and an estimated population of 7,000.
    • 2According to its website, the purpose of the United Religions Initiative is "to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings." See http://www.uri.org/.
    • 3Friends of Interfaith Encounter Association are groups based outside the Middle East which support the IEA's work or organize local interfaith encounter groups in their own regions. See http://www.interfaith-encounter.org/projects.htm#Friends

  • Can you tell me about your last meeting with Palestinians from Nablus?

    I think that was the series of eight meeting at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (the meetings are not connected with them, we just use their facilities). The format is more or less the same for all our meetings. We begin on a Thursday afternoon with dinner and then we have an evening of getting to know each other. This last time, a group of Jewish and Christian musicians came and sang and we joined in. The following day we began sessions dealing with the subject of the meeting, which was "Love thy neighbor as thy self." The first lecturer gave a 15-2 minute lecture on Judaism and then we split into small groups until the Muslims' Friday prayer session. They held the prayer session as though they weren't being observed, and there were explanations for the non-Muslims, who were invited to observe. Then we started the session on the Christian angle. Again - a short lecture and small groups. I think one of the participants organized a yoga class. Then there was Kabbalat Shabbat1 and then time for socializing - singing, dancing, telling jokes. It's different every time, depending on the participants. The session on Saturday morning was dedicated to the Muslim approach, and then there was a concluding session. Because it was the final meeting of a series, it was a sad moment. Our participants tried to brainstorm locations such as Nebi Samuel, where we could meet without having to rely on such extensive funding. We still need funding even for meetings in Jerusalem and the vicinity, and bringing people from Nablus is rather expensive.

    • 1(Hebrew for "Receiving the Sabbath"). The service ushering in the Jewish Sabbath.

  • Did you encounter any resistance to the joint prayer session you held?

    No. It was interesting because the prayers weren't composed especially for peace, it was plain Jewish and Muslim evening prayers taking place simultaneously. It was fine. We didn't have a minyan1 for the Jewish prayers though. I don't know how things will continue. For Muslim prayer no minyan is necessary. Not all the Muslims prayed because it was very cold and not everyone felt like completing the required washing. I thought more people would come; the Jewish people who came weren't responsive, they didn't ask questions, didn't resist or anything. Were you in the same room together? There's a Jewish prayer hall downstairs, above that is the Muslim hall and each has their own tombstone. There's a small yeshiva in the Jewish hall and the Muslim hall serves as a mosque for the neighboring village. Who explains about the ceremonies and rites during a seminar? How does that work? Just people. We try to bring authoritative figures to lecture, such as clergy or researchers, mostly rabbis, sheikhs, priests; that's the trend. One of the people praying explains about the rites. Usually there's someone with more confidence than the rest. It's actually fairly spontaneous; people know it's coming, but they always look around to see who's there and then they choose a person to talk about it.

    • 1A quorum of ten adult Jews necessary for communal worship.

  • Who takes part in your meetings? Which audiences?

    It varies. Among the Palestinians, the age doesn't always vary because if they come without pre-arranged permits, they have to wait at checkpoints, so the people who come tend to be young - 2-3 year olds. When there aren't permits there are few women, and when there are permits it varies in terms of men and women.1 The Israeli group, which doesn't have the problem of having to obtain permits, is always a mix of ages and gender and degrees of religiousness, almost the entire range of religious-secular. Can you give me an example? It ranges from totally secular people who refuse to join a minyan to a few ultra-Orthodox2 people, and then everything in between, too: national-religious and settlers, more Orthodox, less so, from the entire range more or a less.

    • 1Stolov intends that given a lack of permits to allow Palestinian participants to travel to Israel, young men are more likely than women or older men to stand in line at checkpoints, confront Israeli soldiers, or seek alternate means of entry.
    • 2The theologically strictest sect of Jews regarding law, scripture, and practice. Referred to as haredi in Israel.

  • You mentioned meetings when the Palestinian participants didn't have permits to enter and that the age group was limited to young people and included almost no women. How does that affect group dynamics?

    I agree that in this case it was problematic, and not because the Palestinian group consisted of only young people. In principle, I prefer to have groups that vary as much as possible in any imaginable way. On the other hand, a meeting for young people from both sides, such as a seminar we held with the group from Nablus—that was excellent. I didn't participate during the entire meeting since I am no longer in that age group. I visited them twice or three times throughout the meeting, and what happened was that interaction was even better than usual. It is difficult; there were relationships that continued through e-mail. It is difficult for people to meet so it is hard to build something that continues. There have been occasions in which the Israeli group included a variety of ages and the Palestinian group didn't. That created imbalance, in terms of the quality of communication between the groups. But that is what we had to make do with; the seminars were excellent despite this. What is the interaction like within the Jewish group? You're saying it varies so much; how do issues such as women and prayer work out between the ultra-Orthodox and secular participants? It works out, maybe due to of interfaith meetings with Christians and Muslims it doesn't seem nice to fight-- could be, I don't know. The fact of the matter is that it works out.

  • What types of activity are you referring to?

    Most people don't have much political influence. A person here votes every four years or less; in the Palestinian Authority it has been at longer intervals. Basically, the average person has fairly limited influence, and I think that the field of politics is in a problematic situation due to the lack of trust and respect, and because of the fear and prejudices that exist in both societies in general. This is why I believe that any political agreement won't be sustainable without plowing both societies to overcome these negative stances. We need to turn to mutual understanding, respect, friendship and mutual trust - without these it is impossible really to maintain life together over an extended period of time, that is why this is the main effort that needs doing; when we have achieved these things, I think it will be possible to accomplish political agreements fairly easily and that they will be sustainable.

