Ifat Maoz Department of Communication

Personal Background: Nasser and Avner

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Personal Background: Nasser and Avner

Nasser was born in the northern Israeli town of Acre and raised in an Arab neighborhood. His parents were originally from Jenin, today part of the Palestinian Autonomy. When he was seven years old, his family moved to Beer-Sheva (the Jewish “capital” of the Israeli southern desert). He first attended school at Tel Sheva, a nearby Bedouin town, as it was important to his parents that he studies Arabic as well as subjects connected with his Arab cultural and religious heritage. In his teens he transferred to a Jewish high school in Beer-Sheva where the standard of education was higher. This move increased his chances of succeeding in the matriculation examination. Nasser emphasized that he had Jewish friends and had very good relationships with his teachers. They supported him in his studies, giving him special, personal encouragement. Still, Nasser felt alienated as an Arab among Jews and as an Arab from the north among the Bedouin Arabs of the south, and later, as an Arab student at a Jewish university. Nonetheless, he did not feel discriminated against on a personal level. He also stated toward the end of an initial interview by the second author:10

I believe that the wars and casualties are part of the peace process, and that, in the end, there has to be peace. The fact that we are living together means there will be peace.”

Avner was born on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai,11 where he was exposed to the Holocaust at a very young age:

On my kibbutz, you more or less live the Holocaust. When I was growing up, all the adults without exception had been in the Holocaust. You must understand that when I was growing up on that kibbutz, a child of three or four, I was already aware daily of a large Holocaust museum” [on the grounds of the kibbutz].

Avner’s army service was an important component of his Israeli identity. Despite the great difficulty and dilemmas that his service in the Occupied Territories evoked, his loyalty to the army and obligation to serve was a central, irrefutable value for him. Avner defined himself as a secular Israeli with left-wing political views, committed to making peace with the Arabs. Before participating in the workshop, he had met Arabs only on a construction site, where he worked with both Israeli Palestinians and Palestinians from the Territories. He admitted to having limited knowledge of them. During his work as counselor at the university he met an Arab counselor and played basketball with him, but no friendship developed between them. Because of the ongoing conflict, he chose to participate in the workshop so he could meet Arabs and get to know them personally. Avner hoped that the encounter might draw them closer and help resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

We have to talk. I think these dialogues are important. If we talk, things will come out and no one will remain indifferent. Both sides need such positive experiences.”

Nasser and Avner relate in their last sentences to the importance of peace and of the dialogue, but they come from contradictory backgrounds and perspectives. How will this contradiction find its expression when they meet in the group? Based on these interviews, one could suggest that the dialogue between Avner and Nasser would lead to an open clash between them. Nasser experiences being born to an unwanted minority and is making his way in Jewish society by virtue of his intellectual ability. In contrast, Avner emphasizes the complex emotional burden passed on to him through the atmosphere of a kibbutz with a tradition of Holocaust memorials. Yet at the same time he grew up with a positive political attitude toward the claims of the Palestinians. We will now proceed to the first personal encounter between Nasser and Avner. (638 words)

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