In October 2005, the Institute had the good fortune to host Dr. Tal Litvak-
Hirsch as a visiting scholar. Students, faculty, and the local conflict resolution community all benefited tremendously from Dr. Litvak-Hirsch's visit to Colorado.
Dr. Litvak-Hirsch came to Denver from Earlham College in Indiana, where she is a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence for the Fall semester. Building on her back-ground in special education and child clinical psychology, Litvak-Hirsch earned her Ph.D. in social psychology at Ben Gurion University with a groundbreaking study that examined changes in the construction of the Israeli collective identity based upon the inclusion or exclusion of certain "others" — Arabs, Sephardic Jews, other religious, new immigrants, etc. She is credited with developing a new diagnostic tool — creating several "dilemmas" that involve "others" and evaluating the changes in identity construction they provoke among Jewish and Arab Israeli students — that at least one of her fellow researchers believes may help bring new levels of understanding between all parties involved in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Dr. Litvak-Hirsch is a social psychologist and researcher in the Behavioral Science Department at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, the fourth largest university in Israel. While at the Institute, Dr. Litvak-Hirsch presented "Palestinians and Israelis Are Listening to Each Other: Creating Dialog in a Conflict Context." In this public talk, Dr. Litvak-Hirsch presented three models of encounter groups between Israelis and Palestinians and focused on the "life story telling" method, a new model that was developed, applied, and evaluated in the last 5 years at Ben Gurion University. Life story telling requires each encounter group participant to interview an older family member and present that family member's "story" (history) to the larger group. This technique works especially well, because although you can argue politics or historical events, you cannot argue with a person's personal family history. Her presentation included film clips that mesmerized the audience with the personal stories of two of the encounter group's participants' relatives during the Holocaust (an Israeli participant's story) and during the 1948 war (a Palestinian participant's story). These film clips were from a video that Dr. Litvak- Hirsch helped make that follows a year-long encounter group between Jews and Palestinians in Israel.
Dr. Litvak-Hirsch also conducted a smaller workshop for CRI graduate students called "Using Qualitative Research Methods in the Field of Conflict Resolution" where she focused particularly on the qualitative methods she has used in her work. She discussed interviewing, analyzing interviews, and using the "life story telling" method. Students appreciated her willingness to share her reflections on the challenges and benefits of doing research in conflict resolution.
- T. Thompson