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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.

Watch TEDxRamallah Live with Us

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

TEDxRamallah is taking place right now. The event started at 9:30 am Palestinian time (2:30 am Eastern). The event ends at 6:00 pm Palestinian time. There will be four sessions with a total of 18 speakers having talks varying from 4 to 18 minutes in length. Julia Bacha of Just Vision is speaking right now. I’ll do some more work and share the rest of the line-up in a minute. Here are a list of speakers, but I can’t find an official rundown. Can you?

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Arab and Jewish Women in Israel Should Join Forces

by Maram Masrawi, special contributor

Maram MasrawiThere are those who argue that the representation of Arab Israeli women in recent years in various television “reality” programmes testifies to a profound change within Arab Israeli society in general, and among Arab Israeli women in particular. Admittedly, when Arab women can be seen walking around in sleeveless shirts and miniskirts on the television show Big Brother, or modelling in programmes such as Models, or winning beauty contests, one can be forgiven for thinking that a revolution is taking place within Arab Israeli society.

Despite appearances, in fact actual developments within Arab society in Israel suggest that traditional patriarchal attitudes towards women within Arab society are becoming even more firmly entrenched, not less. Indeed, Jewish women in Israel fare better than their Arab counterparts overall, but in their case too, there is still much left to be desired.

In the struggle for gender equality in Israel, Jewish and Arab women could achieve far greater gains if they were to join forces and build a shared agenda for change.

Regarding Arab women (particularly Muslim women) in Israel, there are two trends which, in my opinion, suggest the increasing prevalence of traditional patriarchal values: the fact that the marriage age for women has dropped, and that more and more women are covering their hair with the hijab (headscarf).

Surprisingly, these developments are occurring simultaneously with a rise in Arab women’s level of education and an increased desire to join the workforce. This seeming contradiction between increased restrictions on women, on one end, and an acceptance of greater freedoms, on the other, sends a complex message to Arab women: yes, you as a woman can study and leave the house to work but only once you have submitted to traditional family and dress codes.

Moreover, attempts in the past few decades to empower Arab women in Israel by encouraging them to study, to work, and to play a role in public life have not translated into real equality. Thus, for example, the number of Arab women who have integrated into the work force is limited to 19 percent, with half of those working in education. Forty-three percent of Arab female academics in Israel are unemployed, and Arab women constitute the poorest segment of Israeli society.

In the academic and public discourse, the marginal place of the Arab woman is mainly attributed to her social and cultural status within a patriarchal society. But some of the arguments focus on the role of the state and its institutions in helping preserve a patriarchal tradition precisely because in the name of respecting cultural differences the government chooses not to interfere with attitudes towards Arab women within their own society.

Thus, Arab women find themselves caught between the burden of tradition and patriarchy and a multicultural, hands-off attitude by the state on the other.

Arab and Jewish women share a similar plight in that both groups pay a heavy price for the ongoing conflict between the two peoples. The price is two-fold: both groups of women are kept out of the centres of decision-making, and they are expected to put their need for gender equality on hold. Women are repeatedly told that gender equality is secondary to the more pressing demands of national survival.

As Arab and Jewish women who represent half of the Israeli population, we must fight together for our rights in the workplace and in education; we must work to bring women into parliament and into the centres of decision-making, breaking the male domination of the social and political processes.

International Woman’s Day presented an opportune moment to urge both Arab and Jewish women in Israel to work together to advance an alternative gender agenda. We can and must cultivate the practice of compassion and tolerance as the basic building blocks for a language of dialogue, which can challenge the aggressive discourse that dominates our reality.

Israeli women — both Jewish and Arab — can bring a richness to the discourse that goes beyond the television screen. We would do well to merge our struggles for gender equality and equality between our two peoples on the grassroots and political levels. Women who bring life into the world have the right and duty to preserve it, and should therefore strive to place themselves in the centre of action and decision-making processes.


Dr. Maram Masrawi is a lecturer and researcher at David Yellin College in Jerusalem and at the Al Qasemi College in Baka al-Gharbiya. She lives in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.

