My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: II. Why Study Intercultural Friendships?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that involves many factors, related to history, geopolitics, national and religious identity and more. However, the conflict is also related to differences in value orientations, which guide attitudes and behaviors. In recent years, conflicts between Western and Muslim/Arab value orientations have been source of great tension, not only in Israel (Weinberg, 2003; Zemishlany, 2007). There is an abundance of studies on intercultural encounters (Schwartz, 1992), but not that many on encounters between Westerners and Arabs or Muslims in general, or with Palestinians or Bedouins in particular. Furthermore, most of the studies on intercultural encounters either combine theoretical and quantitative knowledge or provide a narrative, whereas integration of theory and a personal perspective seems rare. This study will try to integrate these different aspects of the intercultural encounter.
People tend to group together in communities or nations with similar value patterns (Hofstede, 2001; Ward et al., 2001). Groups tend to stereotype and distancing between groups can reinforce prejudice (Cottam et al., 2004; Samovar et al., 2009). This certainly seems true as regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Aberson et al., 2004; Rabinowitz, 1992). Personal acquaintance with people from other cultures is one of the ways to reduce prejudice. Friendships, as in intimate form of personal acquaintance, can be central in these intercultural encounters, providing the possibility to diminish stigmatization, widen horizons, and enhance mutual growth (Peterson, 2007; Sonnenschein et al., 2010). Studies on intercultural adult friendships are rare (Lee, 2008). With this dissertation, I will provide an autobiographic study of intercultural friendship, in an attempt to fill part of the gap in academic research in this field.