Special episode: Paths to peace with Chloe Valdary


Join us for a special conversation with Chloe Valdary, founder of Theory of Enchantment, a New York-based organization that has arisen as an alternative to the DEI model, and fights against racism and bigotry by teaching love. Chloe delves into her respectful approach to societal conflict as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, antisemitism and social media. Chloe, Noam, and Mijal dive into a thought-provoking discussion about paths to peace, and whether or not Chloe believes it is even possible to achieve.

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Noam: Hey everyone, welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam: And I’m Noam. And this podcast is our way of trying to figure out the Jewish world. We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re gonna try to figure out some big items together. And today, we have a third wonderer. That’s right. We have another guest. And we know our listeners, even if they don’t know her, they’re gonna love her too.

Chloe Valdary (courtesy)

So here’s who it is. Today we have Chloe Valdary. Chloe is the founder of the Theory of Enchantment, a New York-based inclusion and belonging organization that fights against racism and bigotry by teaching love. The organization’s work has been featured in Atlantic Magazine, the New York Times, and other publications as well.

But that’s not how I know Chloe. The way I know Chloe is we used to work together and we used to spend a lot of time together. We also, years ago, we spoke about doing a podcast together. It was called Jamming. It was something like, you remember that? Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was called, I forgot what it was called. We did our Friday, it was Fridays, that we did our deep dive sessions for an hour on big ideas and we would talk together. And Chloe is someone that I used to work with, someone that I learned a lot from, learned a lot from.

So it is so incredibly exciting for both Mijal and me to have you on our show, Chloe.

Chloe: Thank you so much for having me. I’m also very excited to be in conversation with you both. I feel like it’s a kind of homecoming almost, like a reunion. And yeah, I’m just so grateful to be here with you both.

Mijal: Chloe, I want to add something to your bio. I’ve been reading you for years. I think maybe a couple of years ago, we got to have some really nice conversations in person also and a nice Shabbat lunch where you taught me how to make really good tuna salad. I don’t know if you remember that.

Noam: Mijal, you’re doing the food reference today.

Mijl: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just, I was like, okay, I am terrible at cooking. You told me you have to put spices on it. yes. Okay. I learned.

Noam: You’re including making tuna fish as cooking?

Mijal: Noam, one second. I was going to add something to Chloe’s bio. I was going to say, Chloe, I admire a lot about you and your work. Sometimes there’s people who have huge platforms and you kind of know what they’re gonna say before they say it. And you kind of know they’re gonna go like a specific direction and like signal something. And you have, I’m saying this like, you know, to me it’s a compliment, you have consistently spoken in a way that is unique and that adds value and that is not trying to signal, like, allegiance to a camp.

And I always learn a lot from anything you say. Whether I agree or disagree, I always learn. And I really admire that because in a world where it’s easy to have audience capture and easy to kind of say, this is where I belong, my team, your team, you really stand out. So always really grateful for your voice and that you came to join us today.

Chloe: Thank you. I really appreciate that.

Mijal: Before we talk about big complicated issues, just kidding, we do have listener questions, which we really enjoy. We have a listener question from Rosie today and that is the following. So I’ll start with you Chloe and then Noam. If you could have any job in the world that’s not the one that you have right now, what would it be?

Chloe: I would be a professional singer and would like to tour the world doing that. That’s why you want to jam together.

Mijal: You just took Noam’s job away from him. So what are you going to sing? Give me an example.

Chloe: You want to sing right now?

Mijal: Give us something. Give us something. Just do it now.

Noam: You made your bed.

[Chloe sings]

Noam: That was much better than when I sang Tag Team.

Mijal: I wasn’t going to say that, but you said it.

Noam: So much better.

Mijal: It’s beautiful.

Noam: Yeah, that was beautiful. Thank you, Chloe. Thank you. What’s that song?

Chloe: It’s an original song I wrote a number of years ago called Here.

Mijal: It’s beautiful. 

Chloe: Thank you.

Mijal: Yeah. Noam, what’s your job?

Noam: I think you should go before me.

Mijal: Why?

Noam: Because I think you’re gonna, the two of you are, are gonna be on the same page here.

Mijal: I think I, and I’m not gonna be at the same page as a musician, no. Maybe not, I’m kind of a astronaut. No, I think I would have really enjoyed being like, like a constitutional lawyer.

Chloe: yeah, I could see that.

Mijal: Sorry, like I just love this stuff, you know what I mean?

Chloe: I could see that. 

Miijal: Yeah, yeah, so I would have just like, you know. You know, that might have been my other path not taken.

Noam: Okay. Those are two great jobs that the two of you have.

Mijal: Okay. What about you, Noam?

Noam: I would be an usher at Madison Square Garden.

Chloe: Wow, yeah.

Noam: I always want to sit courtside.

Chloe: For games?

Noam: Yeah, for games. For basketball games. Any way to sit courtside, I’m in.

Chloe: I love that. I also feel like that tracks. From what I know about you. Exactly.

Noam: So, you two are quite aspirational. Nothing wrong with being an usher.