A version of this article was written by the Common Ground News Service on March 15, 2011. Copyright permission is granted for publication.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
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.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
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.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.
We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.
As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.
In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.
The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.
As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.
The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.
“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.
So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.
About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)
Correction An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.
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.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Bethany Firnhaber, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Saturday afternoon, my colleagues and I toured East Jerusalem in a 20-passenger van. Our guide Orly Noy, an Iranian Jew, works for Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit that focuses on promoting peace, specifically within Jerusalem.

We started at the southwest Jewish settlement of Gilo, winding our way through and around alternating Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements, and ending just north of the Old City in Sheikh Jarrah.

As we bounced around the back of the van — at times fearing for the safety of our tail bones — our guide pointed out what was one of the easiest ways to discern whether we were on Jewish- or Palestinian-owned land: the sidewalks.

In Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, quality infrastructure abounds. Roads are smoothly paved and well-lit, sidewalks are nicely laid in red brick, and the area is kempt.

The same cannot be said for the Palestinian areas with bumpy, cracked streets, which have not been repaired since before the British Mandate ended in 1948. There are no sidewalks or street lamps, and inadequate city services leave the streets lined with trash.

As permanent residents living within the municipal boundaries of greater Jerusalem — a status given to foreign citizens who choose freely to live within Israel — Palestinians should be privy to the same infrastructure benefits as their Jewish neighbors. But, evidently, this is not the case.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that, having chosen not to participate in municipal elections, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are left without representation in the city council. Less than two percent of the Palestinian population, our guide informed us, voted in the last city elections.

“To vote would mean to legitimize the occupation,” she told us.

So while refraining from the vote has brought the issue of Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas into a heightened, central dialogue, it has also left the population without representation and, subsequently, without sidewalks.

About the photo: A Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem has nice brick sidewalks and lamp posts. (photo: Jill Krebs)

Correction
An earlier version of this post described Gilo as an Israeli village southeast of Jerusalem. Gilo is a southwest Israeli settlement, which was revised on April 13, 2011.


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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The Difficulty Of “Belonging” — And Not Belonging — To Israel

by Kevin Douglas Grant, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

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.

As we cruised southeast from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem’s Old City, our Palestinian driver Yasser — “like Yasser Arafat,” he reminded us — pointed out Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, just to our left. The West Bank, we realized, was immediately adjacent to the Highway 443. We passed village after village, walled and fenced, the minarets of mosques visible in the distance. Ofer Prison, where a year ago 200 Palestinians "rioted" against the detainment of Fatah leaders there, slipped by. Its gray guard towers and barbed wire almost matched the rainy sky.

Yasser said he has the proper card that allows him to work as a driver, which means he “belongs to Israel.” As we passed another village, this one with uniform cement buildings lined atop a craggy hill, Yasser said that particular Palestinian area had achieved the same status from Israel. Later, two of us caught a ride into the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumium on the same Highway 1, invited to attend Shabbat dinner at the home of a Jewish peace activist and construction worker. The guard at military checkpoint outside the settlement waved us through without hesitation.

“Palestinians have to have a permit,” explained Leah Lublin, originally from Canada. She and husband Al immigrated to Israel with her husband 17 years ago. They chose Ma’ale Adumium because the cost of an apartment there was right, far cheaper than one in Jerusalem a few miles away. Over more than a dozen courses, the two took turns lamenting the way many of their neighbors fear Arabs, and said they’re working through their own ingrained mistrust:

“When the Arab laborers are working on the street, people get on edge,” Al Lublin said, explaining that he loses some construction jobs because he employs several Arabs. ”They’re just focusing on their work, but everybody gets nervous.”

Talk ranged from their children’s service in the Israel Defense Forces to Egypt to The Rolling Stones. Leah leads interfaith dialogues to try to bring Jews, Muslims, and Christians together without getting too mired in politics. The husband and wife said they both preferred to focus on day-to-day living and peacemaking, blocking out somewhat the fact that they live in disputed territory. ”I’m more spiritual than religious,” says Al Lublin. “For a Jew, living in Israel is more important than all the other 613 [mizvot, “commandments”]. So I have more freedom to focus on the people in my life.”

