Palestinians, Jews called to

creatively "share space, defy the wall"

Thursday, 04 December 2008


     Today's "impossible" challenges require our unprecedented compassion and creativity.
     Problems are opportunities to be creative.

"There are two ways of being creative.

"One can sing and dance.

"Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish."

Warren G. Bennis


     Citizens are creating theater.


Playback Theater builds bridges for Jews, Arabs

Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - 25 October 2008

     A dozen young Israeli Jews and Arabs have worked on interfaith coexistence through theater.

     The participants, who ranged in age from 22 to 35, were students or professionals in the fields of acting, photography, law, visual art, music and stand-up comedy.

     Among them were seven Jews, three Muslims and two Christians.


     Citizens are inventing comedy.


Comedy helps highlight peace issues

Published in CM Life - 13 February 2008 - Central Michigan University

     Stand Up for Peace, an event held in Hotung on Sunday night, was a stand-up comedy show which featured Scott Blakeman, a Jewish-American comedian, and Dean Obediallah, a Palestinian-American comedian.

     Both used comedy in order to bring together Jews and Arabs and discuss solutions for peace in the Middle East by promoting conversation.

     More about Standup For Peace is at .


     And there is film, and this call for global creativity.


SHARE YOUR STORY: My Culture + Your Culture Online Video Contest

WHO:  Age 14+ years international citizens

WHEN:  Dec. 1, 2008 - Jan. 26, 2009

WHAT:  Submit you original video (up to 3 min - 100 MB or less)

SUBJECT:  Personal stories, thoughts, or creative themes about cross-cultural communication leading to new connections, understanding, creativity, and community.

PRIZES:  Top winners receive free trip to 2-week international exchange program.

SPONSOR:  ExchangesConnect of the U.S. Department of State.

     Also, creativity and innovation with language - words we use every day - can matter.
     About the Holy Land, we automatically - nearly without thinking - begin speaking about "the conflict" or "the solution."

     What if we began talking about "the relationship" instead?
     How can new language help change our perceptions, even our visions?
     What if we spoke and acted "as if"?
     Turning single events into sustained relationships and creativity is what life asks of us now.
     For the Middle East public peace process, CNN's senior staff discovered an example of real-life engagement and creativity, wishing to "post the proof."


Jews, Palestinians engaging and creating

Anderson Cooper 360 blog (AC360) - 16 October 2008

     Today, Common Ground News Service - of Search for Common Ground in the Middle - has just posted perhaps the most definitive-yet writing to implore citizen face-to-face engagement to transcend physical and psychological walls that keep us apart and inhibit us from coming together as the long-lost relatives that we are.
     Bound by DNA.
     So similar under the skin, in our souls.
     Longing, not only as cousins or siblings, but with the passion of twins to rediscover the other with unspeakable joy.
     Thank you, Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer ( ) at American University, for fastening into the literature and academia at its highest our shared destiny.

                        - L&L

"I am always doing that which I can not do,

in order that I may learn how to do it."

Pablo Picasso

Share space, defy the wall

by Mohammed Abu-Nimer

Published 04 December 2008 - Common Ground News Service


     WASHINGTON Arabs and Jews were separated for decades before the separation wall was built in the West Bank and around Gaza. When former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat travelled to Israel in 1977, he declared before the Knesset (parliament) that such separation can only bring devastation and alienation to Arabs and Jews alike. He came to meet the Israelis in their homes to challenge their fears.
     The physical wall between the West Bank and Israel reflects how current political leaders and ideologies have deepened the Israeli-Palestinian moral, mental, physical, economic, and psychological divides. However, history shows that such divides between enemies in neighbouring and interdependent geographical areas fail to bring about genuine peace or stability (e.g. Northern Ireland, South Africa, or Germany).
     There are many strategies for reducing the adverse effects of the wall. In my view, the most important approaches will address separation by creating more shared Israeli and Palestinian space.
     The wall is tragic for Arab-Jewish relations because it promotes apathy, alienation, detachment, and ignorance in relation to what is happening on the other sidewhich together form one's own sense of responsibility to the conflict. The wall opens the door for socialising agents like politicians, preachers and teachers to sustain images of the enemy as "other," while ignoring the suffering resulting from the physical and mental separation.
     The short and long-term remedy to separation imposed by the wall is to mitigate its impacts by meeting face-to-face and constructing more spaces to encounter the other. It is worth investing in shared spaces for meetings, as long as the relationships are symmetrical and balanced, and the participants empowered. Productive shared spaces, such as youth encounters, economic ventures, environmental initiatives, non-violent advocacy and protests, should increase people's capacity to be self-critical and perceive any wrongdoing on their own side, and provide tools and opportunities for participants to apply the lessons learned, and explore alternatives for a shared future (for example, a joint youth project that focuses on the negative impact of the wall with a possibility to engage their respective communities by arranging visits, sculpturing the wall in their own towns; artists displaying their work against the wall and against separation in schools, etc.)
     New shared spaces from peace encounters and joint development projects, to farmer exchanges and clergy meetings are a precious opportunity - a resource that needs to be professionally constructed and managed to ensure that its participants are nurtured by the encounter, and empowered to spread the humanising messages within their respective communities. A summer camp for Palestinian and Israeli high school students should be treated as a rare and almost sacred space; the various Arab-Jewish initiatives for peace and dialogue have an historic role to play in creatively constructing more spaces for shared meetings in which the realities of the separation wall are challenged and not perpetuated.
     The various walls that politicians have erected between Israelis and Palestinians (symbolic and actual) have forced many into a siege mentality. For Israelis, the siege mentality takes hold when they feel they must calculate every move they make when travelling overseas. It does not help that they are restricted from travelling beyond their immediate borders to neighbouring countries and it prevents them from knowing how Palestinian counterparts think and live.
     The Palestinian siege mentality is reinforced by their physical imprisonment by a wall in their own towns, by military checkpoints, and by limited access to the Israeli narrative. In fact, the siege mentality is so strong that many Palestinians are surprised by the acts of solidarity groups in Israel.
     These shared spaces are able to demystify the monstrous image of the other, offering the only guarantee that future Palestinian and Israeli generations will not grow in a reality of avoidance and denial, but will instead have the opportunity to re-humanise each other. Israeli youth will no longer be able to say we did not know; and Palestinian youth will no longer be able to say we can't do anything. They will both say, we are trying.
     The walls around Gaza should serve as an example of what Palestinians and Israelis can expect in the West Bank if they don't actively seek to transcend their separation: escalating violence and dehumanisation of Gazans and Hamas by the outside world, more internal Palestinian fighting, and continuous threats to Israel's southern borders.
     The more Israelis and Palestinians create shared spaces and meetings, the less likely people on both sides will flock behind leaders who propagate radical solutions and preach superiority of one side over the other. Arabs and Jews who are fighting the walls and social separations need to creatively break the fear of living side-by-side by sending a consistent message to their communities. The message should explain that a genuine mutual recognition and implementation of each others rights for a sovereign, equal, and independent state are the only security guarantees for both peoples.

* Mohammed Abu-Nimer is the Director of the Peacebuilding and Development Institute at American University. He is an expert on conflict resolution and dialogue for peace, focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.