  • Why don't you think those are successful?

    Because the people who participate in that type of activity aren't ministers in government - neither Israeli nor Palestinian, so their agreement is totally irrelevant. Even if you convinced the Muslims that they could accept 9% of the lands or the Jews that they must offer 1% of it, it's of no relevance whatsoever because Sharon doesn't consult with the Jews nor does Abu Mazen consult with the Muslims or the Palestinians. When that is the level of discussion, then you pay a high price for narrowing it down to such a small part of Israeli or Palestinian society. People who don't think that 9% of the lands should be offered or even one percent of it, or people whose political ideas aren't identical to these non-mainstream ideas have nothing to talk about. I think that even when a political agreement is achieved, such as Oslo, and the human infrastructure isn't constructed, the agreements will fall apart sooner or later, just as the Oslo Accords did.

  • What do you mean by "the human infrastructure"?

    I mean what we're working on here. I don't think what we're doing is the only way of doing it, but it's a certain approach to it in that we address relationships between communities through discussions that purposefully set aside the political issues that are disputed. We attempt to establish relations as an interaction that is both positive and profound, and which assists people in overcoming prejudices or even hate. It constructs mutuality, recognition, and respectful and friendly relations. When this process is sufficiently advanced and we'll be able to establish that hundreds of thousands of people underwent this, then we will be able to hold talks regarding issues that are disputed politically, with the ability to solve them in a manner that will be sustainable.

  • Can you give me an example of overcoming a prejudice during a meeting, something that impressed you?

    There are always things, yes, there's the example of someone who asked me whether the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion1 are true, whether it's an accurate depiction of the Jews in the world. I told him it wasn't! But to me that's not the point. I view it as a large success because this person dealt with prejudice. People with no trust in the other are anxious to conceal their prejudices, while he came to me and listened to my reply. I view that as an index of the extent of openness that was achieved during the meeting.

    • 1The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a work purporting to unearth the plans of worldwide Jewish conspiracy and world-domination. A racist work of propaganda, it has been used to fan the flames of anti-semitism and anti-Jewish violence throughout the world.

  • Which other prejudices have you encountered on both sides?

    It's not scientific. I think the Jews believe that the Arabs can't be trusted, and that they only understand the language of force, that dialogue conveys weakness. That's obviously not true. I think the Arabs have the same prejudices. They also believe the Jews can't be trusted, that they'll cheat them if given the opportunity... that force can change their approach. The matter of force is pretty amazing. Both sides are wrong big time because force only causes the other side to become entrenched in its prejudices.

  • Is there any prejudice you had that you faced during a meeting?

    When I first encountered a Muslim prayer session I discovered a prejudice I never even knew about: that I associate Muslim prayers with violence. This is because I never encountered a Muslim prayer in reality. I only saw it as portrayed on television, where it's always footage from the Ashura1 in Iran with close-ups of the blood, or people leaving Friday prayers at the Temple Mount and then starting riots. That's what I knew about Muslim prayers before I actually saw a prayer session. I never encountered the gentle or spiritual aspects of this prayer, I wasn't even conscious of that and I only realized this in retrospect. During the concluding sessions, people often say they are surprised because they say they knew they wanted peace but never imagined that people like them existed on the other side. People often get very emotional and talk about how happy they are to be taking part in meetings and how sad they are at the thought of probably not having the opportunity to meet with people from the other side in the near future. There was a Palestinian man from Nablus who said that following the meeting he viewed the soldiers at the checkpoint in a different light.

    • 1Ashura, which falls on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, is the day during which Shi'a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein (son of the fourth caliph 'Ali) at the battle of Karbala in year 680. Ashura commemoration activities include mourning processions and reenactments of Hussein's martyrdom.

  • This man from Nablus who now sees the soldiers at the checkpoint in a different light, what impact does that have and can it be long lasting?

    As far as we can track it, it is long-term. I saw an e-mail exchange with a man from Nablus a few months after the meeting in which he participated. The IDF demolished his girlfriend's house because... I can't recall why exactly; somebody there participated in something or other. Of course, she was very upset and angry, and made accusations against Israelis in general, and even in this state he tried to calm her down and told her that not all Israelis are guilty for what happened to her. I view that as an indication of a long-term effect. The effect is cumulative. Can I say that by bringing together a few hundred or thousand people we have completely altered the picture? Of course that isn't true. These processes, processes that focus on the level of people, civil processes, must build a mass of people. You can't jump to the 5,th meeting before you hold the first, second, and 17th meetings. So we are, I believe, doing real work at a pace... at a pace that we can manage and are able to offer; gradually we are working towards larger influence and ability, this can be sensed in society in general. The small effect—I wouldn't dismiss it as being negligible if there is even a single participant who, thanks to these meetings, didn't become a suicide bomber and we've saved the lives of even a few people.

  • How does the group deal with the fact that settlers participate, too? How do you feel about it?

