On Friday, June 26, the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre was packed with a standing-room-only crowd to hear Voices from Israel and Palestine: Compassionate Listening to Conflicting Realities.
Roberts Creek residents Bonnie Sherr Klein, a documentary filmmaker and disability rights activist, and Michael Klein, Professor Emeritus of Family Medicine and maternity care researcher, were part of an interfaith Compassionate Listening delegation to Israel and Palestine in October and November 2008.
Compassionate Listening teaches skills to transform conflict and sustain peace by deepening our understanding of the perspectives and suffering of people on all sides of a disagreement or conflict, and to encourage building bridges between them.
The Kleins invited 18 audience volunteers to read first-person narratives which the delegation had listened to on their journey, thus simulating the Compassionate Listening experience. The unrehearsed readings were often emotional and dramatic; the room was hushed as Coasters put themselves in the shoes of the people whose stories they told. Michael projected excellent slides of the original speakers, and provided context. Discussion of Israel and Palestine often provokes heated and angry debate, but these stories were followed by an open and respectful discussion as people pondered what they could do.
There was no charge for the event, but the generous audience donated approximately $500 which will be distributed to support several organizations described in the presentation.
Several people have suggested that this presentation would be valuable in Coast schools. Bonnie and Michael are interested in hearing from anyone who would like to help make this happen in the fall, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.