possibilities of peace-building?

by tobybee

Melanie Landau is a lecturer at Monash University. But, actually, she’s a whole lot more than that. I first met Melanie a few years ago (I think it was 2005) in the living room of a friends’ house, where she and Michael Fagenblat were running a series of seminars for Jews on the north side of the river. There was something quite symbolic and specific about the fact that we were located, and were locating ourselves, over here (here being the Carlton area, where I’m sitting as I write this, on the opposite side of the river to where the organised Jewish community generally is). We spent one evening a week, for a couple of months, reading texts together, talking and challenging ourselves and each other.

And that recognition and making of difference, but also that crossing over, is a big part of the work that Melanie does. Every time I hear her speak I am reminded of what a good educator sounds like, and of the ability of (her) words to simultaneously move me and challenge me.

Melanie and others from Monash are currently on a trip to Israel/Palestine – a group of educators/lecturers have taken 30 students, and Melanie is blogging her time over there. So far it’s mostly recounting what they’ve done, without much analysis, but I think it will definitely be worth following. Here’s her opening:

Thanks for taking an interest in my upcoming Monash University trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I have been working on the itinerary for several months and making contact with the other facilitators as well as the students. They’ll be about 30 of us on the trip, mainly undergraduate students. We’ll all get a deeper appreciation of the challenges facing the Jewish and Palestinian people building a future of peace. I have lived in Jerusalem for 4 years (both our children were born there) and I have been to Bethlehem and Hebron with Encounter- a wondeful organisation that takes Jews from the diaspora (and now also Israeli Jews) to Palestinian cities to meet people and learn about their lives and their stories (Deep gratitude to Rabbi Melissa Weintraub and Illana Sumka). My experiences on those trips have been central to my thinking about this one. One of my heroes, Rabbi Michael Melchior said that nowadays we can’t choose between Jews and Palestinians but that if we love and want peace we need to choose both. I don’t have a clear idea of what choosing both amounts to in practical terms but it is a direction in which to approach this trip and all people we meet. We’ll be processing our experiences in dyads, smaller groups and at times in the large group. This is a journey of the spirit. What happens when we enter conflict-ridden spaces with open-heartedness and compassion. It is a journey also of the inside. I’ve lost my voice. My friend and teacher Jasmine Lance gave me a reading that evoked a sense of me giving up some old battles, finding my power in new/old places and residing in the place of feeling, going inside and taking inspiration from natural beauty.