    I feel fine about it. They are a part of society, they come from our side, and Hamas activists sometimes come from the Palestinian side. That's fine. What kind of interaction is there as a result? It's fine; you'd never know who's who. When you take things to a personal level and to a religious angle, which serves as an invitation for more profound interaction, it doesn't matter after that. Once I participated in a meeting with two hard-core Hamas activists and a hard-core settler. People were astounded by how smoothly the meeting went.

  • What's different about the meeting that enables them to talk, as opposed to outside the meeting?

    I think what we do could also take place outside if people had the chance. We make time for people to sit down together for two and a half days in order to talk to one another. Perhaps the most important issue is that we set aside politics. Elsewhere people head straight for politics, which stems from the naive urge to convince the other side to change, and pretty soon it leads to fights that go nowhere. Potentially that could have happened quite often at our meetings, because we bring people from all over the political spectrum, but instead they discuss issues that are linked to every person's existential experiences. It works very easily, it becomes profound and powerful.

  • When you say that settlers are part of Israeli society that can be interpreted as a given fact for the Israeli side but how is the Palestinian side supposed to interpret it?

    What does that mean? Palestinians also know they're Israelis. Perhaps there is a difference between meetings that include settlers and meetings which don't include settlers from a Palestinian perspective. For my part, I don't insist that the Palestinians acknowledge the legitimacy of the settlements, just as I don't demand the settlers acknowledge the illegitimacy of the settlements. Every person has a right to their own political opinions but in the end, in any constellation, with any map of the borders, with any settlement map, this country—between the Jordan River and the sea—is a pretty small place. There are about 9 or 1 million people living here, so we will all have to live in peace, peaceful lives, and if possible in friendship with each other, and that's what we work with. We don't deal with the question of whether this or that settlement will remain or not, not at all.

  • Some say that generally those who are in the more powerful political position prefer to focus on inter-personal relationships, while those in the minority, or those who are less dominant, prefer to address politics head on. How would you respond to that?

    I don't think that's true. There are people who like talking politics and who think only politics will lead to a solution that will extract us from this conflict, and there are also people on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides who don't think that--Palestinians as well as Arab citizens of Israel,
     who like working with us partly because we don't involve politics.
    Some dialogue groups have found that for Palestinians it's important that Israelis recognize their political situation first, and then they can enter personal relationships. For Israelis it is often the opposite.
    It's true that people say that about Palestinians. It comes mostly from people who organize this type of activity, or people who talk about the Palestinians. It's true that it occasionally happens with Palestinians, but in general, we've had some 5-6 Palestinian participants and very few have taken that approach. I think it's an expression, forgive me for saying this, of Palestinian society becoming more mature. I think that to be immature is to be like a child saying - I want this now, and I don't care about anything else. More mature people are more aware of having to consider how much the other side can take, and of presenting things in a gradual manner. They are more accepting of the fact that without good working relations there won't be sufficient trust for the other side to relinquish what they want from them. I think that there is growing awareness of this and it's becoming more prominent the more I'm in touch with Palestinian society. That also exists within Israeli society, not only in Palestinian society. There are voices in Israeli society that demand they stop terrorism and then we'll speak to them. "They" is of course the entire Palestinian society. We Israelis also recognize the fact that building relationships may mean that chances are the people we're in touch with won't at the very least become terrorist [as a result]. That's something we can do. If people merely dictate demands years can go by without anything being solved.

  • What is your response to criticism that your activities ignore the political reality?

    I say that the political reality isn't as important as human reality. It wasn't political problems that led to the downfall of the Oslo accords, it was the fact that people weren't prepared; distrust and mutual suspicion, those things brought its downfall. Have you ever encountered groups who have refused to work with you because you don't involve politics? No. Currently we have seven Palestinian partnerships and, in principle, the only obstacle to working with most of them is the issue of funding. Beyond that, there are other organizations we meet - I was only just now at an Israeli-Palestinian conference in Spain, and if we had the funding we would happily work together.

  • How do you neutralize the political?

    We tell people not to talk about it. It is much more successful than I thought it would be before I started, a few years back. What did you think at the time? I thought that if I said it forcefully then 3/4 of the time would be spent on politics and 1/4 of the time would be dedicated to a more profound discussion. It surprised me at first that people really avoided politics practically through and through. Of course it pops up occasionally, but in a very minor way, and we usually manage to get through the first day without any at all. That means we've established a structure whereby if politics do come up, the group doesn't disintegrate.

  • When you say you want to put politics aside, what do you mean by "politics"?

    All matters that are politically disputed, such as land-- how it should be divided, the refugee question, things that are consequences of the conflict. Things like terrorism on the Palestinian side, and the Israeli army's activities inside Palestinian cities,1 checkpoints come up occasionally, and I think they aren't problematic per say. The only question is the manner in which they arise. People who take part in the meetings aren't really versed in the details of land division and the question of refugees. People hold on to their opinions because they decided to adopt a certain approach and kept it, so that can't be mediated. Issues of terrorism and the IDF and checkpoints tend to be raised in the form of personal experiences, which can be shared by people. If an issue comes up too early then it's perceived as an accusation and thus threatening, and then it might harm relationship building. If an issue arises at a later point then it's perceived as sharing a personal experience. If it is raised in that context it's less of a disruption, or sometimes it isn't at all disruptive. Do you believe people can set their political agenda aside in daily life? Yes, I'm sure they can. I'm not so sure that the politicians can, but I'm sure ordinary people can.

