“I have actually seen people contemplate their navels.”
John Heilpern

Conference of the Birds

Talking about Talking in Israel


A couple of weeks ago a person from Israel who I consider to be a friend sent me an email. It wasn’t a personal email. It was an email sent to a group of people and it was about promoting a crowd-funding campaign. This friend lives in the area surrounding Gaza which was (has been for some time and continues to be) one of the most threatened and impacted areas in Israel during the last conflict with Gaza.

The people in that area have experienced plenty of  fear and violence. They have come to a conclusion that for them to experience peace (or even just a reduction of violence) the people of Gaza need to experience hope. The campaign was about spreading that awareness in Israeli society (many parts of which are further removed from the violence and have a less direct experience of it).

I spent some time with the campaign, watched the video, read some of the words. Though a lot of work and social collaboration went into it and it seems like a generally good idea, I felt (given my experiences and thoughts about Israel) that it was not deep enough. I felt it was treating a superficial and current (temporary) expression rather then digging deeper into the origins of the situation.

Since Israel is often on my mind and in my heart I wrote back wondering if there could be an opportunity to go deeper. I wrote an honest response giving voice to my thoughts. Within a very short while I got back a response that communicated hurt and resentment at my position and attitude (and yet the response also included a restated plea to forward the original email to my circle of friends, despite my position, so that the campaign could continue to spread and reach more people).

I started to write a reply but realized that it was not a simple reply to put in writing, that it would be much longer then I felt was appropriate but most importantly that no matter what I said and what I intended, my words would most likely further aggravate my friend. So after a while I changed my mind and replied with three Hebrew words that said: good luck, I apologize and peace.

I wanted it to end there … but it didn’t. It stayed with me and moved within me. I felt that it was a missed opportunity. It also bothered me that my attempt to give and contribute (in my way, not necessarily in the way I was asked to) resulted (once again) in hurt and frustration. But I really felt that the main thread of the conversation that I was seeing could not be carried forward without inflicting more pain and frustration on my friend.

A few days later another dimension appeared in my consciousness. I didn’t act on it … until now … in writing this post. My intention is to plant a seed that may become a useful conversation. That seed can be nourished by an open conversation using the comment thread of this post (making it possible for others to both listen in and if they wish join the conversation). I will be sending my friend an email with a link to this post and it will be up to her to decide if she wants to partake in it.

The seed came in the form of a question: if my (a friend) response evoked such hurt and objection in my friend, how will this friend respond in more demanding situations where there is a deeper divide, larger differences of opinion, opposition and outright enmity? For grounding and specifity I phrased my question in relation to my friend, but I offer the question in a wider context since I believe that this highlights a cultural phenomenon that isn’t unique to my friend. Can any meaningful conversation take place in this way?


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