In an age where social media often amplifies division and conflict, especially in contexts as historically and emotionally charged as the Middle East, an upcoming series of events seeks to chart a different course. On April 7 and April 9, 2024, Heal Together Coalition, in collaboration with FeelReal Co., is set to host two groundbreaking gatherings that promise to offer a fresh perspective on peace through the lens of radical empathy.

The events, titled “How We Make Peace: A Muslim and a Jew Demonstrate Radical Empathy” and “Radical Empathy in the Middle East: Forging Connection Through Conversation,” feature Kawtar El Alaoui, a Muslim woman from Morocco, and David Sauvage, a Jewish man from the US. Both have extensive experience in teaching emotional intelligence, a skill they believe is foundational to bridging divides and healing wounds.

Scheduled six months after October 7, a date not specified but implying a context of ongoing conflict, these meetings come at a time when the urgency for understanding and compassion between communities cannot be overstated. The initiative aims not only to showcase the power of empathy in resolving disputes but also to actively involve participants in a process of deep listening and self-examination.

El Alaoui and Sauvage’s approach is termed ‘radical empathy’ for its focus on confronting and embracing the ‘shadow’ or hidden aspects of ourselves and our societies. This method posits that only by facing these often-uncomfortable realities can individuals and groups move towards genuine reconciliation and peace. “We believe that radical empathy is how we make peace—lasting and true peace—between each other and between groups,” El Alaoui explained, highlighting the difficulty yet indispensability of such a process. Sauvage added, “It’s extremely hard and takes a lot of skill, but there is no other way.”

The conversations, set to occur both online and in person at NeueHouse in New York City, are positioned as dynamic and transformative exchanges. The organisers promise an experience that is spontaneous, unpredictable, healing, and enlightening, extending an open invitation for people to participate in these significant dialogues. Interested parties are encouraged to RSVP, marking these events as inclusive platforms for interaction and collective growth.

FeelReal Co. and the Heal Together Coalition, responsible for orchestrating these sessions, articulate a vision for a world where contentious issues are addressed through courage and genuine discourse. With previous events attracting hundreds of attendees and generating insightful discussions, as evidenced by video highlights and podcast appearances by El Alaoui and Sauvage, the upcoming meetings hold significant promise.

The backdrop to these dialogues is a complex web of historical, political, and social factors that have long perpetuated discord between Muslims and Jews, particularly concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, by rooting the conversation in emotional intelligence and empathetic engagement, El Alaoui and Sauvage seek to offer an alternative narrative—one that showcases the potential for understanding, healing, and ultimately peace, even in the most entrenched of conflicts.

As the world watches, the success of these events could offer valuable lessons on the power of empathy in conflict resolution and the potential for diverse communities to find common ground through sincere and open-hearted conversation.