    • 1Following the collapse of the Oslo process and the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated in several villages and cities, expressing solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and voicing discontent about inequality and neglect within Israel. Some demonstrations turned into riots. Violence ensued and Israeli police used rubber bullets and live ammunition, killing 13 Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The events highlighted and deepened the rift between Palestinian Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. See also Orr Commission.

  • Do you initiate activities between residents of the Territories - say settlers and Palestinians?

    God willing, when we get to that stage. Sure, yes. When both sides are ready. I think there's more of a problem on the Palestinian side. They seem to be waiting for the day the settlers will leave. What do you think about that? Here's a true story: one time I tried to organize such a meeting and I tried to convince a Palestinian young lady to join. Nothing came of my attempts but I did try to convince people. She said, I don't want to talk to them, I want them to leave. I said, okay, then come to the meeting and tell them you think they must leave. She said she was scared that if she joined the conversation she would become attached and wouldn't want them to leave. I think that this represents the Palestinians' predicament. The settlers are afraid that the situation will be taken advantage of, or to be [physically] harmed coming to the dialogue. Some settlers are willing, and there are settlers who participate in our meetings. Which settlements do they come from? We've had people from Shavei Shomron,1 Kdumim,2 Ofra,3 Ma'ale Adumim,4 that's what I recall.

    • 1Shavei Shomron ("Returnees to Samaria") is settlement located north of the West Bank town of Nablus. As of March 2002, there were 110 families living in the settlement. Shavei Shomron was founded in 1978. For information on the history of Shavei Shomron, see Avihai Becker. "Because They Can," Ha'aretz, 19 Mar 2002.
    • 2Kedumim is a settlement located 3 miles west of the West Bank town of Nablus. See the Kedumim website http://www.kedumim.org.il/kedumim/.
    • 3Ofra is a settlement in the West Bank located near the city of Ramallah.
    • 4An Israeli settlement in the West Bank outside of Jerusalem. Est. population 30,000. It is the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

  • What do you say to a person from Nablus who meets somebody from a neighboring settlement? Do you say, "put aside politics"?

    Firstly, we haven't managed to get through to settlers from the Nablus area so we don't have people from there. Yes. I would say, listen, you need to face reality. If you push your claims for 1% [of the lands] at the beginning [of the process] then you'll achieve nothing. Build your argument so it's smart. Win their hearts and then progress. I tell that to the others, too, settlers who want to live for all of eternity near Nablus. It will be much easier to do things [this way] rather than be afraid of getting stoned every time they get on the road.

  • You say that both sides need to face reality. What is your end vision if you are counseling Palestinians about how to achieve 1% of their lands and settlers about how to stay in settlements near Nablus?

    I don't have a clear political vision. I haven't got any specific political model that I decidedly support. I do think that a basic approach to any political model, that will ensure a form of peace that will please everybody and that will be sustainable, is a model of cooperation and not one of separation. I mean, the notion that in the next few generations or even ever, Israelis or Palestinians can't live together and therefore must separate, whether with physical barriers or various political arrangements—I think that isn't true and that it's an idea that won't work. I think that if they are only given the chance, Israelis and Palestinians can easily live together in friendship. It is only such friendship that can ensure that two entities or two peoples living in such a limited area will live together in peace for years to come. This is why I'm saying that even a two-state model can't be one in which the states are hostile to each other or operate based on distrust for each other. It would need to work based on friendship, like two European countries at the very least.

  • What about security? If there is no security barrier or divide, how can there be security?

    This is why work at the level of people needs to be prioritized. We need to construct a situation in which general good relations prevail between the two peoples. I'm not claiming that occasionally there wouldn't be an exception of someone wanting to harm the other side, but we need to achieve a state in which these people will be an absolute minority and that society will decry their actions.

  • What is the hardest thing for Israelis to hear from Palestinians during your meetings?

    It's not so much what, it's more how. When people say things, regardless of whether they are easy or difficult to accept, if they are conveyed by yelling or by making loud accusations, or blaming the other side for their suffering, that isn't pleasant to listen to, even if I did step on somebody's toe. On the other hand, if a person says things about himself, even if it pertains to their personal suffering and problems, in a manner that is not accusatory but more reflects their situation, that's something that can be accepted, especially if there is dialogue.

  • How has your work changed over the past three years of the intifada?

    First of all, there was a period when it wasn't possible to work with the Palestinians. I think that within Israel the work has become easier in some ways, because it is clear to people that something like this needs to be done. The events of October 2 deeply shocked the Arab population in Israel and the Jewish one too; it became clear to everyone that the collective "together" needs deeper foundations. In that respect it became easier. On the other hand, there was a period at the beginning when people didn't really want to take part in the meetings. Ultimately there were more people who did want to meet up than those who didn't. That's been going well from the start. In terms of Palestinian-Israeli relations, there was a period of maybe half a year when there was a total lack of willingness to cooperate. It wasn't necessarily on the part of the organizations with which I'm in touch; it was a fear of their environment. At the start of the intifada, the [Palestinian] minister responsible for the non-profit organizations as well as the forum of Palestinian organizations decided not to cooperate with Israeli organizations. Once that was the word, every meeting was suspected as collaboration,and because the Palestinian police became much less effective, people were afraid of something happening to them if they participated. This changed after a year, with the organization from Nablus, an organization of Nablus youth.1 These meetings were supported by the then Mayor of Nablus, Rassan Shaka,2 and he endorsed their activity. There was even an occasion during a meeting when something happened in Nablus and the group was debating whether to continue or leave. He phoned them and spoke to everybody there; he told them how important it was that they continue and he also provided them with the security backing they needed. For this reason we held the first twelve meetings with that group even though the project includes other groups; the other groups were simply too afraid to join. This changed dramatically in August. As of July, August, September there was a significant rise in the number of Palestinian organizations who came wanting to cooperate with us and I believe this reflects the change in Palestinian audiences. We're actually pretty much back to normal. There was also a decline in violence and much more chance of obtaining permits, so that helps, too.

