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Dialog Ideas and Materials

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This page includes materials intended to provoke a different kind of thought about dialog in confrontation situations in general, and about the Israeli - Palestinian conflict in particular.


The Four Steps to Dialog
The Caretaker of the Land
The Bedouin and the Gazelle
Our People and The Others
Personal Stories (separate page)
My Experience in Dialog - Saida Nusseibeh (separate page)

The Four Steps to Dialog

Saida Nusseibeh

I would like to begin by quoting from a book by a Palestinian writer - Raja Shehadeh. "The Sealed Room". A selection from a diary of a "Palestinian living under occupation". - 1990. Towards the end of the book Raja writes.

'I want to break out of the isolation of my sealed room. I don't want to confirm their victory over me by becoming their mirror image. Nor do I want to shut off the rest of the world and creep into my Noah's Ark, as I did in these past decades, hoping for the temple to fall and destroy both of us.

'I want to leave my sealed room never to return. I don't want to live with grudges and have to compromise my humanity. The world may be unfair, cruel, unjust and uncaring. But I am part of this world and therefore I must accept my share of responsibility. Intifada means shaking off. I have been inside my sealed room long enough.

The time has to come open the doors of my mind. I want to leave the sealed room. Will you leave yours? Then we'll meet halfway. What do you say?''

I would like to commence, from the premises that we are all ready to leave our sealed rooms, to force open the doors of our minds, as we aspire to recognize the need for us, as equals to walk on the path towards peace.

We share a dream of peace, and that is the strong tie, which link us together despite the division of race, education, culture, nationality, age and religion, to work hard, so as to give peace a chance.

The first thing we need to do is liberate ourselves from our fear, self-righteousness and anger. These negative emotions impede dialogue and obstruct co-operation and must be replaced by understanding of where the 'other' is coming from.

The second step is respect and acceptance, the value of those whom we speak to, and what they have to offer must be respected and accepted.

The third step is that we use our will to forgive those we believed have harmed or disadvantaged us. Reality follows intentions and a determination to forgive- forgive yourself as well as others - It is the first healthy step towards achievement of full forgiveness.

The fourth step is healing. To heal memories and make anger a positive experience. One way is to acknowledge that agreement is not the only way to build trust.

We begin the healing process by sharing experiences and identifying needs of the 'other' - deepening appreciation of 'difference' by learning about ourselves and the 'other' - helping to overcome ignorance and prejudices.

The role we have here is, of course, to want to be healed, to want to let go of our pain.

The end result of this process is, liberation, acceptance, forgiveness and healing and of course, reconciliation with those formally we considered to be alien to us 'our enemy'.

And eventually not only do we feel reconciled with those who have always been the 'other' but, here is the even amazing part, we discover that we have come to be friends with them. We share many identical problems- we look into the mirror image of a nation that we identify with- And here I talk from experience...

The Caretaker of the Land

Shai Schwartz, as related by Saida Nusseibeh

This story is told by Shai Schwartz, a story teller of Neve Shalom.

A landowner wanted his son to do better in the world, become more educated and richer, so he sent  him to seek his fortune. The son finds a country, settlers, works very hard, marries and has many children.

After many years passed, the son heard that his father the landowner had passed away Thus, he had become the new landowner. After thinking very hard if he should go back, he decided, that since his father is dead anyhow, he should not go. He decided do what his father has wanted him to do. That is, to work very hard and  better himself, be rich, educated and respected.

However, one day after his children graduated and left home, the landowner felt home sick. He told his wife that he would travel to his country, and later on send for her and the children to join him. He arrived to find that the virgin land he left many years ago was very fertile. It was now cultivated and there was a big house on top of the hill replacing the old shack that had been his home.

He met a person who informed him that he is the one who took care of the land, planted it and built the house. The landowner said, "Because of all the good that you have done, I will not ask you for rent for all this time that you have been here".

The other man said "What do you mean, I am the landowner, since you left when you where very young, without asking or looking back. It is I who take care of it, planted it - this is my land and I am the new landowner". Both decided to go to a judge in the city. After hearing both sides the judge insisted that he would like to go to the land. Once they arrived, the judge went down and put his ear to the ground- and later said,

"I heard both your stories, each one insisting that the land is theirs- but the Land tells me a different story. The land tells me that you both belong to the land- after both of you are gone- the land remains- so the land is the owner- and you are the caretakers."

When Shai tells this story, both Jews and Arabs identify with the first landowner.

The Bedouin and the Gazelle

Shai Schwartz, as related by Saida Nusseibeh

Shai told to the border police after he witnessed the shooting of some children.

A Bedouin went out on his camel with his son to find some food. He picked all the herbs that his wife had asked him for, and collected different kind of small animals as food.

And then he saw  a herd of gazelles in the distance. He told his son to stay put, to take care of the camel and the load, and he ran after the gazelles with his gun. He missed them and returned to the place where he left his son.

Now in the desert, there is the goulah, a creature  that is half woman and half monster. The goulah saw young boy, and  jumped out and ate him. The father returned, and to his horror he saw the blood and knew what happened. He tracked the goulah, and found her dancing the dance of the happiness since she had eaten. He shot her, opened her stomach, took out the body of his dead son and went home.

On entering his home he told his wife that he brought her a gazelle- but it had to be cooked in a pot that was not used for cooking for a death. So the wife starts going around the village looking for a pot. However, in each home someone had died sometime. In each home, the pots had been used to cook for the funeral gathering of a family member who had died. So the wife came back, and told her husband that she could not find any such pot.

Now finally, he brought in the body of his son and told his wife it is not a gazelle, but their son.

Our People and the Others

Ami Isseroff

Substitute "The Palestinian People" for Our People, and "The Jewish People " for "the Others," and read this aloud. Then do the same thing again, substituting "The Jewish People" for "Our People" and "The Palestinian People" for "the Others."

Our people have always had a great attachment for The Land, which is holy to us, and has been holy throughout our history. We have been fighting these many years a great struggle for justice against The Others, who began by attacking us without provocation. The Others are not a real nation, just a fiction of propagandists. The Others had no attachment to this land for dozens of generations. Now they are inventing a history to "prove" that it is their country.

The Others do not hesitate to spread all kinds of lies and exaggerations about Our People. But the fact is, that it is The Others who have acted inhumanely, murdering innocent civilians without cause and depriving our people of our rights whenever they had the chance. We have hundreds of memorials to our martyred dead, and commemorations of the massacres and atrocities committed by the enemy. These facts are certainly borne out by history, and stem from the undemocratic nature of their society and the twisted nature of their ideology. For our part, we have always treated the enemy fairly. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, but we cannot all be held responsible for the behavior of a few extremists. If there are extremists among us, it is because the conflict has warped our people. We are becoming like our enemies.

We are a peaceful people. No people wants peace more than us. Peace is a prime tenet of our religion and we are enjoined to keep the peace by our Holy Book. But when our homes, our women and our children are threatened by the greedy and bloodthirsty acts of The Others, we must defend ourselves and fight for justice. How can we possibly make peace with people who want to destroy us and take our land? Personally, my family has suffered greatly at the hands of the enemy. Before I could make peace, I would have to think of the sacrifices made by my brother and uncle, killed in an unjustifiable action of the enemy, and what they would have wanted. We could not let their deaths go unavenged.

By the blood of our holy martyrs, we swear that with the help of God, who is certainly on our side, and Justice, the right-hand of God, we will continue the struggle against the enemy until they agree to live with us on our terms - the terms of justice. Then we will have peace


The Self-Righteous ones for a Just and Lasting Peace


There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his  temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same". When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.


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