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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

When a Jewish Kibbutz Neighbors an Arab Village: 50 Years of Cooperation in Israel

by Bethany Firnhaber, Rosalina Nieves, and Robyn Carolyn Price

The relationship between Arabs and Jews in Israel has been strained by failed peace agreements, suicide bombings, and the construction of a separation wall — all which have fostered fear and anger on both sides.

Since Israel became a state in 1948, the road to peaceful coexistence has been, as many people in the region describe it, complicated. Somewhere in the midst of the conflict, however, are two communities — one Arab and one Jewish — that for years have shared a well, harvested crops together, and attended each others’ weddings and funerals.

Map of Meiser and MezerKibbutz Mezer, a collective Jewish community, and the Arab village Meiser are located less than a half-mile from each other and from the “green line” border with the West Bank.

Their relationship began in the early ’50s when Kibbutz Mezer was established. Unable to find a viable water source of their own, the new kibbutz relied on the generosity of its Arab neighbors, who allowed them to share their own small well. In gratitude, Kibbutz Mezer shared with Meiser tips for navigating the new Israeli bureaucracy.

Both communities say that, in time, respect and even friendships grew. And not even the murder of a family at the kibbutz by a Palestinian extremist on November 10, 2002 could dismantle the peaceful relationship the two communities share.

The video above is a tale of Mezer and Meiser, communities that have lived side by side for over 55 years, offering a model of what peaceful coexistence in the region might look like.


Bethany Firnhaber Bethany Firnhaber is a Los Angeles-based freelance reporter and photographer who recently received a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California. She is most interested in reporting on issues of social responsibility and human rights, especially across cultural and international borders.  
 

Rosalina Nieves Rosalina Nieves is a master’s degree candidate in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Southern California. After graduating from Purdue University, she began her career at WFLD-TV (FOX) in Chicago. Since that time, she has worked at KABC-TV and is currently an assignment editor at CNN’s Los Angeles bureau.

Robyn Carolyn PriceRobyn Carolyn Price is native of Los Angeles, California. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University, and studied in Florence, Italy. She is currently a master’s degree candidate in the Specialized Journalism Program at the University of Southern California. Her specialization is American politics and its effects on marginalized communities.

Read more about their reporting in Mezer and Meiser on their website, We would also like to include a link to the projects’s website, Coexistence in Israel: A Tale of Two Cities.

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Life Together: Arab-Israeli professor in Galilee Partners with Jewish University in Jerusalem to Deal with Diversity

PART THREE: OVERCOMING STEREOTYPES IN THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM

by Christin Davis, USC graduate journalism student

Manal YazbakProfessor Manal Yazbak (photo: Christin Davis)

Manal Yazbak looks down when she remembers the treatment that some of her Jewish teachers meted out to Arab students.

“Some lecturers mistreated us once they knew we were Arabs,” she said of her experience at The Hebrew University, where she earned a doctorate in Education Management. “One proficiency teacher was very rude to us. And it didn’t matter how hard we tried, she gave us bad marks.”

In the Jewish state of Israel, Ms. Yazbak is a member of the minority. Arab citizens of Israel comprise just over 20 percent of the country’s total population. Ms. Yazbak felt the physical and ideological separation of Jews and Arabs in Nazareth while completing her teaching practicum at a Jewish elementary school.

“In their teaching, they ignored the existence of people living in Israel before the state was created,” she said. “They said the Arabs are ‘violent and try to kill us.’ It really bothered me because it was like brainwashing.”

Now as a professor at Sakhnin Teacher’s College in the Galilee — which includes mostly Muslim and Christian Arab students — Ms. Yazbak instructs a course on dealing with diversity for second-year students in the English department. The class is taught in partnership with the David Yellin College of Education in Jerusalem, and comprised primarily of Jewish students.Yazbak_ChurchOfAnnunciation02

Wearing a sharp red pea coat, Ms. Yazbak, 40, pushed her shoulder-length russet hair behind her ear. In a chic eatery not far from the Well of Annunciation, where Christians believe Mary learned she would bear the son of God, Yazbak conveyed a devotion to teaching students how to deal with the “other” and promote a peaceful resolution to her nation’s conflict. With a self-control that is not riled by or indulged in extreme emotions, she said she believes this outcome is possible despite a number of her own failed friendships with Jews.