    • 1A Palestinian youth organization based in Nablus. The organization engages in interfaith work between Muslim, Christian and Samaritan residents of Nablus, as well as interfaith meetings in Israel between Muslims, Christians, Jews and Samaritans in cooperation with the Interfaith Encounter Association.
    • 2Ghassan al-Shaka, the long-time mayor of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, resigned from his post in May of 2004. Al-Shaka cited the inability of the Palestinian National Authority to reign in armed groups (resulting in an atmosphere of chaos) as his reason for resigning. See Christian Chaise. "Nablus Chaos Illustrates Breakdown of Palestinian Authority Control," Agence France Presse, 4 Mar 2004.

  • What do you consider a small success in your work?

    The first stage of success is bringing people to meetings. The most difficult part of making that happen is fundraising, but usually if we manage that then 9% of the work is pretty much done. The meeting itself usually runs its course smoothly. When people conclude the meeting as having been effective and important for them, talking about the friendships established, that makes me feel content. The next stage of success is constructing forums that meet over a long period of time, such as the groups we have inside Israel. I hope we can do the same with the Palestinians. The ability to support this process in the long run is our biggest challenge. Another big challenge is fundraising; perhaps that's our biggest one. Of course, when we manage to fundraise it makes us feel good, since that is the most influential stage; but the best feeling is at the end of a meeting, a successful one.

  • What makes a meeting successful apart from people coming?

    If the interaction went well, if when there were disagreements they did not hurt relationships. Building the community is a joint effort, it even happens during a two or three-day conference. During the conference we can build this sense and therefore at the end of a conference there is a real sense of sadness that we aren't continuing. Which methods do you use during the meetings? Dialogue, plain dialogue. We want to enable people to talk to each other as much as possible. We can pose guiding questions to people to help them with their discussions, but usually there's no need. Both sides are very curious. Everyday encounters are nearly nonexistent, especially profound encounters. At most, people buy things from the other side, because they think the Arabs sell things for cheaper or that the Jews have a larger variety of wares. I think both approaches are wrong, but people do that. They don't meet each other for an hour or two to talk. That's what I think works.

  • What do you expect them to take with them from the meetings?

    Each other's humanity, as a minimum. Mere recognition is unconventional. It's not as though I preach that the other is human; they learn it themselves. This is the basis: the "other" is a human deserving honor, sympathy, and positive treatment. The next stage is friendship. Friendships develop and people maintain e-mail ties over time. There are moving stories, such as a person who took part in a conference and a few months later his friend's house was demolished because of a suspicion that she was harboring somebody wanted [by the Israeli military]. She cursed all the Israelis and he tried to calm her down, saying that it wasn't all Israelis, that not all of them are to blame. The ability to maintain what he learned from the meeting even in the most extreme situation is what we are trying to establish.

  • What are the ethics you try to further during meetings, and do you view them as being incorporated within Israeli society in the current atmosphere?

    In principle, I think there's a large gap between people who have met the other side and those who haven't. People who haven't are often influenced by the news, which supplies a lot of negative information regarding the other side and also, people are born with prejudices. Jews have many prejudices regarding Arabs, and the opposite is true too. I think our work must focus on emotions such as fear, hate and distrust, in terms of the interest of building peace, but also for the sake of peoples' lifestyles. Take your average Israeli-Jewish citizen who doesn't care whether there is peace or not. Even at the level of their personal daily lifestyle, if they have an anxiety attack every time they see an Arab person, it's better to overcome that.

  • Do you think that people are born with prejudices, and if so, what makes you hopeful that your work will have far-reaching results?

    No, of course not, people learn prejudice from their environment, but I don't believe they necessarily learn it because the society has bad intentions. But if parents, educators, friends and neighbors have prejudices a person growing up with all these prejudices as a given fact will also adopt them and then need to face reality.

  • Do you have doubts regarding your work?

    Not really doubts. I'm aware of the limitations. The main limitation is that at any given moment we can only affect a limited number of people, so the real challenge is to bring the masses, turning it into a mass popular movement. Since this hasn't occurred, there is the fear that, maybe by the fourth demolished house that person from Nablus I mentioned earlier will crack. But if there are enough people who return or continue with the meetings then that person could share his experience with his Jewish friends next time, and that would be a mechanism building a change in outlook consistently. That's why if we succeed in creating more intensive activities than what we do now, then obviously the results will be able to sustain themselves over time. This isn't a doubt, nor is it a limitation that prevents me from working, because I think the model we work with is very effective, even if not in 1% of the cases; it is effective. We don't have the opportunity to create a change in every population but we do our share. That's what's important; doing what we can is better than doing nothing at all.

  • How does your work affect your relationships with other people or your community?

