How To Have Hard Conversations About Israel and Palestine With Fellow Jews

The way we talk to each other now will impact how we’re able to move forward for decades to come.

If you’re Jewish, you’ve likely heard the old adage that defines our people: two Jews, three opinions. Our religion and our culture is one that is based on questioning, debating, studying and learning together. It’s very typical to have a lengthy argument between two Jews that concludes in more questions than answers, and includes no fewer than three (3) opinions — yes, even when there are only two (2) of us.

But since October 7, many Jews are finding that for every two Jews, there might be many, many more opinions than just three. And disagreeing with fellow Jews, especially when we are all feeling so emotionally raw and disregulated, can be particularly painful and frustrating. It’s one thing to disagree with people from other religions, or people you don’t expect to understand you and your worldview — but many of us turn to Judaism for a sense of security and belonging, and it can be profoundly destabilizing when we don’t find those things amongst our Jewish community.

The Hey Alma team has felt all of this for the past four months, and we don’t anticipate it changing anytime soon. Our small team often does not share the exact same views, and we know our audience doesn’t either. We’ve struggled with how to talk to each other, and how to be a resource for everyone we consider part of the Hey Alma community — which means all Jews, and all of our opinions. And while finding ways to talk to one another about Israel and Palestine is definitely not the only important thing right now — finding a way to end the violence and captivity and bring peace and safety to everyone is obviously the most pressing issue — the way we communicate with our fellow Jews is not nothing.

We want to help our community find ways to talk to one another and hopefully understand each other better. And when we recently polled our audience about how you’re approaching difficult conversations with fellow Jews, you had a lot of really excellent advice to share, as always.

We’re grateful to everyone in our community for sharing space together and for making an effort to have challenging conversations. We know that, like us, many of you feel that the future of the Jewish people and our moral obligations to the Jewish soul are at stake. How we talk to each other now will impact how we’re able to move forward for decades to come. We owe it to ourselves and our community to try to have these hard conversations. Here’s how some of you are going about this important work.

Responses have been lightly edited and/or condensed for length and clarity.

How are you talking to other Jews that you may disagree with these days?

I try to approach conversations with as much patience as possible, but I find myself growing frustrated.

I preserve my energy for people I have trusting relationships with. I affirm emotions and point out where we do agree, even if it’s over something small. And then I let my Instagram posts do the talking.

I am trying to be open-minded to hearing different opinions and hoping that others will do the same.

I try to start with reminding myself of the other person’s positive intent, especially family and close friends. I try to see their statements in greater context.

I work on maintaining our relationship even if we have to stay away from topics we know we’ll disagree on. Arguing won’t change anyone’s perspective and we’re all feeling vulnerable and in need of Jewish connection. Most change happens when in relationship with another person — not from a stranger online — so maintaining these connections feels hopeful.

I’m trying to listen more than talk.

I respect that we are all Jewish regardless of our beliefs about the war.

I go into every conversation with compassion. I do not have the same life experience as anyone. Everyone holds their opinions for a reason and people don’t mean harm. Complex situations are fraught with emotions and passion. I have not been in anyone’s shoes but my own. I cannot judge. I can only extend compassion and empathy and try to understand where they are coming from, regardless of my position.

Are there any tools that you’re using to help have hard conversations right now?

I ask folks if they are open to having a dialogue. Some are and some aren’t. That’s a helpful way to begin.

I engage with sources I agree and disagree with so I’m coming into any conversation with more understanding of what the other person is viewing and believing.

Books written before October 7 are really helpful for me.

I find writing my thoughts out in advance really helps if I want to bring something up with my family.

I make sure there’s enough space and time to properly listen to each other. This isn’t a quick conversation.

I use the principles and guidelines of nonviolent communication.

I remind everyone that we are one people. It helps.

I rely on history, facts, direct quotes, evidence.


What are some successful ways you’ve had challenging conversations since October 7?

I center love and humanity.

I start by acknowledging that I’m hurting, that they’re hurting, that all of this is messed up. Then we can talk.

I start off by explaining that before we go into details, please be mindful of the fact that we’re talking about my history, culture, religion, ethnicity and potential existential place on this earth.

I provide resources and share stories of my lived experience.

I try to remain calm.

I’ve provided books and articles not found on social media, and the person I’m conversing with has done the same.

I go slow. I’m vulnerable. I practice active listening.

I ask more questions than anything else.

I choose wisely who to have these challenging conversations with, and I never consider myself in opposition to someone who disagrees with me.

I feel grateful to have people in my life who help me understand things through a new lens.

I remember that collective liberation means freedom from oppression for all — the only people who benefit from antisemitism and Islamophobia are bigots.

If it happens when we’re also practicing Judaism, in ritual or after, it opens the door a bit more. Leaning into our religion together has been incredibly helpful.

I read the room to know when someone really wants to talk. If they do, I bring up a topic that is challenging, start with asking a question and the conversation can go from there. The conversation should remain calm with an inquisitive mindset. We’re all about questioning through Judaism, so this comes naturally, but it’s about HOW you approach a conversation. Ending a conversation with more questions is also a good thing.

How are you taking care of yourself after challenging conversations these days?

I check in with myself after the conversation to see whether the conversation has changed my own views. If not I grant myself the right to reconfirm my view.

I journal. I rant about everything I said wrong (in my opinion) and everything they said that I didn’t agree with. I let it all out in a journal, take some deep breaths and close the journal.

I make sure my social media feeds and my real life are filled with people whose opinions I trust and respect so that I don’t feel so alone when I have to have hard conversations with people who disagree.

I talk with friends who get it, do yoga, meditate, walk outside, take deep breaths and have a cocktail.

I talk to friends about literally anything else.

I’ve been going to the library more and reading books that brought me comfort as a child.

I eat hummus and olive oil on bread and make challah and shakshuka.

I hug my baby, listen to more Jewish music and incorporate more Jewish traditions into our lives.

I limit my time on social media, and spend that time educating myself on Jewish history and culture and putting more time into Jewish relationships offline.


Alone time.

Working on being OK with being vulnerable.

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