It was Libby and Len Traubman who made me believe that dialogue can change the world.
After 10 months of living in Israel, and immersing myself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I was disappointed in humanity. How could hate, fear and anger continue to reign above peace, love and human good? After spending time listening to people on both side, Israel and Palestine, I discovered that both peoples are suffering. Both parties were expressing their fear and hatred of the other, without ever actually speaking to the other. Peace could never thrive without dialogue and relationship building. Israelis and Palestinians are predominately separated by a cement, military wall, so how can dialogue even stand a chance?!
Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
After coming back to Canada, I discovered the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group in San Mateo, California. I was intrigued to learn more. Fireworks went through my mind. There was a chance for peace!
I immediately booked a flight to California. I was curious and intrigued to meet the couple, Len and Libby Traubman. The Traubman’s are famous internationally for their relationship building peace processes, and for establishing the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group. I was intrigued to visit them to explore what makes people face their enemies.
I wondered if dialogue could actually change the world.
It was in Northern California that my hope in humanity was restored. The Traubman’s shared with me their experiences of facilitating Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Groups, in their house, since 1992.
For Len and Libby, we are all one. One spirit, One Humanity and One Living System. To function adequately, we all need to work together, as a cohesive system. We all have a voice, and a story that is yet to be heard. This was a big deal, because I had only witnessed suffering and pain in Israel. Now, hearing about relationship building, peace and true reconciliation, I was rejoiced.
Why a Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group in the United States?
In Israel, I only wished there were more Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Groups. Sadly, in Israel and Palestine this is not the norm. However, in the United States, both Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights, so there’s an open space for dialogue to thrive. It is in the diaspora, that Israelis and Palestinians want to come together to build relationships. By listening to the other, both parties want to end the cycle of violence. By coming together to formulate a dialogue and listen to one another, fear and suspicion dissolve.
Libby and Len’s simple but profound mantra is based on the quote by Gene Knudsen-Hoffman, “An enemy is only someone whose story you haven’t heard.”
I was fascinated with the Traubman’s efforts and their dedication to compassionate listening. By bringing people together, people get to share their stories and have their stories listened to. Peace through compassionate listening. By opening up our hearts to the other person, we can start to see their perspective. It is the most difficult thing to listen and to have empathy for the “other,” but this is what the Traubmans’ life’s work has been about—bringing people together to talk, listen, and feel accepted. For Len and Libby Traubman, dialogue brings joy. Dialogue can change the world, if we open ourselves and our hearts.
Len and Libby advocate for individuals to “establish a dialogue rather than debate”. Instead of coming to the discussion with the mindset of being right, the Traubman’s would encourage participants to not only adapt an open mind but, “be open to changing your mind”. Instead of focusing on being right, focus on hearing someone else’s perspective and that is true dialogue. For the Traubman’s dialogue is collaborative and seeks common ground. A debate is about a winner, and a loser.
Len and Libby Traubman worked extensively on bringing enemies face to face to connect. They build a framework for a peace process for changing human relationships. Step one, is human engagement, by “authentic heart-to-heart connection, to reduce ignorance and fear, and increase the feeling of safety and trust”. Through listening to each other’s narratives, we “discover one another’s equal humanity”.
Citizens of the World
Len and Libby Traubman are the greatest Citizens of the World. Through the power of dialogue, they have made the world a better place. We live in a world where relationships are broken. However, what would society look like if it were more compassionate? Being a Citizen of the World means were compassionate to everyone’s story, and we work to make the world a better place.
By learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the region, I was able to truly benefit from experiential learning. Thanks to relationships I made with Israelis and Palestinians, I was able to understand the conflict and the emotions affected. Due to the emotional connection, the learning experienced is enhanced. The same can be said about actually going to visit with Len and Libby. From meeting them, a bond was formed. A bond so strong that can only be achievable by face-to-face connection.
That is why I encourage everyone to step outside their comfort zones, and travel the world.
Through traveling, we’re able to see the grace and beauty that humanity personifies. Len and Libby Traubman believe that nothing replaces face-to-face human engagement. From the people we meet, we learn a lot. But what if we’re always speaking to the same circles? Where is the opportunity for growth? Travel allows us to connect to human beings from all around the world, thus enhancing our connection to the world and those who live in it.
As of writing this in October 2019, Len Traubman has passed away. On October 4th, I completed my book Citizen of the World. I couldn’t wait to share my good news with my mentors so I e-mailed the Traubman’s. The very same day, I received a reply from Libby indicating that Len was on his last hours, but that he was at peace, no pain or fear and lived an amazing 80 years. Len Traubman was a champion of peace, and a true peacekeeper.
Citizen of the World is dedicated to Len and Libby Traubman. Len and Libby restored my faith in humanity through their compassion, understanding and tremendous efforts for peace and relationship building. If we could all live a little bit like the Traubman’s, the world would be a much better, compassionate place to live.
Len told J Weekly in 2002, “There are things that governments can do that people cannot, like forging binding agreements. And there are things that citizens free of government can do that the governments cannot, like changing human relationships.”
How can we all live like Len and Libby Traubman to make the world a better place? How can their best practices for dialogue change your life?