To encounter one another: reflections from a Haifa parent

October 25th, 2015

Amidst growing violence and tension between Jews and Arabs, parents in Haifa gathered in the preschool one evening to talk. Reut, a Jewish mother in the school, reflects: 

A suffocating, painful cloud has surrounded me these past few weeks – I felt like I could cry at any moment, and that anger might burst through. I came to the preschool with this feeling yesterday.

This is the second year that my son Ori is at the Hand in Hand Preschool; the second year that I have to explain my choice to my family and friends who do not understand why I chose this for my child.

I didn’t know what to expect in the conversation yesterday evening – I feared that it might be a polite conversation about our “situation”; that because of our disagreements and charged feelings, we might just prefer to be nice and smile, and not really speak, listen, make space for or encounter one another.

We gathered slowly, and 15 minutes late in a colorful room with Hebrew and Arabic letters on the walls. A space that is usually filled with the simple everyday joy of children and shared living.

We started by going around the circle, while each parent tried to share just a bit of what they have been feeling over the past week.

The conversation was not polite.

We spoke about our fears – physical; for us and our children. The fear of walking in the street. The Arab mother, the Jewish father, all afraid of the growing hatred.

We spoke about the despair and frustration with our societies – violent and hurtful. The question came up – what do we want? What do we have in common?

In this sea of hatred, violence, stabbings, incitement, and racism, the first and most important thing that any person can do here is stop for a moment and choose to encounter the other – an encounter between people, Jews and Arabs, men and women. A space where each person is an equal partner in creating the conversation.

For me, this was important and comforting and a moment of learning. I want to try to amplify this in my life.

I’m not sure how to finish, or what to wish you all. I am happy that I get to give this opportunity to Ori, to grow up in a space where Jews and Arabs play together, laugh together, cry, fight, and make up together. And I’m realizing that I also want that space - for myself - and that we, the adults, need to start doing to same. 

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