Building trust necessary for coexistence

On Tuesday evening, Rhona Seidelman, a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, gave a lecture and led a discussion about coexistence in Israel to a diverse group of 40 students. Her talk centered on her experiences working at a coexistence organization, The Center for Creativity in Education and Cultural Heritage, based in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada (a time of extreme violence in the year 2000). This organization focuses on bringing Arab and Jewish children together over folklore and heritage. Once a month, children from Arab and Jewish schools come together and share familial stories about a previously assigned topic. The experience Seidelman shared as her favorite was the discussion that took place about bread. Through this intimate discussion, these children formed a relationship with one another that was based not on politics but solely on culture, tradition and — of course — bread.

The goal of this organization, and many others working on coexistence efforts in Israel, is not to solve the conflict in the Middle East. But these grassroots organizations are making a difference; they are changing the atmosphere on the ground, working effortlessly to create communities of Arabs and Jews that — while they may not agree on issues of politics — find cultural commonalities and very real reasons for mutual respect.

As Seidelman emphasized: We are not all politicians or, to put it in context, political science majors. But we are all people, with cultures and stories and experiences. Let’s start with these, and if politics come up after the trust is built, then perhaps the enemies will become acquaintances and the arguments will become discussions where we actually listen.

It’s time we started taking Seidelman’s ideas about coexistence and applying them here, to our campus.

It’s time we started respecting each other as students and as humans.

It’s time we started taking advantage of the coexistence groups that exist around us.

It’s time to start talking about bread.

_Tali Segev, junior in LAS_