    It doesn't really affect me. I try to be a better person because of it. The personal processes I undergo are not always parallel to the processes that happen in the organization or within the groups. I presume that's also true for any individual in a group. There can be groups formed in which every individual progresses at a different pace. One person may manage to grasp the [crucial] matter of groups being composed of various individuals in only three or four meetings. Maybe somebody else would need ten meetings to grasp that. And aside from these groups - in other circles? I try to find new people to join. Other circles include many people who don't take part in this sort of activity, who would never dream of it, so it's interesting to look for opportunities to do so occasionally. It doesn't always work, but, for example, a relative of mine who was active in Zu Artzeynu1 [literally: "this is our land"] lives in Wadi Ara; we had a meeting in Um el-Fahem and invited him to speak. He never did come to speak, but the fact that he even considered it is also part of the process. Maybe after we invite him five more times he will come to lecture.

    • 1Zu Artzeynu (Hebrew, literally meaning "this is our land) was an organization formed in the mid-1990s in opposition to the Oslo Accords. The group undertook protests and acts of civil disobedience. In 1998, Manhigut Yehudit (The Jewish Leadership Movement) was founded as the successor organization to Zu Artzeynu. Manhigut Yehudit was founded and is led by Moshe Feiglin, who also founded and led Zu Artzeynu. See the Manhigut Yehudit website http://www.jewishisrael.org/index.htm.

  • How does the conflict affect your life?

    It doesn't really affect my personal life at present. There was a long period in which people were afraid to walk around in Jerusalem, leave their houses, go to the city center or take the bus. It's fairly calmed down so now it doesn't really affect me. One effect is that I haven't visited a Palestinian city center since the start of the intifada. It makes it difficult to meet with colleagues with whom I'm supposed to develop plans or compose joint grant proposals, but it doesn't affect my daily life.

  • What's the most important thing for you to attain in your activities?

    The biggest goal is spreading the burgeoning relations we see in our groups to all communities that live in the holy land, including Israelis and Palestinians, and within their societies or religious groups, too. What will it take to achieve that? I think with extensive funding it can be attained in ten years' time. Once I worked it out as a [mathematical] problem: I assumed that 1 people could attend a weekend [seminar], which could take place every week. In order for the process to be effective, say 1% of the population would need to participate. This works out to be about 1 years. This may sound like a long time but imagine where we'd be now if we'd started in 1993; we could have been past this. Look where we are now.

  • Why did past peace processes fail?

    The last appendix to the agreement [Oslo Accords] is called the People to People Process,1 and it should have been the main effort. That should have been at the top of the pyramid as the main effort. The leaders should have decided to settle on a transitory process and a very intensive people-to-people process for the next five, six, seven years and then resume the political process. Then I think our situation would have been much better.

    • 1The People-to-People Program was established in Annex VI, Article VIII of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip signed in September of 1993. For information on the establishment and guidelines of the People to People Program, see the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mfa.gov.il.

  • What does the word peace mean to you?

    Peace means harmonious relations between all the residents of the region. I don't think it is associated with any specific political model. I think that peace makes many political models possible, some of which seem like complete fantasies given the reality. Without constructing the human infrastructure, even the most conventional model - such as that of two states - seems pretty bizarre, too. An agreement can't hold up if it lacks human infrastructure. The Oslo Accords didn't fall apart because it was a bad agreement but because there was no trust between the two communities.

  • Which political model do you think can work?

    There isn't any particular one. I do want to say that I strongly believe that a successful model will be based on cooperation and not separation. That could mean a single state or two states; it could be seventeen states. The idea should be that the borders between the states there shouldn't stress separation but rather cooperation. In which fields should there be cooperation? There should be economic cooperation at the very least, economic, social and cultural cooperation. I don't know about political cooperation. The field of politics is less important, politics are for politicians. What would happen to the State of Israel if that vision was fulfilled? Nothing special. There can be various solutions for the issue of the [Jewish] majority. There could be a single federation with two cantons, people voting in their canton. Nothing special will happen in that case, nothing that isn't happening already. Israel's unique Jewish character can be retained in this fashion. What do you mean by, "nothing special will happen that isn't already happening"? At present there is no sense of togetherness; that certainly doesn't exist now. There are many options. I'm not repelled by the model of the single state. Everybody can be citizens. It can be solved like the cantons in Switzerland, or the states in the United States, or in Germany.1 There are various models of federations, where people vote for their parliament or for a joint parliament. I'm not an expert for those things. I don't think that these details are terribly important.

    • 1Refers to a federalist system of government whereby states, cantons, or other divisions retain aspects of sovereignty while unified under, and ultimately responsible to, a central government authority.

  • What are the advantages and the disadvantages to a single-state solution here?

    A single state solution is as bad a solution as any other if relations between the Israeli society and the Palestinian society aren't good. There would be a constant struggle that could even lead to civil war, which could be horrible. It would be a zero-sum competition. On the other hand, if relations were good, life together could be wonderful. It's harder to envision separation within the single state model, even though it's possible. I don't think it's necessarily the best solution. I only know that separation is a bad approach. A good approach is a joint effort, of cooperation and building a joint life together.

  • How does your family relate to your work?

