Often when working in the field of reconciliation one hopes for an overwhelming interest from those who are eager to make a change. This is especially true when working with the younger generation who are supposedly more open to meeting new people and listening to new perspectives. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in our Palestinian-Israeli context. It was quite difficult to recruit for our young adult Bridge Builders trip to Norway, in part because the age group is so busy, often traveling for university or work. We also encountered young people who faced strong opposition to reconciliation from their faith leaders. As a result, the trip consisted of a smaller group in comparison to other years. At first, these recruitment challenges were very discouraging. As followers of Christ we are called to be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation, and therefore, expect more believers to be interested in such
initiatives. Even though we set off to the trip with fewer participants than expected, we had the faithful few who were ready for the challenge. It became very evident early on in the conference that what the group lacked in quantity was made up for in quality of engagement. The smaller group allowed us to spend more time with each other, and as a result, strong relationships were built. There was a sense of family, comfort and joy at the campsite where we stayed.
Because of this atmosphere we covered not only some of the basic chapters from Musalaha’s
curriculum, but also examined our historical and theological differences. These two subjects are
probably the most emotionally charged and hardest to cover; for many people these controversial subjects can be a deal breaker in terms of continuing with the reconciliation process. The participants did not find these discussions easy at all. Some indeed withdrew and did not want to continue engaging with the other side, especially the ones who had never heard the other side’s political, historical or theological positions before. However, the smaller group dynamic and the safe space created by the participants facilitated meaningful, respectful and productive discussions. Both sides could express their positions without feeling attacked or blamed. Rather, at times the discussion felt like a seminar class where participants wanted to hear opposing perspectives in order to learn and possibly bridge the gap between the different narratives. Altogether, the participants, including the ones who were extremely challenged, benefitted from the teaching program and the small group dynamic played a big role in this.
All in all, in this young adult trip the faithful few came through. Working for reconciliation is extremely challenging. In general there are not thousands of Palestinians and Israelis rushing to participate or engage with the other side. But there will always be a few who are willing to take on the challenge seriously and engage with the other side. The faithful few shine a small but vital light in the midst of hopelessness and despair, a light that shines on a new path of peace, reconciliation and hope.
Musalaha Young Adult Leader