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The Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue about Empathy

The 215th meeting of Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group was held on March 8, 2010, to discuss the topic of empathy:

  • What does it mean?

  • How have we experienced it?

  • Where is it easy - Where is it hard?

  • Is empathy important?

  • etc

The group was facilitated by Libby and Len Traubman in San Mateo, California. The discussion topic was suggested and video taped by Edwin Rutsch. 

Jewish Palestinian Living Room Dialogue on Empathy (Part 1of 2)

Initial Interview Outline

Time Speaker  Text
00:00:00   Opening Title
00:00:22 Len Mohammed's Story
Medical Student from Gaza
Working for healing, peace and dialogue
Went to Israel and met other teenagers
Story  I was at hospital with a Blood clot
Received a flower bouquet from Elias
Knew I mattered to them
It came from the heart
Habibi? It's a me culture
Everyone tries to see how far they can advance themselves
It's a self-centered society
Len  Introductions
  • Introducing Edwin - Working on Empathy
  • put on film
  • this is 215th meeting of dialogue group
  • How do we or do not experience empathy?
  • Where it's easy, hard, etc.?
  • Is empathy important?
00:06:30 Elias Let's Light a special candle for VP Joe Bidden trying to move the peace process forward
A light to reach THE middle east
A moment of silence
Libby What would lit look like if all people responded to empathy?
Len  Remember times in our life experiencing empathy?
Libby What does it actually mean?
  • To feel what someone else feels - joy, pain, problem
  • walk
  • not born with learn
  • examples, Dali Lama, Tutu
  • Martin Buber said Jesus is my brother
Do people have to suffer first?
As social worker I experienced it.
Be willing to feel the suffering, it's not a head thing
Listener to also feel in themselves
Move somehow - action forward
 00:14:30 Mandela had years of suffering.
Transform suffering to good instead of hatred
Elias Empathy toward each other in this group
  • dialogue helped
  • be able to speak other persons language
  • to be that person - needs to be two way
  • mind and heart involved
00:18:00 Story NY Times  - Palestinian kills Palestinian thinking he is Israeli
Libby Person killed by accident
00:19:40 Len  My mother - I could not gather empathy
  • she and father divorced - I picked her to blame
  • I went to college
  • had conflicts with mother - didn't understand
  • started to learn about stories - started thinking about her
  • Father may not have been a good listener
  • the adult, the more powerful, parent,  to start understanding her
  • was a great coming together
  • a growing up and it un-weighed me.
  • we had a relationship and it changed everything
  • a personal experience
00:23:45 Libby  What's the difference between empathy and sympathy?
00:24:00 Feeling sympathetic for somebody
More of a pity
Empathy is getting inside them
00:24:45     I'm more of a skeptic
  • here in America people empathize, sympathize with Israel over Palestinians
  • I've been called bad names
  • they don't know both sides
  • people here are polite but don't understand
  • it's a difficult life in Gaza
    • check points, humiliations, etc
  • unless they have gone through that they don't know
  • that's what empathy really is, going out of your way to see their life
  • instead of cheep talk
Len Do you seek empathy or give empathy more of the time?
00:28:25    I'm not one to seek empathy,
  • I try to resolve things myself but something's ask for help
  • I try to give empathy
  • Haiti - Palestine
  • Black suffering - give program for Haiti but not for Gaza
  • Frustration - caring about Haiti but not Palestine
00:32:00  Elias Ignorance has to do with it.
     It's identifying with only people you can identify with - race
  Elias Need to tell your story - it's education
The media - I see your frustration
Media is biased
It brings up one side more than the other
That's not part of empathy
00:34:30 Ellen I think of Haiti differently - it's been neglected for a long time
Don't use skin color
Israel sent help to Haiti but not to neighbors - Gaza
00:36:00   I went to New Orleans and volunteered for a month and a half
Little was done to help the local people in USA
  Len We're talking about short term and long term empathy
How do we experience empathy?
each of us
  Libby I agree with Elias - need to get to know people
it raises empathy
growing up I heard the Russians were bad people
going there I learned how they really feel
I feel empathy for them now.
I never met a Palestinian - now I feel passionate about them
Education, the story
That's the work we have is telling the story
00:40:15   You are not a cynic, you're a realist
The world does not work on empathy
Our government doesn't work on  empathy
Everyone wants to sell us something
How to overcome that - education is the way
NY Times says - the disaster of education
  Len What is True?
    The propaganda is for Israel
Almost nothing positive about the terrible plight of Gaza
There are Israelis who try to help
There are very few people who have courage to defy what seems to be popular
00:43:00   I have a weird twist
I've always been aligned with the underdog
Jews and fear of annihilation
I  try to understand the Jewish side
00:44:37 Judy Empathy is critical to ending conflict
We can make a decision to be empathetic
Giving up resentments and hurts
I grew up empathetic - to the point of my detriment
Every creature is deserving of attention and safety
Haiti gets little attention
00:47:15   Why did Obama announce all the help to Haiti?
So refuges don't come to USA
Proves my point that the world does not operate on empathy
Americans are philanthropic
00:49:00 Len Story of neighbor - conflict - and being better at empathy
Gave them a Basket of Fruit as gift - he had been a great nurturing person
The act of empathy did a lot of good.
00:55:44   Sometimes an act of kindness before your feel it can lead to the feeling
    A great story of empathy
A Stanford Student went to Africa and she was murdered
Parents went there and gave forgiveness to murderer
The forgiveness was the greatest story - that's empathy
A documentary was made about it.
Isn't that empathy?


Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue v2 (Part 2 of 2)



00:58:20 Len Mohammed - you lived in Gaza and you have such a great spirit
What have you gone through to get that way
  Mohammed  Empathy is the most communication skill **
Giving people the feeling of security
They can share their feelings
People can talk freely and solve any problem
Most empathy experience - Iliad - Israeli soldier -  said he killed Palestinian people
People fight so that the other will listen to them
I have the option to talk or to go back and fight
For me empathy is a productive discussion
01:04:00   Empathy needs more knowledge
Can a blind person understand a racial problem if they can't see color?
More education
In general certain people fit into my framework, and can have empathy for them.
Maybe I need to dissolve the frameworks?
01:06:00   People are operating rationally in some system
01:06:45   It's about stories
Story about neighbors in Oakland
The mother has an illness
Try's to connect with them.
    Take the chance and take food over, it's a metaphor
Push yourself a bit more and you learn
01:12:18 Denise Stories are about unexpected behavior
Act kindly.
Do the unexpected toward kindness.
01:15:00 Elias Empathy as a reaction, to sympathy, to empathy
01:15:50 Len If we have an enemy and give dignity or giving sympathy or empathy heals.
The power of the oppressed is to give dignity to the oppressor
Could be the power of the week
  Libby Be empathetic all the time
And caring about everybody all the time
Neighbor spraying poison in the garden story.
Challenge about being more thoughtful
    Empathy - we are human beings
Every person is a valued human being
 20:40:00   People have isolated themselves - suburbs
Don't spend time with different people
I'm part of a music community and around a wide variety of people/races
Allows for more empathy
    I never saw color until I came to this country
Here I saw black and white because the way society saw them
01:23:00 Len We had a Fresno Dialogue
    Had tough time with neighbor upstairs - can't imagine kindness yet
It's hard when the rubber hits the road
    Give him the movie grumpy old men
  Len New insight - felt the vulnerability
The enemy when they are vulnerable
    People do select because there is so much grief
01:26:50 Eric Empathy is taught by parents of school or teacher
Close to justice - to be compelled to act justly - fairly
A wonderful thing when parents can teach compassion
01:28:50   If someone falls
    Story of studying abroad in Russia
Saw a woman laying in the street
Heart did not go out to her.
Mental idea - I have to stop.
I didn't empathize but had to stop, felt guilty if I didn't stop
It was an ideal to stop. Intellect vr feeling
01:32:30 Libby When you have empathy you are conscious but not stuck
Sympathy - you feel sorry
01:33:50 Len You are so sympathetic it was hard to
  Judy As social worker it was a bit paralyzing
I was taking on the emotions of other people
Grew up in a home where I didn't have models of how to deal with peoples hurts
I have compassion for all people in conflict
01:36:45 Eric  We live in a crazy world - it's not sane
Israel's or Palestinians are not acting in their own best interest
If you want empathy we can do it on an individual basis
But can't expect the world to sign on
  Elias  You're saying the world in not empathetic
and we have to take it to the individual basis
01:40:00 Len Sympathy and empathy - if your too sympathetic - you can't make good decisions
It's not helping - discern the difference is important
  Denise  Survival mode - the primitive mode of the brain - don't have capacity for empathy
When happy and safe it's easier to empathize
01:43:00 Libby Communities with very little and share what they have
we feel we have a lot to lose
it's both and
they take care of each other - we are always look out for
01:43:30 Habibi? I was talking with Edwin
The American Society is selfish - every person as individual, me, me, me
People in poor society can be more open, compassion, and empathy
01:46:00 Len Go Around the circle - One of two memories about empathy
  Elias  We are all equal - then empathy comes naturally
Separate us from the animals
    Tells a war story  - In Vietnam when in battle the soldiers felt the same - but when they got back the differences of race, class, etc, emerge.
Sergi  try to work at killing with kindness
  Denise  Like having the word to focus around
Tend to feel helpless when I feel empathy - try to go beyond that
    This group has changed the way I listen to people
    Come away with the stories - they are real
The kindness
Right balance of sympathy and empathy
I'm moved by what Mohammed said - empathy is a productive discussion
empathy and justice
  Libby Having empathy is a choice
it does make a difference
  Mohammed I'm a believer in empathy
    I said enough
  Eric  Glad to have privilege to spend 2 hours in an island of sanity
  Hildegard When we empathize with someone we may think back to this group
  Fanny  I was very touched with your mother relationship story
    Mohammed made me think about the power of listening
The feelings of someone wanting to listen to you
Len's mother story was very personal - shifting frames
  Len About the unexpected - has great power
01:57:15 Edwin Q: You came here to film on empathy, what's it been like for you here?
   it's the process and the exploration
   this should happen all around the country doing the exploration together
   it's an ongoing personal growth and creating a Culture of Empathy
Q: Anything new come out?
   Following the spontaneous - don't know how do it reliably
   Been exploring this theme for about a year so many of the topics I've heard before,
   For example the question of empathy vrs sympathy.
    People need to know the differences
Q: How did you get into this?
   I like exploring topics thematically. What got me into empathy was that Obama talking about it.
Q: What's the power of film?
   It's way of spreading those stories
   I'll be going to the Republican GOP Convention to listen to the conservative point of view on empathy.
  Can carry a dialogue through film between different sides.
   Film can be an extension of dialogue.
Q: What's goal with film?
   Ideal is a 12 hour Definitive piece on empathy.
   Trying to get a ball rolling, step by step
Q: In this group listening to stories is transforming?
   I feel it as you speak.
Thanks for interviewing me,
  I'm always behind the camera, good to be in front of it.
02:06:00   End