David Mendelsohn

Study program:
Ph.D. Islamic Studies, McGill University
Current affiliation:
Director, Academic Department, Givat Haviva Institute

David aims to identify the role played by socio-linguistic factors when discourse takes place between the Palestinians and Israelis

Two Cultures: One Land

A major challenge that has rarely been addressed in the efforts to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis is the socio-linguistic factor. The differing cultures of the Israelis and Palestinians have resulted in misunderstandings at the negotiating table because of the manner in which sentiments were phrased. Research into the cultural roots behind expressed sentiments will help both sides realize when the voicing of a culturally coloured sentiment does not reflect a desire to thwart the peace effort or create an impasse.

It was an enlightening experience to interact with my fellow scholars at the various conferences and institutes. The opportunity to learn from each other's research and life experiences may well be the most positive outcome of my time as a Trudeau Scholar. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Trudeau scholar has been finding kindred spirits in other academic disciplines that at first glance appear to have nothing in common with my own. Thus I have discussed and developed the connection between the relevance and interconnectivity of globalization on language and food with one, the relationship of gender, linguistics and architecture, with another, the relevance of feminist theory on language with a third one, etc. I feel one of the greatest weaknesses that cripples modern Academia lies in its segregation of disciplines and one of the Trudeau Foundations greatest assets has been to prove that the seemingly disparate threads are in fact part of the same greater fabric.

My mentor, Stephanie Nolen has been extremely helpful in her encouragement and willingness to explore and create a meaningful mentor/mentoree relationship. For us it meant forming an honest and straightforward friendship where ideas were formented and exchanged at a rapid and frequent rate. Stephanie has been kind enough to introduce me with contacts and friends of hers in Israel, Palestine, Ethopia and South Africa. These contacts have been instrumental in allowing me to understand cultural conflicts and possibilities for resolution in a global context.