By Lucky Gold and Christiane Amanpour, CNN
The showdown between Russia and Ukraine demonstrates how hard it is understand the story of “the other.”
The struggle over narratives dates back at least to the time of the Passover – which began on Monday – when Pharoah kept the people of Moses in bondage.
Now imagine a world where imagining the other could mean deliverance for warring sides such as Israelis and Palestinians.
In what may be a first, Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian professor at al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, recently took 27 of his students to Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp in Poland.
The idea was to promote greater understanding between peoples.
And yet Professor Dajani was branded by many of his own people as a traitor.
He proudly calls himself a Palestinian nationalist, but he's also a fan of renowned Israeli author Amos Oz – who appeared on this program four years ago to talk precisely about understanding the other.
He came with a Palestinian lawyer whose son had been killed, and who had commissioned an Arabic translation of Oz's work.
“To know the other side is something important – whether we want to fight him or whether we want to make peace with him,” Elias Khoury told Amanpour. “Knowledge is a light, for good and for bad.”
Oz himself spoke of the importance of translating and understanding the other.
“I am a great believer in literary translations between enemies as a healer, as a method of removing stereotypes and replacing the hated by more complex – not necessarily by love … but it will improve the ability to imagine the other. And I believe imagining the other is a moral quality.”
In an email to CNN, Professor Dajani explained his trip to Auschwitz.
“The goal of this trip was to study to what extent would empathy for the suffering of the other impacts reconciliation and peace,” Professor Dajani said. “How would Palestinian students visiting the Nazi concentration death camps feel about the suffering of the other as human beings?”
“The present conflict is influencing to a great extent the way Palestinians view the Holocaust. It was important to for those who lived in a culture of denial to experience first-hand the realities of the terror and atrocities committed during the holocaust in order to break this taboo.”
“I felt sad for the negative reaction of a vocal minority who still find it hard to face the truth and to confront their demons. This was an educational trip and I do regret that it has been so politicized.”