275: Readers Tell Us About … Overcoming Huge Differences

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W
e’re concluding our special series for the Jewish High Holidays, today, with a letter of hope from Len and Libby Taubman in San Mateo, California. The Taubmans are well known as leaders in developing new approaches to interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews. They’ve also kindly encouraged our development of ReadTheSpirit.
    The Taubmans are models in many ways. They’re both retired now from their original careers, but they’ve never stopped learning. For instance, they’re now eager users of new media. They sent a copy of this letter to ReadTheSpirit and their letter also appears this week on Anderson Cooper’s 360 Web site for CNN.
    It’s this kind of hopeful, helpful, generous approach to connection that we all need, right now.

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So, here is the letter from the Taubmans’ about their difficult work with Palestinians and Jews:

   “You Arabs want to drive Israel into the sea, and you’re blowing up buses and lobbing bombs on citizens,” said the Jew with dual Israeli-American citizenship.
    “Last week, you Jews murdered my two innocent cousins and their sister and mother in Gaza, then demolished their home,” said a young Palestinian Muslim studying in the U.S.
    This is real—a recent conversation in our California living room.
    Believe it or not, these “enemies” and other Muslims, Jews, and Christians like them continue to meet—insist on returning to face off every month. After 9/11, there was a windfall of even more citizen interest in Arab-Jewish and interfaith communication.
    Realizing “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard,” our 16-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group—the oldest of its kind—is revving up for its 198th meeting to continue learning and changing. We’ve helped begin and encourage many dozens of similar groups across North America and beyond.

    People still ask: “Why keep meeting when inept government professionals keep failing decade after decade, resorting to violence—the dependable failure?” Some Palestinians say, “Dialogue just makes the Jews feel less guilty.” Some Jews will tell you that “Palestinians think they are the only victims and don’t understand Jewish fear.”
   Committed Dialogue participants will tell you that “Dialogue permits both stories, all stories. We share the need to be heard. My story is incomplete until you hear it. I long to hear your story so I can feel complete. The best way to defeat your enemies is to make them your friends.”
   So what changes? This: Becoming human to each other, we begin to want the best not only for ourselves but for the “other” equally—so far, the missing part of the peace process.

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   While we are not depending on politicians to build relationships, to their credit this Sept. 23rd Congress passed H.R. 1369. This historic first “Peacemakers Resolution” acknowledges “the vital role of nongovernmental organizations in peace-building efforts between Israel and Palestinians.”
   This “citizens’ century” demands face-to-face meeting on vastly larger scales, from which will come the healing, trust, and unprecedented creativity beginning at the grassroots. This isn’t the role of government. This is the Public Peace Process.
   The process of change does not begin with issues, but with people making heart connections. In today’s world of interrelationships and interconnections, there is no individual survival. We are all in the same boat together. Familiarity decreases fear and allows the brain to finally work right.

   The 1948 Palestinian refugee who joined the Dialogue “to tell those Jews what they did to me and my family” can now feel and explain the great need for Jews to feel secure. The Holocaust refugee who entered the Dialogue to “tell those Palestinians they are terrorizing us with threats to drive us into the sea” can now feel and explain the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe that displaced hundreds of thousands when the state of Israel was born. Thus begins a new, better relationship.
   For our handful of Jews, Muslims and Christians, the results are hundreds of previously unimaginable victories.
   Visit our Web site to see over 500 stories of other Arab-Jewish and interfaith triumphs.
   Elie Wiesel said “People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.”
   These samplings of increasing citizen peace-building are on the rise.
   Such stories power us forward, emboldening our underlying faith and experience that everyone has a soul—an inherited, deeply-held quality—whose oldest memory is of union, and whose deepest longing is for reunion.

CARE TO READ MORE?
   Elizabeth “Libby” Traubman, MSW, is a retired clinical social worker.
For many years, she has been pioneering efforts to bring
Jews, Muslims and Christians together in an effort to encourage peace
in the Middle East. Lionel “Len” Traubman, DDS, MSD, retired after 35
years in his San Francisco practice of Dentistry for Children. In 1992,
Len and Libby co-founded the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue,
then in 2007 conceived and co-produced two documentary films about
peacemaking. They have been married for 41 years.
   FILM PROJECT: The Taubmans are advisers for an innovative program that encourages Israeli and Palestinian young people to make short films about themselves — and learn to make peace in the process.
   HUMAN DIGNITY AND HUMILIATION STUDIES: The Taubmans also work with this interdisciplinary project to study the global problem of humiliation and strategies for restoring human dignity.
   GATEWAY TO THEIR WORK: The Taubmans maintain this basic online hub with simple text links to their various projects. Look around and you’ll find various interesting ideas.

AND PLEASE, as these readers have done—Tell Us What You Think.
    There’s still time to sign up for our Monday morning ReadTheSpirit Planner by Email—it’s free and you can cancel it any time.

    Not only do we welcome your notes, ideas, suggestions and personal
reflections—but our readers enjoy them as well. You can do this
anytime by clicking on the “Comment” links at the end of each story.
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