Taking Soundings recently worked with Together for Peace, Leeds Met University’s festival of politics, Leeds Met University’s International Volunteering office, and Dr Sarah Perrigo (Bradford University Peace Studies) on a rather different kind of political event. Rather than locking into conflict over the Israel-Palestine issue, a panel of people who visited Israel and Palestine over the summer simply spoke about their experiences.
The Together for Peace speakers were from a Jewish-Muslim conversation group that has been meeting in Leeds for two years or more. The Leeds Met speakers were part of a trip for young people organised in conjunction with the UK Friends of Abraham’s Path. Dr Perrigo had visited with Labour Friends of Palestine, but had added a week visiting friends in Israel.
T4P group member Jacoov, from Brooklyn, who’d migrated for many years to Israel and was now settled in Leeds, told a joke which captured the spirit of the event:
Mr Cohen died. Mrs Cohen sent the death notice to her newspaper: “Mr Cohen has died”.
The newspaper rang her back and said that she was entitled to seven words, so please would she supply another three. Mrs Cohen said she’d think about what to say and call back.
She called back. “Mr Cohen has died. Volvo for sale”.
Jacoov said that when he tells the joke to his Muslim friends they say, that’s funny, we have the same joke but ours ends with “Nissan for sale”.
About 50 people crowded into the room, including two groups of young people from Oldham and Leeds who were part of a British Council Active Citizens programme. Some of them are going to Israel and Palestine in the near future. While they heard all that was said about the Israeli state’s persecution of the Palestinians, they too are going in the spirit of this event – to engage in dialogue and and respectful discussion.