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Palestinian-Lebanese Daughter Sings Despite Father’s Wishes

by Jon Dillingham, guest contributor

Camellia Abou-OdahCamellia Abou-Odah in studio. (photo: Jon Dillingham)

Camellia Abou-Odah was three months old the first time she ever sang: her mother says she belted out an impromptu tune to accompany her father, who casually filled the kitchen with Islamic melodies. Though it was her father’s extraordinary voice that first inspired her to sing, that few minutes in the kitchen was the last time they would ever share a song.

Born and raised in Kansas City to a strict Muslim father from Gaza and a self-described liberal Muslim mother from Lebanon, Camellia has struggled to stay true to traditional values while at the same time nurturing her passion for singing, which her father prohibits.

She’s now in the middle of recording her first songs with Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Danny Sembello, and she smiles confidently as we talk over Thai iced coffee near the University of Southern California in South Central Los Angeles. It’s casual sweatpants and sandals this afternoon, but it’s hard not to notice her boisterous brown curls and big smile when she walks in. She looks like a slender, young, Arab Chaka Khan. The ease and grace with which she speaks betray the fact that the long, arduous road to this point has broken family bonds and challenged her sense of self and identity.

Download free mp3 of “Move On” by Camellia Abou-Odah.

Camellia’s father is often chosen to lead prayers at his local Islamic center in Kansas City thanks to both his piety and mellifluous voice. Her mother, Dr. Basimah Khulusi, says her ex-husband had even entertained notions of becoming a singer himself, before dismissing the idea as “a childish notion.” He came to America from a prominent family in Palestine but was far from a religious fundamentalist, until his daughter was born.

“When I met him, he was different, and then he flipped,” says Camellia’s mother. “He went back to the old traditions that he grew up with. Having a daughter was a driving force because in the Muslim tradition his honor lies in what ends up happening with his daughter.”

A Singing Career in the Making

Read More

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USC Journalism Students Look at Religion, Ethnicity, and Coexistence in Israel’s Villages, Towns and Cities

by Diane Winston, special contributor

I teach at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Among my course offerings is religion coverage, an increasingly marginalized beat within a progressively problem-ridden industry.

Although religion is a key element in reporting on politics, culture, and society, cash-strapped news outlets are cutting back specialty beats to save money. Even more troublesome, legacy news jobs are fewer than ever, the news hole is shrinking, and the favored style of story telling is sensational, simplistic, and conflict-driven. Nevertheless, my goals remain the same: helping students to write clearly, think critically, and probe religion’s role in social and political trends and events.

For the last two years, I’ve pursued those goals by focusing on the fault-lines in the coverage of global religion. Using the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a starting point, I’ve asked students to find alternative frames for the conflict along with new voices to lift up and unsung stories to tell.

In 2010, students explored the nexus of religion, politics and gender in Israel and the West Bank. In 2011, the class will look at religion, ethnicity, and coexistence In Israel’s Arab villages, mixed towns and Jewish-majority cities. Students report across multimedia platforms with the goal of seeing their work in outlets ranging from the Washington Post to Global Post.

This class’ 13 graduate students represent a cross-section of races, religions, regions, and ethnicities. Some are in their 20s; others in their 30s. Many have traveled widely, but only one has visited Israel. They’re all interested in politics and international relations and see religion as an integral part of coverage.


Diane WinstonDiane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication 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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Focusing on the Peace Rather Than the Process in the Middle East

by Eboo Patel, special contributor

Here’s what struck me about this special panel on Middle East peace that Bill Clinton moderated: it actually focused on the peace, and not the process. The President joked that somebody else in his family was trying to figure out where on the land to draw the line, he wanted us to talk about what needed to happen with the people after that line was drawn.

There were a lot of pursed lips and furrowed brows when he said that. It made me realize just how much attention is paid to the details of the process, and how little we think about the actual peace. Which is to say, how people from different faiths, nationalities, and narratives are going to live together on a pretty small parcel of land.

