Life Maps

Often on polarized issues, we encounter peoples’ positions without seeing the genuine concerns, complexity, and experiences that lie behind them.

The primary purpose of this exercise is for participants to share – and hear – some of the background, stories and experiences that have shaped each other’s respective relationships to and perspectives on Israel.

Read Instructions and Communication Agreement (20 min.)

Think about experiences, Participants share (30 min.)

Asking questions, noting themes, connected conversation (20 min.)

Closing in full group (10 min.)


Facilitators: Start by briefly explaining your role. Say something like: “I am ______ and tonight I’ll be lightly facilitating our conversation. Tonight is a night of story-sharing– you will be doing the overwhelming majority of the talking by sharing your personal backgrounds and experiences and then reflecting on your stories together. My role is to support your conversation.

We’ll be doing a life-mapping exercise that will start with each of you thinking about some of the most important experiences, people, places, relationships, interactions, etc. that have shaped your relationship to Israel/Palestine. See #2 in the notes you have in front of you.”

  1. Read the communication agreement out loud, taking turns reading each commitment. Have participants nod assent to the communication agreement.

    Note that conversations will be self-facilitated in the sense that all participants will support each other to honor this agreement, gently reminding each other when participants deviate from commitments such as sharing airtime.

  2. Life-mapping: Take a couple of min. to think about three of the most important experiences, people, places, relationships, interactions, etc. that have shaped your relationship to Israel and/or the Middle East. You may want to think of one word or image that will help you remember each experience.

    • Those for whom Israel is not central could think about experiences that have given rise to indifference to or alienation from Israel; ways Israel has come up for them in Jewish community; and/or experiences that have shaped their Jewish identities around other pillars.

    • Israelis may wish to share experiences that have shaped their broad relationship to their government, land, and/or country.

  3. Participants will then share some of these pivotal moments for 3 min. each, elaborating on them in any way you’d like. You may want to pick just one moment, rather than trying to include them all.

    Facilitators: it is very important that you keep time and signal people when they reach 3 min. (letting them finish their sentence).

    Connected conversation
  4. Questions: After all of the participants have shared, you are invited to ask questions of each other. Try to ask questions that reflect genuine curiosity and not a disguised challenge. Is there a story that you’d like to understand better? Are you curious to learn more about some aspect of another person’s background or experience? If a question comes to you, you are welcome to pass if you don’t want to answer a question.

  5. Themes and differences: Once some initial questions have been posed, note themes you’d like to build on, parallels between stories, or differences among participants (try to ask clarifying questions before assuming you know what’s at the heart of possible disagreements).