Jews Listening to Palestinians

A few weeks ago we participated in the first RC workshop for Palestinians and Jewish allies, led by the Israeli Reference Person for Palestinians, Noha Hijab.

The workshop took place in Noha's house, in the village of Maker in the Galilee (the northern part of Israel). The goal of the workshop was to start dealing with Jewish racism toward Palestinians within the Israeli RC Community.

Eight Palestinians and four Jews came on the first day, and seven Palestinians and five Jews came on the second. The Palestinians were men and women, Muslims and Christians, from different parts of the country. The Jews were all Ashkenazim, except for one who was of mixed Ash-kenazi-Mizrachi heritage.

On Friday evening we began by listening to a Palestinian song and reading from the Koran. Then we had a candle-lighting ceremony for Shabbat.

After that we separated into two groups, Jews and Palestinians. The Jewish group was intense; we were all very scared. The next day, while telling the Palestinians about our fear, many of us felt embarrassed that people would know how scared we were. The Palestinians were surprised to hear that we carried so much fear of them.

The Jews prepared the supper that evening and set the table. This is the opposite of what is "normal" in Israeli society, in which many hotel and restaurant workers are Palestinians. The Palestinian men light-heartedly criticized the "unprofessional" way in which we prepared some of the dishes, demonstrating to us how it should be done.

During the Friday evening class Noha told about an incident of racism she had witnessed at an RC workshop and suggested what we might do to stop such an incident, both as Palestinians and as allies. She counseled a Palestinian man and a Jewish woman. The man worked on his anger at having been imprisoned and beaten up by Israeli security services. He used one of the Jews as a "target" to express his anger, which was very difficult for him. The woman worked on making a commitment to the Palestinians to end racism inside RC as a first step toward ending it altogether.

On Saturday morning two more Palestinians had turns in front of the workshop, working on expressing their anger about Jews. It was hard for them to let the Jews see how angry they were. (It seems that Palestinians' internalized racism tells them they are violent.) They made great efforts to use the opportunity well, and the Jews seemed to do a good job of listening to their anger without letting feelings of guilt or blame come up outside of sessions.

Twice during the workshop we spontaneously divided into men's and women's groups in which there was a light and playful atmosphere and a lot of closeness.

We played many games, but sang few songs. The Jews need to learn songs in Arabic to allow us to sing together.

For Saturday lunch we had a tasty, typical Palestinian meal before ending the workshop in the early afternoon.

Noha led superbly under sometimes difficult conditions. She created a safe atmosphere for all of us to work on issues we usually don't face up to well. She has built an effective gang of Palestinians and Jews to support her, but all of us, Palestinians and Jews, need to work on making an "ideal" space for her.

A month after this workshop, at a workshop on eliminating racism, we organized good support for the Palestinians. Noha had pushed us to think about it in advance, and it seemed that for the first time at an Israeli workshop the Palestinians were not isolated and there were lots of good contacts between the Jews and the Arabs. We organized support for the Palestinians on a one-to-one basis and also had a support group for the "supporters," which gave us room to notice our achievements and think about what was hard.

David Kohen
Hakerem, Israel
and Michal Rosenzweig-Gofer
Merom-Hagalil, Israel


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07