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refusing to be enemies

Last week I met Laurie White, the woman who created the inspiring documentary:

refusing to be enemies:  the zeitouna story

This film chronicles the conversations of six Arabic and six Jewish women with ties to Israel and Palestine, a historically war-torn region that still festers today.  Since 2002, the Zeitouna group has gathered biweekly to  dialogue, share stories and search for understanding.  While there is intense passion and pain behind the issues at hand, somehow these women manage to connect and begin to understand one another, resulting in strong bonds and lifelong friendships.  It’s a beautiful example of the power of ordinary women to connect, befriend, support and begin to make peace around issues that seem impossible to discuss.

I learned more about both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the film, but what fascinates me most is how the women were able to look beyond distinct differences through mutual respect, listening, and understanding.  I can’t quite do it justice here, but just for a taste, I jotted down these phrases from Laurie’s presentation:

  • Person to person diplomacy
  • Listen with heart and head
  • Listen for feelings
  • Listen to your own reactions
  • Speak to the middle of the group, not face-to-face
  • Run a marathon, not a sprint

And the quote that I keep mulling over in my mind:

“An enemy is a friend whose story you haven’t yet heard.” 

If these women could become dear friends over an issue that has torn cultures apart for centuries, what could we accomplish if we approached even minor conflicts this way?  What if we spent more time listening with our hearts, suspending judgment and searching for understanding when conflicts arise:

  • around choices about career and family?
  • around schools, home school or child care decisions?
  • around parenting styles?
  • around political affiliations within our own country?
  • around different interpretations of the Bible, holy books or spirituality (for heaven’s sake!)?
  • . . . and so many more

Most interesting to me is that this group never even attempted to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Their entire purpose is to share and listen, not to “fix”.  And the impact is very, very powerful. 

May we all be reminded to listen, with our hearts and minds, just a little bit closer.

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