Palestinian, Israeli students to learn about conflict resolution

Students to travel to Hiroshima to study Japanese perspective on personal and collective trauma.

hiroshima 88 (photo credit: )
hiroshima 88
(photo credit: )
Hoping to glean a new level of clarity and understanding of their own conflict, a group of Jewish and Palestinian students from Israel will be traveling to Hiroshima next week to learn about the Japanese perspective on personal and collective trauma and hear first-hand about the Japanese experience after World War II. "Visiting Japan is an opportunity for our students to take on the role of observer and learn about a narrative with which we have no involvement," said Avigail Moshe, director of youth and young adult programs for Interreligious Coordination Council in Israel, an organization that promotes dialogue and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews. "By becoming detached observers, we can unearth truths that might not have been evident while we were mired in our own personal narratives." Moshe, who also leads trips of Israeli high school students to Poland, believes that learning from a country that has healed from its tumultuous past of conflict and victimhood will help students think outside of the box, and find new ways to deal with their own conflict back here at home. "I met with a survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima," said Moshe, who has been to Japan twice recently. "His story sounded like the same human story I've heard so many times here - from victims of the Holocaust, terror victims, and from the Palestinian side, of people who were here in 1948. I'm not comparing them to each other, but from a humanist point of view, it's a similar story of pain." Moshe and her students hope to utilize the Japanese perspective, from a country that was both the aggressor and victim - the only nation to be attacked with a nuclear bomb. According to a statement issued by group, this will be the first time a group of Israelis and Palestinians will travel to Japan together to further dialogue. They are scheduled to meet with Japanese students who were here last August and given various tours of the country. Now it's the Japanese students' turn to serve as hosts, and the ICCI participants are both excited and hopeful for the exchange. "One of the strongest things I saw from the Japanese students when they were here, was their culture of dialogue," said Hadas, a Bezalel student and ICCI participant. "They don't yell, they listen to one another." But Hadas, who is from Kfar Etzion, which was overrun by Jordan in the War of Independence and later resettled by survivors, said her family and friends don't necessarily share her hopes. "They think it's a waste of time," she said. "But I feel that I have the ability to listen and learn, and I'd like to think that because of where I'm from, I can understand others' stories of hardship." Andrew, an Israeli Arab from Acre, is also excited for the trip, but also expressed cautious optimism. "I want to learn about Japan," he said. "But I don't know what it will change. Change can only begin with me, individually, and slowly it will influence others around me. But for the meantime, we'll just have to see." Still, Moshe holds high hopes for the trip, and the experience her students will be exposed to. "The Japanese tradition is to listen," she said. "And I think it will be a good lesson for our students to learn. The Japanese narrative says even if you are victimized, you can work towards reconciliation. Instead of continuing the conflict, you can find other ways."