Encounter is a non-partisan educational organization cultivating informed and constructive Jewish leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While the Jewish community continues to be one of the most influential stakeholders in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, most American Jews have never met a Palestinian, nor seriously encountered Palestinian narratives or perspectives. Influential segments of the American Jewish community advocate for solutions to the conflict and educate the next generation about it in complete isolation from Palestinian people and claims. This information vacuum perpetuates our failure to bring about real, viable solutions and furthermore, research demonstrates that simplistic advocacy efforts are driving away our next generation’s engagement with the Jewish community and their commitment to Israel.
What We Do
Encounter exists to reverse and transform this reality. Founded by American rabbis and rooted in Jewish tradition, Encounter is a conflict transformation organization, equipping influential Jewish leaders from across the political and ideological spectra with access to Palestinian perspectives and claims on the ground. Encounter’s flagship two-day trips, advanced and alumni programs, and our Davar Acher: Leadership Program bring Jewish participants to the West Bank on tours to meet with Palestinian leaders in business, media, non-violence activism, education, and politics. Encounter also works with leading educators and alumni to revamp Israel education so that our youth are more equipped and committed to act as informed change agents and less inclined to give up the “Israel project” altogether.
Underlying all of Encounter’s work is the core belief that innovative strategies for peace will be created only when influential stakeholders in a conflict have opportunities to meet one another, to open themselves to previously disregarded points-of-view, and to develop relationships across political and ideological divides.
Our Innovative Strategy: Listening as a Transformative Methodology
By design, we are not a dialogue organization. Encounter encourages participants to listen to and absorb Palestinian narratives and claims without disregarding what they already know and believe to be true. By simply listening and by forgoing the usual route of raucous debate, participants expose themselves to viewpoints that they formerly may have disdained. The experience enables them to integrate these new perspectives rather than defend against them. Encounter provides a safe and Jewish-identity affirming atmosphere for all of our participants, reinforcing that to grapple with the conflict we need not check our Judaism at the door. There are kosher food and prayer services for those who require them.
Who We Target: American Jewish Leadership
Our past participants, 1700 American Jews, represent the full gamut of opinions on the conflict—from anti-occupation activists to staunch settlement supporters. On these trips, participants from these diverse backgrounds sleep in the homes of former militants and pore over maps and histories for hours with their hosts—discovering all the while a reality previously unknown to most of them. Past participants include Orthodox and Reform rabbis and educators, settlement funders and anti-occupation activists.
Encounter’s Core Values
Encounter is an educational organization that cultivates informed Jewish leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not take specific positions regarding the outcome of the conflict. We do, however, hold a set of values that underlie all of our work, including our organizational programs, alumni activities, and staff and board interactions. Our vision is one of genuine peace: an environment of safety and equity that embraces the full dignity of all.
- שמע / Shema / Listening
- Encounter cultivates resilient mutual listening and curiosity, between Jews and Palestinians as well as between Jews and other Jews with divergent worldviews.
- כבוד / Kavod / Dignity
- Encounter affirms the fundamental dignity of all human beings, and encourages deep respect for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of all people.
- חכמה / Hokhma / Wisdom
- Encounter values the persistent seeking of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, particularly of unfamiliar and differing perspectives.
- רחמים / Rakhamim / Compassion
- Encounter encourages all of us to find softness within ourselves, and to extend mercy, graciousness, and the most expansive possible view of each other.
- פתיחת לב / Petikhat Lev / Openness
- Encounter encourages receptivity rather than dogmatism, openness to being transformed by new encounters and ideas.
- בכל נפשך / B’khol naf’shekha / Holism
- Encounter programs integrate mind, body, and heart-– taking into consideration the complexity of learning needs and the fullness of the human person.
- אלו ואלו / Elu v’elu / Multiple voices
- Encounter values the multiplicity of voices within societies and even within individuals, knowing our deepest creativity often emerges from contradictions and complexity.