Sunday, September 30, 2001                         COMMENTARY                         Hartford, Connecticut

Listen To Terrorists

By Elizabeth and Lionel Traubman

         `How do you deal with terrorists?" an educator e-mailed us, grasping for what to tell her students.
         We are not professionals, not experts. But we are part of a 9-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group on the San Francisco peninsula, preparing for our 112th meeting.
         We are 30 women and men Muslims, Jews and Christians, Holocaust survivors and 20th-generation Palestinians. In our experience, "an enemy is someone whose story we have not heard."
         And so with "terrorists." Everyone needs to be heard; listening is one of the great acts of love and of healing.
         But from marriage to international relationships, we experience people being neglected and disregarded. Discredited and dehumanized. Not invited to the table. Voices in the wilderness, they see themselves as labeled inferior, outside, less than human, invisible. It drives people crazy and creates hate and fury. It makes them feel hopeless and do desperate things.
         Their hearts harden.
         Part of the meaning of these tragic days - we saw it in the neglect and resultant violence at Columbine High School - is this: There is no one we can afford to neglect.
         If we participate in globalization, then we cannot dissociate ourselves from others' crises and needs. We cannot allow keeping other human beings invisible to us.
         We have seen in America how hardened gang members are brought into relationships with one another and their communities by interested people helping them listen to others. And that is our experience as Palestinians and Jews dedicated to each other in sustained dialogue.
         It is about compassionate listening to "their" stories, beginning to see one another as human and equal, and starting to want the best for one another.
         And initiating acts of good will in America, in the Middle East, worldwide. To help hearts begin to soften, step by step, if possible.
         We know of no other way to begin: being human, opening minds, softening hearts. Discovering who we are neighbors forever.

         February 4, 2005, evidence of the power of Dialogue and listening with Middle East terrorists was reported in the Christian Science Monitor.
         The report concluded: "Before the dialogues began, there was only one way to fight terrorism, and that was through force," he says. "Now there is another way: dialogue."

Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 -- Fax: (650) 573-1217

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