At the point in the Kesher Hadash program when we were preparing for the Encounter trip I felt pretty rooted in my opinion, what I lacked was the ability to advocate for it. In advance of the Encounter trip I worked to steel myself to the visceral feeling that I knew it would bring. I knew my opinion would greatly differ then others in attendance. This feeling that had become all too familiar throughout the semester. I believe it helped that going into the experience, there was no denial of what the objectives were. I knew what I would be hearing from the speakers, two months into the program it had become familiar refrain.
Speakers were comfortable knowing that just by the virtue of us being there, that we were ready listeners. They were also very poised, it was obvious that for most of them they had given the speech in identical contexts and to similar groups multiple times. The program took a smart pedagogical approach in not trying to manage the narrative of those who were presenting. This enabled the Palestinians to not worry if they repeated something that someone else had said, as well as the listeners were able to hear repeated themes through different voices. The speakers’ repetition of the stories, helped in distinguishing the commonalities: the systematic oppression, the inability to move throughout the country, the struggle in obtaining building permits, and the unjust military oppression and occupation. It was a smart technique which gave everyone involved the space to express and gain what they needed to. Something that I noticed in this environment was the art of utilizing of facts to support one’s narrative. For me, the criticism of these was important in understanding where the various sides diverge. Recognizing the lack of effectiveness, or infrastructure of the Palestinians is always going to be credited to the Israeli government, and not to their self-elected government. A government that everyone seems to roll their eyes and shrug that it is merely serving as a figure head. I noticed the lack of critical questions posed by the group, however this also gave me the forum to develop the skill and appropriately explore my own questions within the framework of Encounter’s Communications Guidelines.
Yad V’Shem was also very much a compilation of narratives, but as time goes on it relies more and more on others to give them a voice. The voices echoing within this context are less nuanced because the nature of the museum is based on artifacts, which the visitor needs to weave into a story. This it does not offer the benefit of the personalization that an individual can offer. People who have the forum to tell their own story offers a unique perspective. The advantage to this being missing is that when visitors peruse the exhibits alone they may be more apt to add their own lens and customize it for themselves. At the same time the autonomy that the visitor assumes is proportionate with the loss of the voice within the story. The control that remains is amongst what is being presented within the exhibits. They are carefully curated, often permanent installations within a moderated environment that for the visitors evokes an emotional story as well.
Perspectives was not as much of a response to the Encounter experience as I was hoping. The speakers did not seem to have a coherent thread. I wish the two days were organized in a more thoughtful way. The introduction by Danny Tirza, explaining the rationale of some of the military decisions was a nice way to begin. The rest of the day seemed that it was merely a collection of interesting individuals without cohesiveness. I was particularly interested in the settler’s narrative. While sitting in the meeting with Gush Etzion residents what I heard was; why shouldn’t we live here, we were here first, and I moved from an urban area to be surrounded by the Judean hills. One point in particular that peaked my interest was the suggestion that the narrative was reversed from what we had heard at Encounter. The settlers explained that they suffered from being persecuted and racism. The recent elections were a very pervasive topic. Later the conversation centered on the controversial Bibi video, which was released the day of the elections. The content of this video included that the Arabs were being bussed to the polls, “voting in droves,” which didn’t sit well with many. For me, this offered a fascinating insight, Western conception of politics cannot be imposed onto other societies. Ziv, the more vocal of our speakers, said that Americans do the same thing when candidates say that the Republicans are getting to the polls, so liberals need to get out there and vote. In a society where the political parties are defined by ethnic, cultural, and religious interests is it any different? For me this isn’t a resolution, yet it is something that is important to keep in mind when assessing the system.