Sunday, June 19, 2011

Be Careful What Kind of Walls You Build

We had a fascinating interaction today, at the "Building Hope" conference, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Presenters were Rabbi Douglas Krantz, one of the founders of J Street (see, and Sami Awad of Holy Land Trust ( and the film "Little Town of Bethlehem" (, which we viewed tonight (see it if you haven't).

The group consists of Muslims from various countries, Orthodox Jews from the U.S., Israel and elsewhere, and Christians from various countries - so you can imagine that there are many different opinions and perspectives.

I didn't know what to expect, whether our newly forming relationships would hold up under the pressures of diving into such a charged issue. I was pleasantly surprised. We were able to engage in frank, honest, and respectful conversation. Many shared their stories, personal experiences, and perspectives, and asked some tough questions. It was moving, at many points (in a positive way). It was enriching. We remarked again and again, the importance of the human dimension - relationship, getting to know the other. It's harder to stereotype and to hate someone you know (if you know them in the right way).

Rabbi Krantz talked about the danger of building walls, physical walls and intellectual walls (and other kinds). He remarked that "an intellectual wall is harder to tear down than a real wall" (and may exist long after the physical walls have been removed). He exhorted us to be careful of how we see ourselves, and how we talk about ourselves, and to be careful what kind of walls we build. An excellent word, which in a way summarizes much of what this conference has been about.

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