“The [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is endless, but my hope is to raise awareness of human beings,” Ms. Yazbak said, “so that between ethnic groups and religions we can tolerate each other.”

Yazbak’s own experiences with the “other” rarely had happy endings. Growing up in Nazareth she and her siblings spent time with her father’s best friend, a Jewish man from Ra’anana. The two met while working together in a car factory. Having daughters about the same age, the two fathers and their families spent Saturdays together, often barbecuing and taking trips to the water. Ms. Yazbak attended an Arab junior high school that partnered with a Jewish school for activities. She said they even had sleepovers at each other’s homes. But neither experience bred lasting relationships.

"The truth is we didn’t make real friends,” Ms. Yazbak said, “but it was nice while it lasted.”

She later lived in Jerusalem for eight years while attending university and made friends with a few Jewish students. They studied together, but didn’t maintain contact following graduation. “There wasn’t email or mobile phones then, so we didn’t keep in touch,” she said.

According to Ms. Yazbak, hers is the only course in Israel that focuses on teaching diversity. She said some education is directed toward multiculturalism or social issues, but no other class instructs future teachers in how to reduce stereotypes and interact with people who are different than they are.

“We changed the name of the course a couple of times, but we chose Dealing with Diversity since it includes all the themes of conflict resolution and bias awareness,” Ms. Yazbak said. “The ‘other’ could be any other, not necessarily the Jewish other. The key is interaction.”

The one-year program — conducted in English to put both groups on equal footing — is aimed at developing student awareness of bias and stereotyping as well as teaching skills for conflict resolution. It incorporates activities, theoretical material and application, and is currently in its third year.

At the end of the first semester, students from both colleges meet together in Jerusalem. They discuss their own identity and the personal experiences that led to a desire to teach. Yazbak said by highlighting this similarity in career choice, students see commonality between themselves and their Arab or Jewish counterparts and start to reduce stereotypes.

They then divide into groups of four — two from each college — and decide on a topic for a collaborative project. During the second semester, groups prepare a presentation via online meetings. The projects require group research, discussion, negotiation, planning, and compromise, and then are presented in a final combined meeting at the end of the academic year in the Galilee. Previous projects presented strategies for classroom conflict resolution skills and using language to prevent conflict between pupils.

“My students haven’t met Jewish students before, and the opposite is true for the Jewish students,” Ms. Yazbak said. “The Jewish students are astonished when they see we’re not living in tents. Meeting together produces a change of attitudes — even the food and atmosphere helps gain better understanding of the other.”

After the final meeting in 2010, an Arab student thanked Ms. Yazbak for the opportunity to meet Jewish students with no enmity and said, “Together we learned about conflict resolution, an emergency need for the new generation.”

The course has had its challenges. In its first year, the initial meeting came just after the Gaza Operation; in the second year, it began the week following the Gaza flotilla incident. Both events, Yazbak said, made the Jewish students fearful of visiting the college in the Galilee.

“The Jewish students are easily affected by the political situation in the country, which means they want an excuse not to come to Arab cities,” Ms. Yazbak said. “They are always threatened. Those who did come learned that political disagreements did not rule out collaboration on a human level, nor did they overshadow other areas of commonality.” She said it’s important for these teachers in training to receive this kind of education so that when they one day lead a classroom of young people they can have a positive influence in eliminating stereotypes about Jewish and Arab people.

“The political situation in [Israel] discourages me sometimes, but I believe in peaceful resolution. It’s the only way since other alternatives exercise all sorts of violence,” Ms. Yazbak said. “Coexistence is a hard question, but [in this class] we want to understand each other.”

Photo (bottom): The Well of Annunciation in Galilee by Christin Davis.


Christin DavisChristin Davis is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Southern California, and the managing editor for Caring, a magazine focused on social services produced by The Salvation Army.

This series is part of a collaboration between On Being and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism in an attempt to add to the public’s understanding of the diversity of stories of daily life in Israel and the West Bank.

We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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We Must Pay Attention to the Quiet, Counterintuitive Possibilities: Mohammad Darawshe and Children of Both Identities

by Krista Tippett, host

It’s been difficult for me to answer the simple question: How was it?