    That depends. I drag my immediate family to all these activities. As for my children, naturally they meet people from other religions, Israelis and Palestinians. That doesn't solve everything because there could be a child at school who has prejudices, that doesn't mean that my daughter won't learn them. As for the rest of my family, there are various potential candidates for joining the dialogue groups. Right now they're not really interested. Do they object to being potential candidates? No. for example, my sister is really not interested. She does tell me about people she knows who may be interested. The effects of the dialogue [groups] reach beyond me or the people who participate in them. The effect extends to people who don't participate but know people who do and occasionally talk about it, so the resistance of people who originally wouldn't participate is eroded over time.

  • What was your home like, growing up?

    I think it was pretty average, it wasn't religious, we were Conservative [Jews]. I was sent to a religious school because it was considered a better education. That was the norm. Most of my classmates weren't religious. Around the time of my Bar Mitzvah1 I decided to become religious. If you're asking about what they thought about Arabs, they took a negative approach. I don't think that's terribly unique in Israel. What did you do after high school? I went to a yeshiva and that's how I came to Jerusalem. I went to Mercaz Harav Yeshiva.2 I wanted to go there and because it was in Jerusalem that's where I went. I studied there for five or six years and then completed my army service. After that I studies Physics at the Hebrew University. What was the approach towards tolerance of other opinions at the yeshiva? That's a complex issue; theoretically tolerance for other opinions is infinite. At Mercaz Harav the guiding principles are based on the writings of Rabbi Kook,3 which view every opinion as part of the truth. In practice, regarding other opinions, there are those who are more tolerant, and those who are less so. I don't think there was that much tolerance there for other opinions, but there is tolerance of tolerant people. If there were people there who were more tolerant, then nobody bothered them.

    • 1Refers to the ceremony recognizing the religious responsibility and adulthood of a Jewish boy who has reached his 13th birthday. Bat mitzvah for Jewish girls.
    • 2Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav is a yeshiva located in Jerusalem. It was founded in the year 1924 by the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook. See http://www.mercazharav.org/.
    • 3Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was the first Chief Rabbi of Israel and founded the yeshiva Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. See a biography of Rabbi Kook at the Jewish Agency for Israel http://www.jafi.org.il/education/100/people/BIOS/kook.html.

  • What was your link to the activities then? What made the change?

    I think that the roots of my activity are in the writings of Rabbi Kook, which are very inclusive in spirit towards opinions and people. He says we must take care of the rest of the universe, including nature; it goes beyond humanity. That's what influenced me. I learned all that there. I don't think that I'm the only one who did. The most famous [who studied with me] is Rabbi Fruman.1

    • 1Rabbi Menachem Fruman is the rabbi for the settlement community of Tekoa, part of the Gush Etzion Block located south of Jerusalem. For more information on Tekoa, see http://www.tekoa.org.il. For information on Gush Etzion, see http://www.gush-etzion.org.il/.

  • Which international audience has the most influence here?

    I don't think any international audience really has an effect here. I think that we are the ones doing the work in general, I mean the people who live here. It's we who must solve this by ourselves. There are interventions, but nothing is effective. Why are interventions ineffective? Because it's our business. People from outside can contribute positive things, but their contribution should be encouraging the sides to meet and solve the problems together. That can be a lot of work. People from outside can contribute to that, and that is what they should be doing. When people come to show solidarity with a side it's very nice for that side in the immediate sense of encouragement and support. It might even help that side, but it doesn't contribute to advancing peace in the region.

  • What are the misconceptions that international audiences have regarding the conflict?

    Look, international audiences usually don't know a thing about what's going on here. What's happening here is complicated enough; even people who do know a lot are challenged. So people usually don't know much; there are people who support the Israeli position, thinking that the Palestinians popped up four years ago, or people who think there has always been a Palestinian entity here since the world was created and that we came a hundred years ago and started pushing them out. Or even more - that a Palestinian state existed here and in 1967 we came and expelled them. What people know is usually very distant from the most basic historical facts. People usually know nothing about what's going on here and they have an emotional opinion in favor of one side, depending on what affected them. That doesn't matter, but it obviously makes those peoples' efforts more ridiculous and futile if they mean to support one side or act as arbitrators or similar approaches. People who truly care and truly want to improve the situation do this by encouraging both sides to work things out with each other. It's enough they realize that the current reality is not a good one and that there are two sides here. If there is one side they care about, whose situation they want to improve, this will happen after resolving the conflict here with the other side.

  • Is there anything that depresses you about the current situation?

    There are depressing things on the news practically every day. Maybe the situation is not depressing, but it's exasperating seeing how simple it is to create harmony. Without of our meetings, the harmony I'm referring to is like a wild dream. When you come to a meeting and see that it's very simple to create harmony, you only need to bring people into the room and leave them there together for a day, after that they're friends. People who meet each other on Thursday evening are dancing, singing, hugging each other on Friday and Saturday. When they part they cry and embrace and kiss. It's pretty frustrating to see it hasn't happened when you know how simple it is to create. Who should invest in making that happen? Everybody. International sources that are so interested in us should fund it. According to the ten-year model, we'd need a budget of 15 million dollars. That's a lot for a single organization, but not so much if you think about the sums invested in implementing the Oslo Accords, which went down the drain. Are you suggesting that regional parties should take responsibility for that? Sure. Most of them aren't aware that it is possible and so easy and that it's them that need to do it. In our society, which is a democracy, people consider the responsibility to be the government's. That isn't true. It isn't the government's problem; it's the citizens' responsibility. I believe it's the responsibility of every citizen to work and encourage peace with his fellow citizens. The government also can assist and facilitate. Even if we assume that there is no money to fund such a project, they can at least create a space for possible meetings for both communities accessible to Israelis and Palestinians. That can be the government's part.

