Workshop: The Self and the Other

Tohuwabu – Dynamics in German-Israeli Youth Encounters

Intense discussions during the workshop.

Intense discussions during the workshop.

Question marks, dots, wild lines. Asked to visualize their idea of German-Israeli youth encounters, the participants draw their thoughts, feelings and visions. 15 different views, 15 different stories. “An intercultural encounter is like a tree with many branches, growing on common ground.”, says Moritz, a German participant who volunteered in Jerusalem.

Imagining typical scenarios in youth encounters the participants are challenged to remember, recreate and reflect on political discussions, joint visits of memorial sites and language barriers. “Taking part in an exchange is not an intellectual, but an emotional experience”, Alma Lessing, research administrator for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, explains. Most of the youths agree. Since especially politics are closely linked with emotions, sometimes agreeing to disagree is the lowest common denominator.

However German-Israeli youth encounters also force participants to question their own ideologies. “I believe intercultural encounters to be an amazing tool to get to know yourself better”, argues Keren Pardo, former coordinator of the volunteer program Kom-Mit-Nadev.

Meetings can be chaotic, full of new impressions – a Tohuwabu. In the end there can be even more questions than in the beginning. Pardo and Lessing encourage the participants to accept that some questions might never be answered. But they can be an inspiration to rethink and reflect on German-Israeli encounters and make you question why we focus on differences of nationality. Pardo concludes: “Why do we perceive it to be more important that we are German and Israeli than the fact that one of us is blonde while the other has dark hair, that one is male, the other female..” Question mark.