"Moving." "Mindblowing." "Disheartening." "Emboldening."

These are some of the contradictory words that immediately come to mind when describing our 10-day reporting trip in March to Jerusalem and the West Bank. None of them do justice to the complexity of what I experienced. I have barely begun to make sense of it all. We expect to create several shows from the encounters of those intense days on the road. And I suspect that creating them will be my way of working through what I learned and how it has imprinted me.

This complexity of Israeli-Palestinian realities — I can only use that word in the plural now — is precisely the challenge. Of course, I knew this intellectually, politically, and historically, but I am always interested in looking inside and beyond those categories for the human landscape of pain and joy, hope and fear, imagination and possibility.

Everything that I thought I grasped about these peoples revealed itself as far too simple. Familiar categories of identity like left, right, and center; Arab and Jew; religious and secular; Israeli and Palestinian do not suffice. Just as complex are sensitive designations such as “settler” and “refugee.”Krista with Mohammad Darawshe

This multiplicity of Israeli-Palestinian identities is a theme that will run through the shows we are producing from this trip in the coming months. We have, I think, a wonderful and fitting beginning in Mohammad Darawshe. He is a dignified and moving voice of one of the least-noticed groups of people who inhabit these ancient lands. His very being confounds familiar distinctions and necessitates daily coexistence. He is Israeli and Palestinian, like 20 percent of Israel’s population. It’s a both/and proposition, not an either/or. He speaks both Hebrew and Arabic. He is both Muslim and a citizen of the Jewish state.

I am a bit embarrassed to confess that I had never really grasped the story of Arab citizens of Israel even as I’ve delved into other more visible layers of history that have shaped the Israeli-Palestinian present. How many of us have heard the story of the approximately 150,000 Palestinians who, in 1948, stayed home?

Today, Mohammad Darawshe has about 6,500 relatives in his hometown of Iksal, located near the town of Nazareth. His children are the 28th generation of his family to live there. When Arab armies attacked the fledgling state of Israel in 1948, most of the inhabitants of his village did not become refugees but instead took refuge in nearby mountains. And when they returned to their homes after the last shot had fallen, they found themselves citizens, as he puts it, of a new sovereignty, fellow citizens with yesterday’s enemies.

Arab citizens of Israel have lived in an uncertain and tense relationship with larger Israeli culture, as a whole, ever since that time. As a collective, as Mohammad Darawshe points out, they are often viewed with suspicion, a suspicion in some cases deserved. But he represents another possibility entirely. He understands Arab citizens of Israel like himself as a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians, and the larger Arab world. Interestingly, he asserts, the Arab world is largely unaware of the existence of Palestinians with Israeli passports, just like the rest of us.

And, in a very real sense, the ordinariness of Mohammad Darawshe’s pursuit of a constructive place in the ongoing drama of this region is what makes him, and others like him, so notable. As co-director of a civic organization called the Abraham Fund Initiatives, Mohammad Darawshe’s daily work revolves as much around getting more women from his community educated and employed as around navigating security issues with Israeli military officers.

The flip side of being what Mohammad Darawshe calls “children of both identities” in a land of conflict, after all, is the threat — and the very real recurring sense — of being politically orphaned. With the same passion with which he insists that he and his people stayed home and will remain home, Mohammad Darawshe insists that Israeli Jews have also come home, and that their children have a right to the same safety and prosperity he wishes for his own. These are simple human assumptions that have been impossible to reach in the multinational peace negotiations of the last three decades. Yet for Mohammad Darawshe, they are simply the shape of daily, civic survival.

In his presence, I recognize dignity, courage, and humility, qualities not much represented in the contentious narratives that emerge from this region. And if he can muster these qualities, surely we can meet them by paying attention to the quietly counterintuitive possibilities he and others embody.

