How can those in conflict and in mourning be asked to reach out beyond their own communities?
The moment of least hope is the moment of greatest need for dialogue. To believe that no one outside our own communities cares, is to believe a myth. In dialogue, in every meeting, we have many demonstrations of empathy and concern for others, while at the same time we have recongnition that we have differences even with those closest to us. We keep hope alive for our families living in the Middle East and for our communities here, as we learn how to authentically connect and build relationships.
Aren’t the differences of Israelis and Palestinians or Muslims and non-Muslims too great to discuss?
The greatest difference is not between Palestinians and Israelis, or between Muslims, Christians and Jews and people of diverse cultures – the greatest difference is between those who perpetuate conflict and injustices, and those willing to sit down as equals in dialogue, even with someone considered an enemy. Difference is what we embrace. We learn how to reflect the words of someone, even when those words are “hot” and trigger a reaction. We take the time to unpack these dynamics with each other, and to become our most human selves, face to face.
How can my one voice make any difference?
Your voice may be the one to bring understanding to one person on the other side.
What are the guidelines for a dialogue meeting?
1) Time limit – usually 3 minutes at a time; try not to dominate the conversation. 2) Do not interrupt while others are speaking 3) If you don’t hear or understand something, raise your hand and ask for clarification. 4) Outside of the meeting, feel free to talk about the subjects spoken of, but do not give names or say anything that might identify a participant – keep all names confidential. 5) Speak from the “I” – personal experience – I saw, I heard, I feel; avoid claiming that your views represent the views of everyone in your community. 6) Turn off cell phones during the meetings.
What is required to be in dialogue?
A commitment to meet with your group once each month and to be at the meeting on time. Meetings last two to two-and-a-half hours. We ask everyone to work to improve their listening skills, to speak from personal experience, and to consider themselves on an equal basis with all others present. We practice “active,” generous,” “reflective” listening, attempting to really hear and understand the other, whether we agree or disagree with what is being said.
What is the format of a dialogue meeting?
We sit together in a circle, with 5 to 25 other participants and 1 or 2 facilitators. We introduce ourselves, giving a little more time to the person there for the first time. We review the guidelines. Then we begin our discussion with a topic generated by the participants in the last meeting, or with a reporting of current events. We strive to listen carefully and to speak honestly, from the “I”, while discussing the most difficult topics – “right of return,” “Zionism,” “security,” among others. Dialoguers help each other cultivate the practice of active listening and when we hear each other demonize or generalize, we stop and look at that transparently. We keep our discussions centered on issues relating to Palestine and Israel and in our interfaith-intercultural groups on the immigrant and long time resident experience of each other.
Who is included in the dialogue meetings?
Participants come from all different backgrounds, religions, countries and communities. Many have a direct connection to Palestine, Israel or the Middle East. Others are from the stoops, pews and prayer rugs of New York – new immigrants and long time residents. We learn about each other’s daily lives and cultural practices and question our own assumptions and bias. We strive for a balanced mix of backgrounds. Facilitators have had training to help participants hear each other, to keep sharing on an equal basis, and to help clarify any misunderstandings.
What is the goal of these meetings?
We have an opportunity here in New York that is missing elsewhere. Here we have no barriers to dialogue, except the barriers we hold within ourselves. As the number of those in dialogue increases, and these dialoguers go back to their communities, dispelling the myths about “the other” and passing along information learned from one another, we acquire power- our voices make more and more of a difference. To gain real power, individuals must reach out beyond their own communities, beyond those with whom they already agree.
What is the position of The Dialogue Project on current Middle East issues?
Because any view, belief or opinion is welcome in dialogue, the organization does not take a political position. People with very different views come into dialogue. We advocate dialogue as a non-violent alternative to conflict.
Who runs The Dialogue Project?
We have a Board of Directors consisting of people willing to do extra work to promote The Dialogue Project. We strive to include board members from different backgrounds, with different views, as in our dialogue circles
Was the organization formed as a response to 9/11?
No. We began before 9/11, as an inter cultural, conflict transformation non profit in response to heightened hostilities in Israel and Palestine that were affecting people in the neighborhoods and workplaces around Brooklyn and New York.
What is the cost of participation in The Dialogue Project?
There is no cost. Our organization runs on donations from many sources-foundations, and individual dialogue participants. Free child care is available on request.
Where are the meetings held?
Currently we have meetings in Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Park Slope), Manhattan (Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Midtown), and Riverdale/Westchester.
Will I gain personally from participation in dialogue?
If you make full use of this opportunity, you may learn to communicate more clearly, and feel more comfortable when relating to those different from yourself. Your ability to see from other perspective will be enhanced. You can become more effective in working with others. Your capacity for friendship with those whom you disagree will increase.
May I drop in and observe a meeting?
No, please call first to discuss what will be best for you and the other dialogue participants.
Where is additional information on The Dialogue Project available?
Contact Clara Beyer, Program Coordinator: