Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

Some days ago we were heading back to Switzerland and Germany for our summer break after a year of work within the project, so it’s about time to take stock what we have achieved so far.

As a family we had the privilege to live, work and go to school in the Israeli and Palestinian Culture. We can truly say that we were received with unfaltering kindness, hospitality and openness and we made dear friends in both places. It is the outstanding characters of these people and the values we experienced first hand which give us hope that there is indeed an amazing potential for peace in this embattled region.

In terms of research, we have two exciting studies under our belt with very interesting results how individual and group emotions interact with conflict related events. What gave me hope as well was one of my rare days at the university that I’m attached to in Israel and the interaction with the Lab members. The academic world can contribute to peace, can change people minds & hearts through:

  • A guest professor lecturing on a not really related topic but nicely showing the academic handling of complex issue including applying a theoretical construct in practical ways.
  • My Israeli Arab colleague deftly moving through a complicated SPSS dataset bringing order into chaos and discussing first results and conclusions.
  • Presentations of the more exotic members of the group, a psycholinguist and our “artist in residence” widening the scope of what is possible in research.

More than the awareness that it’s not me alone but wider effort, almost all of my friends and colleagues are impacted by the conflict, either experienced loss or imprisonment of a loved one, own injury or “close calls” of threat. In some examples these near misses have not triggered a response of hatred or becoming right wing, but a response of reaching out to the other via finding out more, finding solutions.

So, as we say farewell to Israel and Palestine for a month, in the words of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad “So many things not achieved yet, wonderful future”…