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A Glimpse of Gazan Twilight

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Yes, since returning from our production trip to Israel and the West Bank, I find myself looking for momentary glimpses of humanity and beauty from that part of the world. There’s a lot of intensity, but a gentleness too, which often goes unnoticed by media outlets. Seeing quelowat’s posting of this photograph accomplishes this in spades:
A Palestinian boy tried to give his animal a wash Friday in the Mediterranean near Gaza City. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

A Glimpse of Gazan Twilight

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Yes, since returning from our production trip to Israel and the West Bank, I find myself looking for momentary glimpses of humanity and beauty from that part of the world. There’s a lot of intensity, but a gentleness too, which often goes unnoticed by media outlets. Seeing quelowat’s posting of this photograph accomplishes this in spades:

A Palestinian boy tried to give his animal a wash Friday in the Mediterranean near Gaza City. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

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Separate But Equal?
by Robyn Carolyn Price, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
These two women, Aumhasan and Muti, were born, raised, and married in the Israeli city of Lod, just a short drive away from Tel Aviv.  In 2010, the Israeli government finished construction on a wall to separate the Arab population of Lod from the city’s Jewish population.  Citing security issues, Israel said that the city, once described as a melting pot, needed to build a wall as a means to protect the Jewish residents from Arab crimes. The Arab residents, however, liken the wall to ethnic segregation.
“Look at the conditions that we are living,” says Muti.  ”Look at the infrastructure.  For our kids there is no garden.  There is no library.  There is nothing they have that makes a normal life.  They play in the street. There is no transportation.  It is very difficult for buses to come in here. And we are paying the same money as the Israelis, but we don’t have any services.”
According to The Economist, a “study by a liberal Israeli group called Shatil (“Seedling”) estimates that 70% of Arab homes in Lod lack legal status.” Therefore, “many municipal services, such as street lighting and rubbish collection, stop at the boundaries.”

On the other side of the wall, there is a different narrative. The Jewish community is not denied the services such as waste removal, paved roads, and a standard quality of life. According to The Economist, “Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, encourages building for Jews to proceed with abandon,” while the Arab residents in Lod say that they are denied building permits and many of their homes are demolished.
“Mixed neighborhoods,” according to Sheera Frenkel in an NPR report, ”have become a rarity. Highly guarded, Jewish-only building projects have sprung up across the city, most of them sponsored by religious Jewish groups.”
“There is one street separating us and them,” says Muti. ”They can build and they have all the services. They have all these streets and infrastructure. It is one street separating between us and them. And look at them and look at us.”
Photos by Robyn Carolyn Price
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel   this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the   University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication   & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as    part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of   this complex place.

Separate But Equal?

by Robyn Carolyn Price, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

These two women, Aumhasan and Muti, were born, raised, and married in the Israeli city of Lod, just a short drive away from Tel Aviv. In 2010, the Israeli government finished construction on a wall to separate the Arab population of Lod from the city’s Jewish population. Citing security issues, Israel said that the city, once described as a melting pot, needed to build a wall as a means to protect the Jewish residents from Arab crimes. The Arab residents, however, liken the wall to ethnic segregation.

“Look at the conditions that we are living,” says Muti. ”Look at the infrastructure. For our kids there is no garden. There is no library. There is nothing they have that makes a normal life. They play in the street. There is no transportation. It is very difficult for buses to come in here. And we are paying the same money as the Israelis, but we don’t have any services.”

According to The Economist, a “study by a liberal Israeli group called Shatil (“Seedling”) estimates that 70% of Arab homes in Lod lack legal status.” Therefore, “many municipal services, such as street lighting and rubbish collection, stop at the boundaries.”

On the other side of the wall, there is a different narrative. The Jewish community is not denied the services such as waste removal, paved roads, and a standard quality of life. According to The Economist, “Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, encourages building for Jews to proceed with abandon,” while the Arab residents in Lod say that they are denied building permits and many of their homes are demolished.

“Mixed neighborhoods,” according to Sheera Frenkel in an NPR report, ”have become a rarity. Highly guarded, Jewish-only building projects have sprung up across the city, most of them sponsored by religious Jewish groups.”

“There is one street separating us and them,” says Muti. ”They can build and they have all the services. They have all these streets and infrastructure. It is one street separating between us and them. And look at them and look at us.”

Photos by Robyn Carolyn Price


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.


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It is like being totally paralyzed. The most important thing is stability, without it I cannot think. I feel saddened every day.
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Fatmeh and YousefFatmeh, an Arab Palestinian resident of Barta’a, Israel.

