The first meetings between the Palestinians and Israelis that eventually led to the establishment of the Combatants for Peace, were mostly devoted to telling the participants’ personal stories. It began spontaneously, as the people who participated in those meetings knew nothing about their counterparts and the process that has lead them to meet their potential enemies. As the movement consolidated, the use of personal stories developed into a coherent ethos that places the activists’ experience at the center. We all have a story worth listening to, a story that reflects something of the horrors of this conflict, but also the potential of breaking out of it. Our personal stories, Palestinians and Israelis, are the stories of life here, of the violence to which we were partners or witnesses but also, the story of choosing a path of non-violence and partnership, a path to a different future.
By telling each other our personal stories (in seminars and workshops) we get to learn about our counterparts and to think and re-think ourselves: what was violence for us in the past? What did we know about the other side? What has lead us to Combatants for Peace? Who are we now? Who do we want to be? By telling our personal stories to our audiences (in countless public talks we give regularly), we allow people to put themselves in their enemies’ shoes, to see reality through their eyes, to make sense of what at first seems senseless, to feel pain and hope instead of numbness. Through encouraging attentive listening we invite our audiences to care about our stories, Palestinians and Israelis, and to join us in writing their next chapters together.