CGI 2010 Special Session: Middle EastThe most hopeful part of the conversation, for me, was when Shimon Peres used the illustration of Israeli and Palestinian doctors operating together, saving lives together, in hospitals.

"In Israel, 20 percent of our citizens are Arabs. And it’s not simple — for them for us, but for one place. There is no hospital in Israel where you don’t have Arab doctors and Arab patients. And, nobody knows — not of the patients and not of the doctors who is operating them — I mean, if a Druze would see an Arab with a knife coming close to him, he would be alarmed. But in the hospital, please. And I ask myself, ‘If we can live in peace in the hospitals, why can’t we live in peace out of the hospitals.’"

We hear frequently the stories of the suicide bombers and the settlers. We read about the squabbles of the diplomats. We get bogged down in the details and made cynical by the seemingly endless failures. But with a single example, Peres illuminated just how much Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common, pointed out just how well Israelis and Palestinians already work together. It’s enough to keep me thinking past the process, and into the peace.


Eboo PatelEboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core. He’s the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation and writes regularly for The Faith Divide blog on The Washington Post. He’s also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Gaza’s Steadfast Faces of Survival
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"This, I realized, was what I could add. Not the familiar scenes of  destruction in Gaza but the steadfast faces of survival. To capture each  intimate portrait required that I spend just a little more time with  people, that I hear a bit more about their lives, look more deeply at  them. And find the story of Gaza in their faces." —Asim Rafiqui, photojournalist

The Virginia Quarterly Review has published Rafiqui’s stunning set of black-and-white portraits of Palestinians living through the ongoing struggle for Gaza. The photojournalist’s introduction to “Portraits of Survival” with its brief captions give the viewer an intimate glimpse into his subjects’ lives.
A point emphasized that resonated with me in several stories: stripping a person of the ability to offer hospitality to a guest is to strip one of his or her dignity.
Gaza’s Steadfast Faces of Survival
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"This, I realized, was what I could add. Not the familiar scenes of  destruction in Gaza but the steadfast faces of survival. To capture each  intimate portrait required that I spend just a little more time with  people, that I hear a bit more about their lives, look more deeply at  them. And find the story of Gaza in their faces." —Asim Rafiqui, photojournalist

The Virginia Quarterly Review has published Rafiqui’s stunning set of black-and-white portraits of Palestinians living through the ongoing struggle for Gaza. The photojournalist’s introduction to “Portraits of Survival” with its brief captions give the viewer an intimate glimpse into his subjects’ lives.
A point emphasized that resonated with me in several stories: stripping a person of the ability to offer hospitality to a guest is to strip one of his or her dignity.

Gaza’s Steadfast Faces of Survival

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"This, I realized, was what I could add. Not the familiar scenes of destruction in Gaza but the steadfast faces of survival. To capture each intimate portrait required that I spend just a little more time with people, that I hear a bit more about their lives, look more deeply at them. And find the story of Gaza in their faces."
—Asim Rafiqui, photojournalist

The Virginia Quarterly Review has published Rafiqui’s stunning set of black-and-white portraits of Palestinians living through the ongoing struggle for Gaza. The photojournalist’s introduction to “Portraits of Survival” with its brief captions give the viewer an intimate glimpse into his subjects’ lives.

A point emphasized that resonated with me in several stories: stripping a person of the ability to offer hospitality to a guest is to strip one of his or her dignity.

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Approaches to the Question “Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

In "No More Taking Sides" Krista describes her conversation with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who both have lost a loved one in the conflict:

"…this is not another version of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian story to which we’ve all become accustomed from the news. Neither is it a touchy-feely story of isolated good will. This story is fiercely human, admitting grief while also yielding to joy, and it is all the more hopeful for its origins in the hard ground of reality."

Updating the site for rebroadcast, we’ve also been editing our video footage from Krista’s live conversation with Robert Wright earlier this month. His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

As we produce this interview for air, the most recent script characterizes Wright as “relentlessly logical” — and you might say that Wright’s assessment of religion’s role in this conflict is relentlessly logical in the best sense. But, while logic can be extremely helpful in understanding the forces behind human conflict, it says very little about the experience of those conflicts.