Fatmeh, who was born in the West Bank, and her husband Yousef, an Arab born in Israel, are unable to visit her family who live minutes away on the other side of the separation wall, reports USC’s Christin Davis. They married before Israeli law disallowed Palestinians born in the West Bank from freely living and moving about inside the state of Israel and outside lands ruled by the Palestinian Authority. In order to stay with her husband, Fatmeh must go through the “grueling process” of reapplying for temporary identification every year since she cannot become a citizen of Israel.

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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A Palestinian Nest with No Babies

by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

Robyn Carolyn PriceRiadh Abu Eid checks his mobile phone while standing on the rubble of his demolished home in Lod, Israel. (photo: Robyn Carolyn Price)

A hummingbird’s nest sits in a high branch of the ficus tree on my porch in Los Angeles. Knitting together twigs, leaves, and small scraps, a mama bird has prepared a home for the babies she expects this spring.

I thought about that nest when I saw the ruins of the Abu Eid home in Lod.

This past December, the Israeli police demolished the Abu Eid’s home, and six others on the street, because the families did not have building permits for an area that is zoned “agricultural” instead of “residential.” Authorities acted despite the fact that the families have lived in the neighborhood for years and have repeatedly sought but been refused permits. Meanwhile, adjacent sites have been reclassified as “residential” for an Israeli housing development and a Jewish school.

Standing on the ruins of the Abu Eid’s home, I imagined the slabs of broken cement, bound together by a tangle of brown steel rods, as the building blocks of a nightmare nest. Its hollows are filled with a brown door, a flattened washing machine, and a plastic chair; its sides built up with a white sneaker, a tattered blanket, and a pink blouse with lace trim.

Tragic yet compelling, the smashed house bespeaks the home/no home predicament of Israel‘s Palestinian citizens. An art project befitting an inscrutable God, this nest will hold no babies come spring.


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.

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Handala in East Jerusalem
by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Handala, the downtrodden cartoon symbol of Palestinian resistance, makes an appearance in the front yard of a house in East Jerusalem. The house was once owned and occupied by a Palestinian, but he and his family were evicted. Now an Israeli settler family lives in the house. IDF soldiers protect the handful of settler families that live in the neighborhood.
Naji Al-Ali, the artist who created Handala, describes his character:
"I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as  part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

Handala in East Jerusalem

by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Handala, the downtrodden cartoon symbol of Palestinian resistance, makes an appearance in the front yard of a house in East Jerusalem. The house was once owned and occupied by a Palestinian, but he and his family were evicted. Now an Israeli settler family lives in the house. IDF soldiers protect the handful of settler families that live in the neighborhood.

Naji Al-Ali, the artist who created Handala, describes his character:

"I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."

Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

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Gazan Doctor Renews Commitment to Forgiveness and Peace after Losing Three Daughters

by Kate Moos, executive producer

Executive Producer Kate Moos and Dr. Izzeldin AbuelaishAs we began to drill down on our editorial planning for next month’s production trip to Israel and Palestine, Trent asked me to sit down with Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician who has written a new memoir about growing up in the Gaza Strip, his struggles to become a doctor, and the loss of three of his daughters to an Israeli mortar in the hostilities between Hamas and Israel of 2009. I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity is recently published, and he was making a swing through the Twin Cities on book tour.

So I dusted off my rusty interviewing skills, tried to emulate the masterful Krista Tippett with my deep listening, and the 30-minute conversation above ensued.

Abuelaish’s story would be heroic in many ways without his personal loss, but is even moreso because, in its wake, he renewed his commitment to forgiveness and acceptance, and now travels the world on a mission for peace in the name of his daughters, for whom he created a foundation.

Let us know what you think about this interview, and share your thoughts on others you’d like to see, in what we hope will be a regular feature here on the blog.

(photo: Trent Gilliss)

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Live Video: In the Room with Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish "I Shall Not Hate"when: Thursday, February 10th, 2011
time: 2-2:30 pm CST
where: Being LIVE

Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who first came to our attention when shells hit his home in the Gaza Strip and killed his three daughters and niece, will sit down with Kate Moos, executive producer of On Being, for a one-on-one interview about his experiences growing up in a refugee camp and his hopes for a new road to peace.

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