Prof. Aviva Doron Uses History to Promote Dialogue
When the European Union summons an Israeli, the latter’s first thought may be to call a lawyer and a public relations team. Israel has generally not had pleasant experiences with the EU in recent days. Just ask Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
But the summons that Assoc. Prof. Aviva Doron of the Dept. of Hebrew and Comparative Literature received late last Fall caused her to rush to Strasbourg, seat of the European parliament, without any thought of accompanying legal counsel. As for public relations, the fact that she was being asked to address the European body and the topic for which she was being summoned were positive headlines in themselves.
Doron, who is co-holder of the Unesco Chair in Inter-Cultural Dialog at the University, was requested to speak to the European parliamentarians about a special project she had developed: a role-playing game for high school students that is intended to promote inter-religious dialogue, mutual respect, and acceptance of the “other.” Appropriately named “Delicate Balance,” the game exploits students’ personal experiences in a role-play based on a historical paradigm: the Golden Age of Medieval Spain.
According to the game’s creator and initiator, “The project is unique in that it creates a situation of psychological distance from the focal point of friction in the present, while leaning on a historical model. The idea is to cultivate openness and tolerance in actual situations.” Doron called the role-play game “experimental and intellectual participation based on heritage.”
“Delicate Balance” had trial runs, successful ones, in several international contexts. The interest that various European bodies showed in it earned Doron an invitation to the European parliament.
“The reactions to the project were very positive,” said an excited Doron. “They even suggested that the European Union assist in having it translated into other languages and distribute in various countries.”
As Aviv Doron heads the Research Unit for the Cultures of Spain in her department, it is not surprising that the scene of the role-play is medieval Toledo, a Spanish city where the members of three religions—Moslems, Jews, and Christians—collaborated fruitfully in the spheres of literature, science, economics, and culture.
She described the game, which like many board games comes with cards but also with a guide book explaining the city’s three major communities: “The participants are invited to enter a time tunnel into the city, and each participant assumes the role of one of its inhabitants. All the participants are faced with a hypothetical dilemma. They then embark on a journey in which they develop a mature perception of the complexity of coexistence. Difficulties and obstacles alongside possibilities for conflict resolution.”
At the end of the process, she continued, “the participants might arrive at a better understanding of complex situations and willingly commit themselves to constructive activities that are conductive to a culture of peace.”
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