Connecting Through Nonviolent Discussion

A community forum featuring the voices of Palestinian Americans, a rabbi, a pastor, scholars and more seeks to connect Jewish and Arab communities through empathy and understanding

With heated discussions internationally and locally around the Israel-Hamas War, some community members in Eugene are taking an alternative approach: nonviolent communication. 

On Sunday Dec. 10 Steve Goldman and six other speakers are guiding a discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Church about Israel and Palestine with the hopes of reconnecting Jewish and Arab communities through empathy and understanding.

The six speakers at the event include: Ibrahim Hamide, Palestinian American Muslim and owner of Cafe Soriah; Rabbi Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein of Temple Beth Israel; Pastor Zane Ridings of First Christian Church; Mor Schlesinger, a Jewish American who has lived in Israel for 10 years and served in its military; Alex Awad, a Palestinian American Christian and advocate for nonviolent approaches to resolve conflict; and Steven Shankman, professor emeritus and UNESCO Chair.

Goldman is an environmentalist who has devoted his retirement years to spreading nonviolent communication across the globe. He says he has taught nonviolent communication tactics to therapists, prison inmates, school children and has traveled to Israel and Palestine twice to join discussions with Israelis and Palestinians about a path to peace.

“I’m hoping that we can connect with each other and see that different members of the community actually have the same needs as one another,” Goldman says.

These speakers will each have five minutes to “set the tone and display various perspectives.” The floor will then be opened up to whoever wants to share their thoughts and feelings, but it must be done in a manner that is respectful. 

Goldman modeled the forum after a similar one he held in California right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He says that after the success of that forum in 2001 he felt mobilized by the tragedy in Gaza to try it in Eugene. Goldman says, “All kinds of people came together; immigrants who shared their vision of why they came to America. People shared from the heart and we all felt very connected after because we had a better understanding of what had happened and why.”

He says he’s been working on this forum over the last month and has already had his eyes opened by the members of the community he’s met. One of the speakers whom Goldman recently met is Awad, a Palestinian Christian man who lost his father in the Nakba, the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He says that after hearing Awad’s story he now feels a pressure to continue working with ways to find a path to peace in Gaza. 

“People are disconnected. They have all sorts of judgements about one another and they don’t talk to each other regularly enough. This is about connecting the community together,” Goldman says. 

Community Forum: Israel, Palestine, and America; Connecting Across Differences Through Deep Listening and Loving Speech is 2 pm to 5 pm, Sunday Dec. 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church 1685 W. 13th Avenue. The free event is also on Zoom. For more information contact Goldman at or call 541-686-3056.

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