The question before our panel was whether the trauma of the Holocaust and the ever-present Palestinian-Israel conflict make dialogue between Jews and Germans, and between Jews and Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible to bridge the impossible?
Julia Chaitin, Senior Lecturer from the Sapir Academic College, Hof Ashkelon, Israel, examined the barriers that often make conversations across the divide difficult. Particularly, the focus of her discussion was on navigating the opposing narratives of the past and present in the context of “perpetrators” and “victims” through techniques of reflective storytelling and listening to open up dialogue within the setting of conflict. The lecture and the accompanying discussion provoked an interesting discussion on the possibility of dialogue among conflictual parties and the difficulty of such dialogue.
Can the parents of a Palestinian suicide bombers dialogue with the Israeli parents who have lost their son/daughter to that suicide bombing? Could they look each other in the eye and potentially have a meaningful conversation? Can the sons and daughters of a Holocaust survivor visit the death camps in Germany and Poland and dialogue with the descendants of the camp guards? Can a Palestinian family talk to the Israeli family, which has occupied its Palestinian family’s former home? These are eternally difficult questions to answers, rife with unfathomable ethical, moral, and emotional issues.