That’s where Robi and Ali come in. When Wright tells us that “human life is potentially dangerous,” their stories show us this on a gut level. Their partnership is a living example of why we’re all in this together is an idea really worth considering.

Ali Abu Awwad, from the transcript:

"When I get to the library that [Robi’s son] David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother.’ This is the first time I’m telling that. I never told Robi that.

And I think [my brother] Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that.

They just put us — by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”

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A New Dialogue?
Colleen Scheck, senior producer

In preparation for this week’s program, "No More Taking Sides," we’ve been following the recent developments in Robi Damelin’s life. Our show includes this film clip from the documentary Encounter Point of Robi reading the letter she wrote to the family of her son’s killer.

In 2005, just a few months after Ta’er Hamad had been arrested, she wrote:

After your son was captured, I spent many sleepless nights thinking about what to do, should I ignore the whole thing, or will I be true to my integrity and to the work that I am doing and try to find a way for closure and reconciliation…

…I understand that your son is considered a hero by many of the Palestinian people, he is considered to be a freedom fighter, fighting for justice and for an independent viable Palestinian state, but I also feel that if he understood that taking the life of another may not be the way and that if he understood the consequences of his act, he could see that a non-violent solution is the only way for both nations to live together in peace.

Over three years later, Robi indirectly received a defiant, militant reply from Mr. Hamad via its publication by a Palestinian news agency:

"Just as I refused to directly address the soldier’s mother, I cannot wish to meet her. I cannot meet with the occupier of our land on the same land. I carried out the operation as part of the struggle for freedom, justice and the establishment of an independent state, not out of a lust or love for killing. Acts of violence are a necessity imposed upon us by the occupation and I shall not abandon this path for as long as the occupation continues."

In response, Robi wrote:

"Ta’er, how ironic, the people who most wanted to protect me from the words in your letter were my Palestinian friends and other bereaved parents in our group. They of all people have the right to talk about my actions and who I am for we have worked together for more than 6 years to try to end this terrible conflict and to give both sides a chance to live with a sense of dignity free from the terrible fear which engulfs us and gives us all the excuse for violence. The tears I saw in the eyes of my Palestinian partners in the Parents Circle when they met me after you chose to publish the letter were tears of understanding and yes friendship and love…"

"… The wisest reaction I had to the words of your letter came from my wonderful son Eran, who I thought would be terribly angry. Well he said, listen mum, perhaps this is the beginning of a dialog."

In the audio embedded up top, Trent recently spoke with Robi from her home in Tel Aviv to learn more about how she’s reflecting on this exchange, and what it means for her work with the Parents Circle - Families Forum. It’s worth a listen to hear her ongoing tenacity.

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Leaving No Factions Untouched

Trent Gilliss, online editor

As we were updating the script for "No More Taking Sides," we ran across this passage included in the Parents Circle - Families Forum 2009 annual report:

"Palestinian member of the Forum, Ali Abu-Awad met with more than 60 members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Palestinian fighters most of who are on Israel’s most wanted list. He spoke about non-violent resistance and the work of the Parents Circle - Families Forum and gave them an alternative framework to function. After six hours these hardened fighters wanted to know more and there will be ongoing meetings. Many in the meantime have given up their arms and are looking for another way.”

We were aware that the organization Robi and Ali participate in as bereaved family members, and now work for, reach out to many people as part of a process of dialogue and understanding. But, reading this, was a stark reminder that their efforts extend beyond the peace-loving middle to even the most militant, radical coalitions.

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The Daily Show, Heckling, and Hope
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

There was a bit of stir a few weeks ago when Jon Stewart welcomed Ann Baltzar and Dr. Mustafa Barghouti onto The Daily Show. Baltzar is author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories, and Barghouti is “a leading figure in the Palestinian democratic and nonviolent movement for peace.” The stir resulted from having two guests that approach the issue from a "Palestinian point of view."

