When the year 1991. Intifada, the rise of the first Palestinians against Israel, was rampant. I was walking casually with a group of American citizens through the winding alley - meandering in the refugee camp of Al - Fawwar near Hebron. We could hear the Israeli soldiers moved in the camp on the other side. We turned a corner and found a half old Palestinian woman - middle-aged paw - root through the debris in - rubble. Our host explained to him we come to listen to people - the Israelis and Palestinians - to find out immediately the situation and listen to the story - their story.


The woman looked at us and, motioning to a pile of rubble in desperation, he began to tell. "This marks my house." translate our host. The woman cries of anger roared when he told his youngest son had been shot dead by Israeli troops, and his eldest son had just jailed for life by a military court. After the sentence was issued, his house destroyed by a bulldozer. He and his two daughters have just built a cabin home to impound their livestock. The woman began to wail, and our host translates: "Why are you people - the Americans hate us? What have we done to you? We've lost it all! We're just struggling to survive."

We stood transfixed as she went out of anger and grief. For most of us in this group, this woman's story is the first realization that many Palestinians who believe that the United States was at war with them.


Then we saw how powerful listening, when, having pulled out his anger, he pulled out a handkerchief, wiped her tears, and invited us into his hut for tea. We sat down with him on the dirty floor of the cabin, sipping sweet tea is weak, and started asking questions, listening openly and mutual respect.


I have participated in the reconciliation of Israel - the Palestinians since 1982 when training at the School for Peace in Israel as a teenager. There Israelis and Palestinians together, often for the first time in their life, to have a relationship as fellow human beings. When I saw that when people exchanged stories of their personal suffering and the truth, opponents - opponents that they can listen without blame and without arguing. An emotional bond existed between them, and sort of formed a little peace.


In 1990 I began experimenting with a different approach: I started to bring people - the Americans to the Middle East to listen to the story - the story of Israel and the Palestinian people. I feel that approach would restore those involved in the conflict and will enlighten the American people. After several trips to the Middle East to hear the success stories, we are known as The Compassionate Listening Project (Project Listening to the Heart), whose goal is to build international support for peace in the Middle East, while offering a practical means for conflict resolution between people - people "that the common people" in the country - the country's conflict.


Basis of Listening With Heart project is that each party in a state of suffering, and every act of violence came from the wound did not heal. Our task as a peacemaker is to listen to the suffering of all parties and find a way - a way to communicate to both sides of humanity and suffering of others. Americans who participate in this project had been trained to listen with respect for all parties.


In 1998 we began to teach workshops Listening with the Heart to the citizens of Israel and the Palestinians so that they can continue the task itself in their communities. One of our first workshop involving Esther, who survived the tragedy of the Holocaust at the age of seven puluhannya, and Mary, the Christian Palestinians in their twenties. For both, that's their first time face to face to listen to the personal suffering of the enemy - the enemy.


On the second day, we totaling twenty-five in a circle to listen to Esther and Mary to tell their stories. Esther told me early on and began to tell us how he grew up in Germany and sent to England in World War II at the age of fifteen. Brother and sister also fled, but their parents died in Auschwitz; Esther eventually married and moved to Palestine and soon became the state of Israel.


Esther tells us what it's like to raise a family in the new state of Israel and to live in so many wars - how her heart broken when a Jewish family could not live without the threat of violence, after the repression and terror they experienced in Europe. He recounts how sad for all the children and grandchildren in the army and experienced the terrible effects of war and resistance. He tells the life of family and friends - friends who filled the fear of the killer bomb endless and anxiety every day.


When Esther speaking, Mary, the young woman from Palestine, who had never met with Israeli Jews directly, sat and listened to her story and then cried like us. Mary could feel the pain of Esther, and his heart became open to Israeli Jews for the first time in his life.


Then it was Mary's turn. He sat quietly and tell us what it was like growing up under Israeli occupation in Jerusalem. He told friends - fellow classmates were dead. One was cycling home and shot in the back by Israeli soldiers. He fell from his bike and died instantly in front of her and friends - the other classmates.


He told another story to kmai when he was surrounded and beaten the Israeli army after school. She was scared would be brought and killed, and his family will not know what happened to him. His story is one story of abuse and humiliation that happened the day - day. He was always shaking for telling her story. Having finished one, his body was still gemeter great.


When Mary had finished, the group wiped her tears and sat in silence, digesting the poignant story that is indescribable. Then Esther got up, walked across the room and hugged Mary as if - to his own son. Mary was crying in his arms, and Esther mengoyangkan arms and comforted her. We all cried again, carried away by the feeling of witnessing all the human contact of the first love between two people who previously hostile.


After years - years later, Esther continued to have a relationship with Mary. They have been bound emotionally since the workshop and build lasting relationships that still to this day, though the conflict continued to take place. One time, Esther was even brought friends - friends from Germany to meet with Mary at the workplace, a very beautiful monastery in the old city of Jerusalem. Kesanalah a Jewish woman with friends - fellow German met with his Palestinian friends! When I met with Esther recently, he told me, "You should see a twinkle in the eyes of Mary when I first walked in!"


Once people have formed a human contact with others on the other side, anything and everything can be possible. The stage was set for two men to be able to imagine peace. And I think this is the most important thing. Even if a peace agreement was made at the political level, it takes people who are at the lowest level such as Mary and Esther to build real peace.


Once the heart is open to other parties, the heart will never be closed again. That's what I believed as a way to make a change - in the per person, heart of hearts.


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