Leadership for a World of Religious Diversity

RRC Logo
Multifaith World Banner

Israelis and Palestinians: Two Versions of a Shared Past

Learning Each Other's Historical NarrativeReaders of this blog know I believe that stories are central to our understanding of ourselves and the world. That explains why I majored in Religion rather than Philosophy in college. In my experience, the "big questions" often come down to what story or stories we think we are telling with our lives.

The tricky part is being willing to hear the stories of others, even when they are very different from our own. Religious pluralists are people who believe that the different stories of our traditions can exist amiably side-by-side; we need not make matters of faith into a zero-sum game. Brad Hirshfield, one of those pluralists, entitled his recent book, You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to be Right.

When the stories we tell involve historical events this becomes trickier still. Even more difficult is when the competing narratives about those events have implications for life and death matters in our world today. This is part of the reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains so fraught and intractable.

The Peace Research Institute in the Middle East recently published a book entitled, "Learning Each Other's Historical Narrative." After years of hearing complaints by both Palestinians and Israelis that the "other" teaches untruths in their textbooks, a group of Israelis and Palestinians decided to put both perspectives between one cover and offer it to both sides.

Ironically, the Israeli Education Ministry and the Palestinian Education Ministry have found a point on which they can agree. They both have banned the book.

You can read more about the book hereand peruse a preliminary English translation here. For the time being, the authors are looking into completing the English translation and publishing it in the United States. I am not vouching for either of the historical narratives presented in that book, but I look forward to reading them both, and discussing them with friends of different religions and different outlooks.

Have you had a chance to look at the translation? What do you think?

This is the archival site for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. It is no longer updated.

For the new site, please visit