Israeli Storyteller Noa Baum to Visit U of M This Week

J Street U (University of Michigan) will be hosting an exciting event Wednesday when they bring Israeli storyteller Noa Baum to University of Michigan to share stories from her A Land Twice Promised.

Noa Baum is an Israeli who has lived in the United States since 1990. While living in Davis, California, she became friends with a Palestinian woman. “I’d had Palestinian colleagues before, but never a friend from the West Bank,” Noa writes on her website. “Until we met, she had never known an Israeli who wasn’t a soldier or a settler. We both grew up in Jerusalem, in very different worlds. A Land Twice Promised stems from our dialogue.”

A Land Twice Promised weaves together the memories and stories of the two friends and their mothers:

  •  A Palestinian living under Israeli occupation as a child and as a university student
  • An Israeli child’s experience of the 1967 war
  • A young Palestinian mother’s memory of the 1967 war
  • A young Israeli woman’s experience of the 1948 war and the loss of her brother

The result is a moving testimony that illuminates the complex and contradictory history and emotions surrounding Jerusalem, for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Building trust, she writes, took many years:

As an Israeli, it was not easy to hear her story. I was forced to confront many of my own deep-rooted misconceptions and, in the process, gained insight into the world of my “enemies.” It was not easy for my friend to hear stories of my family either—initially she was reluctant, but after hearing my story she said: “I felt my people had enough suffering and I didn’t want to hear about yours, but now that I did I am glad. I think I understand something about your people that I didn’t understand before.”

We spent hours arguing and getting defensive as we struggled with the voices of our respective historical narratives that we believed were The Truth. And yet, we were always able to sustain our compassion and never stopped talking and listening to one another.

Our conversations reminded me of Gene Knudsen-Hoffman’s words “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” … I tell the human story that stands apart from politics and hope that hearing it will call upon us to listen with compassion without surrendering to prejudice and fear, choose dialogue, and commit to peace.

According to Clare Kinberg, co-director of the Ann Arbor chapter of J Street as well as managing editor of Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, “Noa has performed with this message of peace all over the world, and now we are so lucky she is coming to Michigan. We published in Bridges a couple of years ago her story of working in intensive dialogue with Muslims, Christians, and Jews over a long weekend in Rochester. I only wish she could stay longer.”

J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.

Here are the details of Noa’s visit. Mark your calendar:

  • Date: Wednesday April 14, 2010
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Place: University of Michigan, East Quad, on 701 East University, Ann Arbor
  • For more information: 301 379 8266