Over the past month, the world has seen a return of deadly and devastating conflict in the Middle East and that conflict is reverberating in our own communities and workplaces. Through news and social media, we are all getting front row seats and firsthand accounts of the horrors of war. Newscasts warn that their stories contain images that are difficult to watch, and those images are even more difficult to comprehend.
We have been having conversations with our colleagues, clients and our friends and supporters about how difficult it is to know what to do or say to be helpful and supportive, or at the very least not harmful. For many, this concern can be paralyzing.
We have also seen how many Jews, as well as Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are feeling left abandoned or ghosted by the people that they thought would reach out. And so, we have put together a list of things to consider as we work to maintain meaningful connections in times of this unprecedented conflict.
This conflict is complex and multilayered. But knowing some of the history will help you understand the context and realize that generations of trauma and tragedy are converging. and that the impact for anyone directly affected or connected is immense.
Begin with genuine empathy.
Reaching out to a friend is about human connection. Keep that connection at the centre of your mind and your conversations.
Making sense of the world is difficult for all of us right now. It's an emotional time for everyone but most especially your friends who are directly impacted. Fear and anger can lead someone to say some things which may seem out of character or may express views you have not heard them share before. Be generous with your care and understanding.
Remember your goal is to connect and offer comfort.
Commit to listening, and avoid arguing, or offering alternate viewpoints or historical interpretations. Now is not the time to argue politics or history.
Consider some responses you might make to keep the conversation grounded connection.
Give yourself grace.
This conflict and its impacts are unprecedented. There is so much hurt, and no one wants to add to that for our friends, colleagues, or community. It’s okay to not know exactly the right thing to say, but what matters is the genuine concern we communicate. If we get something wrong, we can apologize and affirm our care for our friends.
Give your friend grace.
Friends or colleagues may not respond immediately to emails or texts. They may feel overwhelmed. They may be turning towards family and their religious community out of a need to protect their energy, time, and emotions. A simple note letting them know you are thinking of them during this conflict, and that you would like to be a support in whatever way you can will leave the door open for connection when they are ready.
Be thoughtful about making public statements, especially on social media.
With the heightened awareness and emotions around this conflict, consider whether your comment is an important addition to the conversation. In Diversity, Equity and Inclusion circles we often talk about centering the voices which are the most affected. Even well-intentioned comments may cause unintended harm.
Find ways to support people in your community.
Many Jewish and Muslim businesses, community centres, and places of worship are seeing an increase in protests, hate motivated incidences, and boycotts. If your community is affected, you may consider reaching out or supporting those businesses. Standing up to hate is difficult but necessary.