My Pain – Your Pain: The Battle on Collective Memory

The following article has been contributed by Nili Keren, Ph.D., former teachers’ trainer and lecturer at the Kibbutzim College of Education in Tel Aviv. She is internationally recognized for her important work in Holocaust Education as well as research on the shaping of memory of the Holocaust in European countries.

Nili Keren, Ph.D. © ConAct/Ruthe Zuntz

The national collective narrative of the Israelis was shaped by the disastrous events of the Holocaust and by the War of Independence which was forced on the Jewish population in Palestine – Eretz Israel in 1947–1948. The victory of the Israelis and the mistakes made by the Arab leaders inside the country and by Arab leaders around created the tragedy of the Palestinian Arabs known as “The Nakba”. Few years ago the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) issued a law that forbid the Arabs to mourn their tragedy on the same day the Israelis celebrate their independence.

There is a lot to say about this issue from many points of view, but the most important point I want to deal with here is the damages of ignoring one another’s tragedy, as if it is done at the expense of remembering the other’s sufferings and/or glory. This is a very important educational question from historical aspect, but even more important as a moral and humanistic issue.

Isn’t the tragedy of the Israeli Arabs a part of the history of Israeli Jews? Isn’t the tragedy of the Native Americans (“Indians”) a part of the great American history of freedom and independence?

Europe is experiencing a wave of new ethnic groups of refugees lately which will soon be part of its population. They are carrying with them their narratives, their memories including their tragedies. Only humanistic and pluralistic education as well as compassion for the sufferings of the “other” can create a tolerant and accepting society in those societies who experience such phenomena as waves of refugees, as well as immigrants.

The big picture of the Western society in these days is the confrontation with the “Islamic waves” from the Middle East and Africans fleeing from their continent. If we still want to keep Western values and solid democracies we have to put all our efforts in educating our youth and their youth to respect everyone’s memories, narratives and histories.

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