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16-year-old Student Convenes Middle East Dialogue

Len and Libby Traubman sent us a great story recently about a student taking dialogue on the Middle East into her own hands. They write “Rachael Cameron is a Jewish 11th grade high school student in California. She travelled last summer to Israel and was inspired to learn more. Back at school, Rachael pursued and was granted consent for an Independent Study project for academic credit. “Israeli and Palestinian Culture: Religion and the Conflict” consumed her interest for a school semester.” Rachael met and heard diverse citizens, in a world where most people slip into “taking sides.” Rachael interviewed over a dozen Palestinians, Jews, and knowledgeable others. She also watched films, read, and studied the Internet. She came to an unusually whole view — beyond one-sided cause, beyond blame — from the parallel but conflicting narratives she learned about.

“For her final public, classroom presentation of findings, Rachael invited interested teachers, administrators, interview subjects, and her parents. To each guest she wrote: “During my presentation, you will be members of the audience. During the discussion, I would truly appreciate your participation. However, please feel comfortable to participate to whatever degree you want. Before this session, it would help to think about the following: 1. What preconceptions do you have of the conflict? 2. What do you think has shaped these preconceptions?”

“That final day in the classroom — Friday, 15 December 2006 — 16-year-old Rachael, nervous but inspired, stood up to speak to twenty educators and others about the development and process of her Independent Study interview project and her discoveries about how the diverse people continue to be influenced by events and faith traditions. She led a discussion among the adult attendees about their own preconceptions about the Middle East situation, and about the people, responses to her conclusions, and the group’s thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and solutions for the future.”

At the end of this story, Len and Libby comment “School, people and communication can be this way. Youth have so much to give, if we help them maintain their idealism — what works in real life.”

To contact Rachael about her experience and what she learned, e-mail LTraubman.igc.org and your message will be forwarded to her.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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