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Healing Hatred – Spiritual Counselling in Situations of Conflict

About the program

Healing Hatred is an innovative model for interreligious dialogue based on the tools of spiritual counselling, developed to enable participants to communicate about the core spiritual and moral dilemmas that lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Healing Hatred Questionnaire Example

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More about the project

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Years of violent conflict and the fear it engenders have left both Israelis and Palestinians emotionally and spiritually traumatized. Hatred of the ‘Other’ is regarded as a normal response to the ongoing situation. The growing racism within Israeli society is one example of the fallout of the distress engendered by the second intifada. On the Palestinian side, a sense of disillusionment with the leadership and the profound feeling of futility as the sides fail to show any sign of progress have led to a growing rejection of engagement with Israelis. Each side is increasingly isolated and embittered and this in turn only leads to the creation of further suspicion and fear.

Beginning in 2013, the Rossing Center partnered with the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem to develop a language and practice, both literal and figurative, of pastoral care based on understanding of the religious component of health and healing, to help address the deep trauma experienced by Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths and of all backgrounds, as a result of living in an ongoing situation of violent conflict. Building on years of working in the field of interreligious dialogue, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, working with religious leaders, educators, women, youth and young adults, the Rossing Center and HLT have become aware of the need for a deeper level of dialogue and a more spiritual plane of healing for both individuals and society as a whole. One of the core pillars of the Holy Land Trust is the need for healing for both Palestinian and Israeli societies alike, both traumatized by the years of violent conflict.

After several pilot programs that began to address that need, we have brought together hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, over the last five years, for courses and weekend retreats.  Participants included both Arab and Jewish social workers, facilitators, religious leaders and youth workers from all over Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The feedback from participants and evaluators has been extremely positive, and the lessons learned have come together in a new model for dialogue in a region of political conflict – with the overall goal to heal trauma and reduce fear and hatred amongst Israelis and Palestinians, allowing them to engage in a genuine process towards a just and lasting peace. The core of this model is a conflict-centred version of the spiritual questionnaire originally developed by HUC as part of their pastoral care program.

There are three main differences between our new model and other dialogue practices:

1.Our model is designed to address precisely the core beliefs that we must confront if dialogue is to have a significant impact. Whereas many dialogue programs and other peace education projects skirt around the edges of the key issues, Healing Hatred concentrates on examining our most important convictions about ourselves and our society – our overwhelming sense of moral superiority; of victimhood; of the justification that we are only defending ourselves against enemies single-mindedly intent on our destruction; fear for our very survival, both as individuals and as a people.

2.Where in standard dialogue groups the emphasis is on listening to the Other to understand their point of view, and to create empathy for their situation, in the Healing Hatred process the emphasis is on self-examination. The process we have created for the group revolves around the use of a questionnaire, which requires each participant to share with the group their own dilemma concerning the conflict to promote their own personal growth. Over the course of the group process, the group learns to listen deeply and hears many different stories from many different perspectives. In this respect, the process has a lot in common with other forms of dialogue. However,

3.The dynamic created is completely different from existing dialogue models, and ground-breaking. The group listens deeply to the individual, but their reflections are designed to assist that individual – not to justify themselves. The dynamic of competitive suffering, or of arguing, or of each side becoming entrenched in their stance in opposition to the Other, is avoided. Rather, the dynamic is created of honest sharing, of empathy, of understanding, of healing.

This model is now being used in the framework of other Rossing Center programs, such as Meeting Place and the Ramle Open House, as well as in partnership with the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem.

Project Staff

Vivian Rabia, Project Director

International Conference in Jerusalem - Bethlehem- Bet Jalla, 2017

Based on the Healing Hatred project, Dr. Sarah Bernstein (Rossing Center) and Prof. Ruhama Weiss (HUC) presented a draft model for dialogue in conflict at the 2016 International Conference of the International Association of Spiritual Care (IASC) in Bern, Switzerland, see The IASC Board asked the Rossing Center, HUC, and HLT to co-host and co-organize the 2017 International Conference of the IASC in Jerusalem-Bethlehem-Bet Jalla, 9-11 July. The conference was a huge success, as it created the opportunity for us to share our model with both local and international audiences, and further a world-wide conversation about models for healing hatred.

Building on the successful conferences held in 2015 and 2016, which examined the fields of Spiritual Care in an Intercultural World, and Spiritual Care and Migration, the 2017 conference has continued the process of investigating and developing the field of spiritual care in different directions, focusing on the complex context of political conflicts and examining the meeting point of spiritual care and interreligious peacebuilding work. The conference has brought together around 180 speakers and participants from a wide array of different professional and academic backgrounds for two and a half days of papers, panel discussions and practical workshops, and has provided an ideal forum for exchanges around the concept of trauma underlying the conflict and preventing progress toward a sustained political solution.

The key-note speaker that addressed the conference is Fr. Michael Lapsley, the Founding Director of the Institute for Healing of Memories in South Africa. Fr. Michael both inspired and informed our work here in Israel-Palestine, as well as other reconciliation work around the world. As well as speaking at the conference, we also had the opportunity to have a full-day training seminar with Fr Michael for the entire Rossing Center team, together with our partners from Holy Land Trust and HUC.

Other international speakers included Prof. Pamela Cooper-White from Union Theological Seminary in New York and Sarah Snyder, the Advisor on Reconciliation to the Archbishop of Canterbury.