Chloe: No, not at all.

Noam: Okay, let’s get into it, Mijal.

Mijal: Yeah. So, Chloe. Yes. Thanks for coming. Do you want to tell us a little bit about Theory of Enchantment and just a little bit like what it is, what’s the theory behind it and what’s the mission of Theory of Enchantment?

Chloe: So Theory of Enchantment is an organization that focuses on inclusion and belonging and we primarily work with companies. We sell workshops and digital products and services to train employees at companies on how to navigate conflict in healthy ways, in productive ways. See 2020, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Ibram Kendi, Robin D’Angelo, all of those buzz names and words you might be familiar with. In 2020, theory of enchantment sort of emerged as an alternative approach to DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. One that was not dehumanizing anyone based upon skin color or gender or socioeconomic status. And to be more precise, one that did not dehumanize white people and did not assume the lived experiences of any people, but especially white people where there were other programs that were doing that, that were very prominent at that time.

Can you just give an example, Chloe, for those who might not have followed this so much? What are you situating your work in alternative to?

Chloe: Sure. So in the United States in particular, there was a kind of model of DEI that said in order to fight against racism in a sustainable way, we had to talk about white people or categorize white people as privileged, as a member of the “oppressor” class and the people of color as a “oppressed” class. And so the oppressor-oppressed dichotomy comes out of that framing. And the way that unfolds in workshops, if you are an employee attending a workshop that’s put on by the HR department, you often have to sit through programming that berated white people and also dehumanized people of color because it stigmatized us as perennially victims.

And so that was a very popular framework, again, that was touted to be able to successfully fight against racism, but it ended up actually creating a backlash. It ended up creating a lot of feelings of guilt and shame among white people, which also isn’t helpful.

And so our, the theory of enchantment is an alternative. We have three very basic principles and everything that we do is in service of those three principles. First principle is treat people like human beings, not political abstractions. Second principle is criticized to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy. And third principle is root everything you do in love and compassion.

The final thing I’ll say about it at this point in our conversation is that we believe that superiority is an overcompensation for feelings of insecurity. So if a person or a group of people are feeling insecure for whatever reason, maybe they don’t have the necessary material needs to feel safe, maybe they don’t have the necessary psychological or emotional needs to feel safe, and they don’t know how to deal with that. This is what we do as a species, we overcompensate by projecting our insecurities onto others as a way to discharge the pain.

And so in order to sustainably change that, one of the things we can’t do is make people feel even more worthless because that is the seed to supremacy, but one of the things we can do is actually teach people how to get in right relationship with the fullness of who they are as human beings, including their insecurities, because we all have insecurities, that’s what it means to be human. So ultimately to learn how to love oneself fully and completely and compassionately, and only then will we be able to direct that same love and compassion to the other. And that’s the theory of enchantment.

Mijal: I have so many questions. Noam, do you have so many questions?

Noam: Of course I do.

Mijal: Back and forth?

Noam: Yeah.  You created the theory of enchantment before DEI became popular.

Chloe: I did.

Noam: So, talk to me about that. You said it’s as an alternative to DEI work. But the reality is, you’ve been developing this in earnest since 2016, 2017.

Chloe: Yes.

Noam: 2018. And DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion became popular, like you said, in 2020, 2021.

Chloe: Yes.

Noam: So it predates DEI.

Chloe: Yes.

Mijal: So talk to us about that.

Chloe: Sure. So I developed the theory of enchantment originally as a response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I studied in college. I majored in international studies with a concentration in conflict and diplomacy, had a pro-Israel student club at the University of New Orleans, did Israel advocacy for a number of years and discovered that, for lack of a better way of putting it, hasbara was failing.

Noam: What’s hasbara?

Chloe: Hasbara is this idea in Israeli politics writ large that one can defend oneself by explaining oneself, essentially. And that whole paradigm, as well as what I was exposed to educationally, which I loved the education that I received at the University of New Orleans, but there was no paradigm rooted explicitly in love, or rather in the question of how do we learn how to love each other amidst this conflict, or in spite of this conflict, or in order to get through this conflict. There was no framework that was focused on that explicitly or asking that question explicitly.

And so I developed the theory of enchantment initially as a response to that. And the initial first principle of the theory of enchantment was not merely treat people like human beings, not political abstractions. It was treat Israelis and Palestinians like human beings, not political abstractions. So I was working on that for a number of years. I was working with you at OpenDor and I was actually lecturing on many college campuses between 2016 and 2018 in the United States, in Europe, and in South Africa on this framework and how to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relationship to this framework. And then in 2018, I went independent, went off on my own, created Theory of Enchantment, LLC, and started to develop all different kinds of products and services out of that.

Mijal: I didn’t know that actually, I have a million questions. my gosh. One is,  do you have exceptions to your three principles? I’ll give you an example. One of the principles, and I, I didn’t write every word. But you spoke a lot about how insecurity leads to supremacy and we really have to help people feel a sense of security and love in order to maybe prevent that supremacy. I’m assuming racism and antisemitism is a form of supremacy. And you said at one point you said something about doing that as opposed to trying to destroy the other side. Are there any examples in history when you’re like, hey, there are these groups, these people, these ideas. We got to destroy them.

