Empathy in Israel


What does it take to create a new generation of empathic leaders? Ask teachers Taliah Nathanson, Lilly Khoury and author Assaf Gavron.

Taliah Nathanson, a teacher at the largely Jewish Ort Shapira School in Kfar Saba, Israel, reached out to Narrative 4 author Assaf Gavron first. He made the introductions that got her to the 2016 Narrative 4 Summit in Ireland. There she and Lilly Khouri, a teacher at the primarily Arab Baptist School in Nazareth, Israel, began to conceive of ways to build empathy between their students using the story exchange. And so the stage was set for the “object exchange” that took place between the students last week at Lilly’s school in Nazareth.

Preparation was key to endeavor. Taliah explained, “Each class read the same literary excerpts – “The Sabbath” from Assaf’s novel The Hilltop, which is brilliant, in my humble opinion – and had done object exchanges in their class. The students opened a WhatsApp group and had been in touch a couple of weeks beforehand.” And she added, “The kids were very excited to meet Assaf!”

On the eve of the exchange, Lilly wrote, “I have been working with my sweet precious students on empathy, acceptance of others no matter how different they are, and overcoming stereotypes and prejudice, for over two months.”

Their hard work paid off and the day was a complete success. In the students’ words:

“I met people here who are completely different from me . . . I never experienced stuff like this. When you get this experience shared with you it essentially opens your eyes to all that you haven’t thought of.”

“I never knew that objects can mean something so special to each person. When I heard someone else’s story, it was maybe just a ring but it meant more than that. It was really special because through objects we can see many stories and many things that are really deep and each person’s personality.”

“I think it is so cool that people can have so many different things that have so many stories behind them that you could never think of.”

“I really liked this and I wish we could meet again.”

Their wishes will be granted – Lilly and Taliah are planning another exchange for early June!

See the Nazareth Exchange on YouTube.