  • What are the conflict's roots?

    I'm really not a historian. I can only say I had a conversation once with a Swami from India who is a social activist. It was a tranquil conversation during a conference. We took a stroll in the garden where the conference was held, and he talked about how animosity between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan and India began following British policies. It wasn't necessarily because of bad intentions; it's just what happened in practice. As a result, I remembered that the first uproars [between Jews and Arabs] began during the early twenties, after the British arrived in Israel. Maybe the British made a mistake in separating the communities and building animosity between them. I think that before that people were suspicious but it wasn't so all-inclusive, like it became later.

  • Can these meetings be conducted effectively under occupation?

    Depends what occupation means. These meetings can be held in any situation, I think. Our first meeting was scheduled for April 22 and we had to postpone is because Operation Defensive Shield began, so our first meeting took place after the IDF was inside Nablus. You can see that people are mature and realistic; they can understand that the IDF's presence in Nablus doesn't mean we can't work on encouraging good relations between the Israeli and Palestinian people. After all, that's who we need to live with.

  • Are there any political steps necessary in order to enable your activities?

    I don't think so. The only political step necessary is that the two states not interrupt us meeting. Not interrupting means not outlawing meetings with Palestinians; then I'd go to jail and this would be over. The same goes for the Palestinians. That prevented dialogue from taking place for a few years. I'd be happy if they [the authorities] assisted and facilitated obtaining permits [for people attending] meetings.

  • Does the conflict have religious roots?

    No. The conflict is about prejudices and not knowing the other side. That's the initial source. Besides that, there are what seem to be conflicting political interests. Maybe they seem contradictory considering the prejudices and the lack of familiarity. The religious issues related to the conflict are: the question of the Temple Mount, which also has a solution in the purely religious sense, and the question of who will control things here; the second is whether we aim to allow people to share a good life together or not. Take the Jewish approach, which views the borders of Eretz Yisrael as extending beyond Israel's current northern border. Historically, most of the people of Israel lived where today's Kingdom of Jordan lies. Despite this, even the most extreme supporters of the idea of the entire Eretz Yisrael don't preach for the conquest of southern Lebanon and the east bank of the Jordan [River]. Just because there is a religious approach it doesn't necessarily mean that it serves as a political or military plan.

  • How can you expect [Palestinian] people to put aside politics when it's just outside their homes, in comparison with the Israelis who come?

    It's right there for Israelis too. Nablus has consistently been the place of origin of the most suicide bombers throughout the intifada.1 People who came knew they were meeting with people from Nablus. I never can know, people were afraid that a suicide bomber was coming to blow us up; what can I say? People have to overcome that. It's a part of the necessary process. There are many people who didn't attend because they were afraid or thought it wasn't right. People who did come agreed to meet even if they hadn't met before. I think these people have the right approach. Did they agree not to talk about the political situation? Yes. We've had very few instances, except during the second or third conference, when it happened right at the beginning and then there was uproar for fifteen or twenty minutes.

    • 1Comprehensive statistics citing the town, village, or city origins of suicide bombers are not readily available.

  • Why is it so bad to talk about the political situation?

    There's nothing to discuss! The Israelis will say that there is nothing to discuss until the Palestinian Authority suppresses the groups that initiate terrorist attacks. There is a wide range too, there are Israelis who say the Palestinians must have their own state, people who say the Palestinians need to learn to live as Israeli citizens, as faithful citizens to Israel. Even those who claim the Palestinians are entitled to their own state are very far from the Palestinians' approach that claims that all refugees must be permitted to return to their homes, whether in Israel or in the Palestinian state, and obviously all settlements must be withdrawn. This means two states for one people in effect. So there really is nothing to discuss, and it isn't terribly important. If indeed the Palestinians convinced the Israeli group that this is the way things should be, then that's fifty people. Even if they changed the way they vote, it's still insignificant. By changing their opinion they are distancing themselves from the rest of Israeli society. There is no possibility of creating a snowball effect to reach the entire Israeli society. However, when political opinions aren't being threatened, whether they believe in the whole of Eretz Yisrael or in the whole of Palestine or anything between, and only expect to improve relations with the other society, something that can be done relatively easily, that can reach the rest of Israeli society.

  • You say you object to discussing politics at your meetings because Israelis will argue nothing can be done until the PA "suppresses the groups that initiate terrorist attacks" What do Israelis need to do in order for things to move forward?

    This relates to the whole issue of why I think that political discourse is less effective. The Israelis aren't required to do any more or any less than Palestinians. People only need to be willing to come and meet each other, share part of themselves, come to a meeting with their hearts open, or even if not with an open heart, then a willingness to open up their hearts. Usually that is sufficient, people usually open up to each other.

  • Based on your experience, would you do anything differently in your organization?

    I do things differently today than I did at the beginning. I'm not sure I could have known the things I know now at the beginning. In three years I'll probably do things differently. I think I'm considering the options and that there is room for raising new ideas and initiatives. I think theoretically there is room for improvement. I think things are working nicely now, there are small things, but not at the level of strategy. More in terms of fundraising. We need to raise much more money.