Last week I participated in a conference called, Dialogue Initiative, that took place in the Isabella Friedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut, USA. Human Rights and environmental organizations and people from the USA, Israel and Europe were invited to this conference. 120 people participated in the conference, 40% from the USA, 40% from Israel and 20% from Europe. The Israeli delegation was large and varied, many of them I knew from my activity in RHR. The conference was fascinating and a mixture of youth movement and professionalism. There were some fascinating lectures and important discussions on human rights issues in different places in the world. We also had trips in the beautiful neighbourhood, a bonfire on Motzaei Shabbat etc.
One of the strongest experiences of the conference was the discussion on Israel. On one hand there was the difficulty of activists from Israel and abroad to criticize Israel and yet be seen as “Israel lovers”, and on the other hand, there were the voices of those who have difficulty either criticizing Israel or hearing any criticism of Israel.
It was a difficult discussion, but the ability of the people to conduct a discussion respectfully made me optimistic. Everyone at this conference had to hear difficult things. This discussion made me begin thinking that maybe the relationship between Israeli Jews and the Diaspora can start to mature, and there is a chance to advance to better places.
The meeting was powerful and exiting and I saw the mutual and the divisive things between us. The mutual part created the intensity of the conference. Many times, as human rights or social activists, we feel weak; but in this conference there was a feeling of cooperation and as a result of it, a feeling of strength, a sense of power and the ability to do and create change.
All the attributes of interaction and communication were in this conference. We discussed talked, exchanged opinions; there were also elements of philosophy. We prayed together, sang together. There were moments of spiritual uplifting and there were difficult moments. I am already working in cooperation with people and organizations that I met at the conference, and on continuing the talks that started there. I pray that we will be able to hold onto the feeling of intensity we had for our work until our next meeting.