GROUPWORKS: Counselling, personal development, group therapy, coaching and councelling supervision

Creating dialogue and preventing racial violence in an Israeli village

Yael Doron, an Israeli group analyst, has given me permission to share this message about the work of enabling dialogue about racial tensions in an Israeli village.  It reminded me of the immense difficulty of this under the pressure of war, and yet allows for hope, not least because of the commitment of Israeli group analytic colleagues.

One of our colleagues is living in a small village in the Galilee, in the
north of Israel. The residents of the village had a very violent summer,
after the Israel Supreme Court ordered them to accept one Muslim family to
the community, after it was rejected by the local management. Other than in
mixed cities like Haifa or Nazareth in small places “integration” is a
problem. The family is still in the process of building their house and
didn’t move in yet, but the small village is divided and torn apart, by
conflicts between angry and worried neighbors.

There were 2 incidents in the last months that provoked the tempered
situation. The first was a racist massage written on the Arab family’s
house wall, trying to scare them away. A few weeks ago, another provocative
massage was written on a car of a Jewish, pro-Arab, left wing and liberal
neighbor who was suspected to be the one who “invited” the Muslim family to
come to live there. This time the dust on the car was painted with an SS
mark, Swastika, and malicious graffiti.

The village’s management asked for our help. Robi Friedman arranged and
made it happen, and yesterday evening we came – 15 group analysts from
IIGA, from all over Israel, and set with the inhabitants of the village.
The evening started with a short introduction by Robi in the main hall.
After that we all went outside and set in small groups with them for 70
minutes. I conducted one small group, and can say that in the beginning it
was very difficult for them to talk. It seemed as if there is a great fear
in the air. It is dangerous to talk out loud. Slowly they opened up, and we
could see several layers of the conflict: It was not only about Arabs and
Jews, but also about left wings and right wings, religious and secular,
young and adults, new-comers and veterans and so on…

After that, all participated in the Large Group, and I was very surprised
to see that people didn’t talk about the conflict. It was, again, too
dangerous. The conductors, Robi and Hanni Biran tried again and again, and
some of the small group conductors tried as well – but they kept talking
about how much they need to find a way to discuss things, how much they
long to know each other better and hear each other, and how much they want
to feel as a “community”. Maybe Robi and others will write more about it
later. It was very frustrating.

After one hour in the Large Group we went back to the small groups, and
again, felt the warmth and the intimacy of “family” close relations. In
spite of having only 30 minutes with them, there was a productive effort to
understand what (didn’t) happen in the LG and succeeded to have a good closure.
I felt it is a very strong and caring community, with enthusiastic and
optimistic people. They CAN change their situation, and they CAN talk and
speak out loud their fears and conflicts – but they need TIME and SPACE. I
learned yesterday that you have to become trained in LG in order to use it
best – and this has to be a process. Yesterday was a small step, and I hope
they will continue.

I wanted to share this with you because while it was very frustrating at some
moments, at the same time it was also inspiring and encouraging to witness
this community’s process to express their feelings and thoughts in the LG in
order to prevent actual violence.


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