At one point in the interview a member of the audience yells “liar” to Barghouti (apparently the first heckler in the show’s 11 years), and Stewart quickly turns it into fodder for discussion asking Barghouti how he maintains hope when people “can’t even agree to begin the conversation.”

Trent had a look at the video of this exchange last Friday, and clued me in on something I completely missed — a close connection to a story Karen Armstrong tells in this week’s program. Both of these situations involve someone in the audience disrupting the discussion, and a consideration of how best to handle it. From the transcript, a story that took place at the “God 2000” conference at Oregon State University:

And then when we were on the final panel, suddenly erupted in the hall a fundamentalist who started to shriek at us incoherently. What I could make out was that he was saying that Jews and Muslims denied Jesus and therefore they were going to hell, and all of those of us who sided with Jews and Muslims were also going to hell, and this was evil. And you couldn’t hear much, because he was so incoherent with rage and despair. What I could hear, however, was the note of pain in his voice. This was not just some loony. This was somebody who was suffering and in pain, and felt profoundly threatened by what we were saying.

And the point is that we, seven of us on this panel — we’re all articulate people, we’d all been talking nonstop to each other and to the audience for the last two days. We were utterly struck dumb. None of us could say a word. We felt utterly winded by this assault. Even me, and I should have known better, because I’d just finished my book on fundamentalism. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Eventually this man was hustled out, and the moderator said, ‘Well, I wish we could have talked to him, because he is part of the conference of God, “Where Is God at 2000?” He’s part of this conversation.’ But somehow we couldn’t talk with one another. He was incoherent, we were struck dumb and useless, and this is the problem that we’re facing.

With that in mind, there’s something in Barghouti’s response that he would “very much like to meet” the man who raised his voice and heckled. Perhaps simply a willingness to start the conversation is hopeful enough.

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La Convivencia and the West-Eastern Divan
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Marc Sanchez, associate producer

Ibrahim Al-MarashiThe audio above comes from one of our "Revealing Ramadan" participants, Ibrahim Al-Marashi, who appeared in our podcast and radio program. He’s an Iraqi-American who currently lives and teaches in Spain, and has lived in California (Los Angeles and Monterey) and Turkey. During his interview, he talked about one of the things that attracted him to Spain: La Convivencia. This idea, which translates as “the coexistence,” describes a cultural harmony between Muslims, Jews, and Christians and was first coined when Spain came under Muslim rule beginning in the 8th century. Al-Marashi goes on to talk about his Lebanese-Christian grandmother and his interests in shared Muslim-Jewish-Christian ideas.

Al-Marashi’s interview was fresh in my mind when I happened to catch an airing of the documentary, Knowledge Is the Beginning. The movie follows a season of the West-Eastern Divan, an orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

The orchestra is made up of young Israelis and Arabs, and Barenboim’s hope is to show how music can bring people together. The idea for the group was born out of Barenboim’s friendship with Edward Said.

Edward Said and Daniel BarenboimBarenboim was first raised in Buenos Aires, the son of Russian Jews, and he began studying piano and giving performances at an early age. His family relocated to Israel 10 years after Barenboim was born, and he was on the conductor’s track before his thirteenth birthday.

Said was born in Palestine before the founding of Israel. His family moved to Egypt after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He went on to study at Princeton and Harvard and to teach English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was a prolific writer, and staunch advocate for Palestinian rights. He passed away in 2003.

West-Eastern Divan Rehearsal

In addition to his political writing and cultural criticism, Said was a passionate fan of classical music. So much so that he was the classical music critic for The Nation. It was through music that he and Barenboim first bonded. And, it was music that opened a dialogue to their differences. Said and Barenboim knew that coming together — just bringing your ideas to the table to talk — can open a lot of doors. From the orchestra’s Web site:

"Music by itself can, of course, not resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Music grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East."

(Top photo: Ibrahim Al-Marashi.

Middle photo: Edward Said, left, and Daniel Barenboim, right, chat during an awards ceremony in Oviedo, Spain in 2002. Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images.

Bottom photo: The West-Eastern Divan rehearses at Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC Proms in 2009. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.)

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