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Abstract

Despite the ongoing conflict and the general neglect by the media, power brokers, and the public, grassroots organizations in the Middle East persist in their dedication to “people to people” diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians. The Parents Circle-Families Forum is a bi-national NGO committed to peacebuilding and reconciliation between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Its most distinctive features are its membership, composed of 300 families from each side who have lost a close relative to the conflict, and its use of storytelling to connect the two sides. Bereaved individuals develop the capacity for empathy and moral responsibility beyond their own people by encountering “the other” via personal stories of loss and suffering. In pairs, Palestinian and Israeli members then share these stories with students in each society, modeling compassion and human solidarity, in an effort to bring about social transformation. This paper, based on ethnographic research recently conducted in Israel and the West Bank, considers the moral dynamics of these encounters and presentations, and their potential contribution to reconciliation and conflict transformation.

Author Bio(s)

Frida Kerner Furman is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University, where she is also an affiliated faculty member in the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program. Her current research interests include social and feminist ethics, peacebuilding, and reconciliation across national, religious, and cultural divides. E-mail: ffurman@depaul.edu

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