The Purpose

The Need
What We Do
Listening as a Transformative Methodology
Who We Target

Core Values

© Bruce Shaffer


Encounter is a non-partisan educa­tional orga­ni­za­tion culti­vating informed and construc­tive Jewish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The Need

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.

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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.

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© Shari Diamond

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.

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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.

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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.

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Our Mission

Encounter is an edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion dedi­cated to strength­ening the capacity of the Jewish people to be construc­tive agents of change in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moti­vated by the relent­less Jew­ish pur­suit of hokhma (wis­dom) and binah (under­stand­ing), Encounter cul­ti­vates informed Jew­ish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by bring­ing…

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