Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Listening - Trusting - Listening

My interests are widespread.
Oh good for you, some might say. But sometimes that can be very exhausting. The turn side of it is that I always have to be careful what to mention to somebody belonging to a diverse group. Not everybody is skilled in listening.
To give you an example: I belong to a group called Trust, which last Monday visited the home of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information in Beth Hanina/ East Jerusalem. We were about 30 people, half of them Jewish Israelis and the others residents of East Jerusalem. For many it was the first encounter with the “Other”. To help us get acquainted we paired of with somebody we did not know from before, each given for 3-5 minutes to tell the other about a person he does trust and why he trusts him. As it happens I paired of with the host. While I talked about trusting my son, mainly because he is a good listener and I can trust him to be there for me when ever I need him. My partner has a similar relationship with his brother. He considers him more as a friend then just a brother. They often travel together, share their thoughts and have total trust in each other.
We both of us also had a very trustworthy relationship with our mother. He said that his mother was an outstanding person, the same as I often talk about my own mother. On exploring further, we talked about similar relationships within families and among siblings that we find in the Bible as well in the Koran.
Trust is something one has to work on and build up over time. Being able to listen to the “Other” is an essential ingredient for building mutual trust, which is one of the basic needs of mankind.
The evening turned out to be a fascinating one and although it got late, it was difficult to part as there was so much we wanted to talk about.
Out side of this particular group, there is nobody among the rest of my acquaintances that I can talk about my experience of that evening, with the exception of my son.
The only solution is to put it on my “blog”.

The next day I gave a talk about the Shoa to a small group of young people from Germany and America who have come to Jerusalem for a short Ulpan to learn basic Hebrew, before they go on with their study or start work in Israel, including with Holocaust survivors. I told them the story of my family, my parents having perished during the Holocaust. On of the young men asked me, if I have suffered so much at the hands of the Germans if I did not hate all of them even today.
My reply was:” Did it sounded like that?” He said: “No, but he certainly would expect me to react like that”. I asked him if he had done me any wrong so that I should hate him. He said, no not himself, but perhaps his grandfather.
I tried to explain to these young people, that what was done to us Jews in those days is unforgivable, but that I could not hold them responsible for the behavior of their grandparents.
These young people have to take upon themselves the responsibility for what is happening today in the here and now.

I have just come back from a Rosh Hodesh, (New Moon) meeting with a few American women from the Synagogue. They are all so rooted in their Americanism, where they had lived, what they had done, whom they knew and which Rabbi, that I feel totally out of it. They simply have not yet put their roots down in the here and now. I tried to tell them something about the meeting in East Jerusalem. They looked at me in utter disbelief, what they don’t know about, does not seem to exist for them.

Sometimes I long to share with somebody and convey my feelings about a certain meeting or a subject to somebody who can be a passionate listener, who can listen without judging, just listen.
To build up mutual trust, it is essential to be able to listen to the other, you just have to listen and wait till your turn come to talk. Hopefully the other will be able to listen just as compassionately to you and what you have to say.
Listening is a skill. It has to be practiced again and again. But it is a useful tool in getting on with each other, in being able to trust each other.

1 comment:

avi said...

Very interesting, especially the part about the meeting with people from East Jerusalem! Have you heard about "One Voice"? If you want to know more about it, you can send a mail to