Chloe: Part of me is like, of course, like, of course there are situations in world history where it was very necessary to defeat a group that was very much, I would argue, steeped in the supremacy and security complex, but it was still necessary to destroy them. Or to destroy their systems or their apparatuses or their forms of government, let’s say. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Civil War in the United States, where the North had to fight against the South and destroy the Confederacy. We had to defeat the Confederacy. It was very necessary to begin to end slavery.

I don’t think that that is necessarily a contradiction with my observations of what is happening in the human condition. Meaning, I think that it is sensible for a people or for a government to conclude that they must go to war with another people or another government in order to upend or destroy that particular government while still recognizing that the factors, the human factors that are at play here that are driving folks to do what they do are along that supremacy inferiority complex continuum. And when I think of, for example, what Lincoln intended to do in terms of a Marshall Plan for the South prior to him getting assassinated, his intention was very much rooted in awareness that like, okay, after you go to war and destroy the South, you need to rebuild the South. Because if you don’t rebuild the South, it becomes susceptible to creating those conditions for that supremacy to rise up again.

And there have been some historians who have argued that because he was assassinated and there were more ruthless or less forgiving presidents that got into office that had a lot of resentment against the South and did not end up building those Marshall Plans, it made it more likely that Jim Crow and other, you know, the Klan, the rise of the Klan, it made it more probable because that insecurity was not addressed.

Noam: That’s very interesting. So would you contrast that with how the Germans were treated post World War I?

Chloe: Yes, actually. Yeah, I think that, you know, hindsight is 20-20, but I have, again, read other historians that have suggested that had it not been for the Treaty of Versailles and the excessive weight that was put upon the Germans, it would not have created the conditions for the Nazis to be able to rise to power in the first place. You know, look at the depression that the Germans experienced as well. Like all of these different factors of insecurity, both material and psychological, paved the way for someone to essentially be like, you feel worthless? I will give you something to feel worthy about.

Mijal: So I know we could do this all day long, even just talking about America and race and DEI. But I think actually I want to take advantage to ask you to help us understand how you apply this to a topic that’s very much on our minds and in our audience’s minds, which is, as you know, since 10/7, I think for many Jews, our reality has shifted. I speak for myself, it’s almost like I feel like we are at a war right now with multiple fronts, okay? And they look differently. One front is here in the States with the rise of antisemitism and with what I would say like a demonization of Israel and Zionists. And there’s like the war in Israel, which is a war between Israel and Hamas and many other fronts there as well.

Living with a lot of these things, I think I have a renewed feeling of us and them. It’s not everybody that’s them versus us, but I do feel like that. And I’d love to hear some introductory ways as to how you, somebody who, even though you’ve been involved with this, you’re neither Israeli or Jewish or Palestinian or Muslim, right? So from the a little bit, a little bit, not too much on the outside, how you’re seeing this. Yeah. Did you want to add to that?

Noam: No, I’m going to, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to interrupt, if that’s okay, at points, and I’m going to challenge some of your ideas as you say them with your permission.


Noam: Okay. And for the sake of understanding them better and then deciding if I agree or not.

Chloe: I think it’s natural and human to feel an us versus them mentality right now. And this actually goes to your first question, which is like, how do you, what do I mean by dehumanization? And so I would ask myself, well, what do I mean by humanization? It’s really a radical acceptance of everything as human that’s coming from human beings. It is fundamentally human to feel an us versus them, again, mentality post-10/7. And I think it’s actually very important to have a certain level of acceptance of that. I think that when we don’t accept the full spectrum of emotions that we experience as human beings, we tend to suppress those feelings and then express them unconsciously in ways that are, let’s say, comparably more harmful than if we were to consciously express them. So I think that that is the first thing that I would say. I have felt an us versus them mentality also since 10/7.

Noam: Who’s the us? Who’s them?

Chloe: It depends on the day. Sometimes the them is Hamas. Sometimes the them is the Palestinian national movement in general. Sometimes the them is people who I know personally who are getting on my nerves on social media who refuse to talk to me in person.

Because why? Why do they refuse to talk to you in person?

Chloe: Because they’re afraid to have an in-person conversation. Because what do they think that you don’t think? Because they believe that Israel is the demon in the conflict and how could you possibly have a nuanced take on this?

But I think more importantly or critically, they’re afraid that they could be convinced otherwise, which is why they refuse to talk to me in person. So yeah, I have felt us versus them as a normal human reaction. My work with theory of enchantment is to say, how can I be in a conscious relationship with that? I’ll give you an example. I was, I play Capoeira and…

Noam: Say what?

Chloe: Capoeira, like the Brazilian. Yes. It’s like a dance sport. How do you describe it? It’s like a… Yeah, it’s a martial art.

Noam: I’m just asking for my friend that doesn’t know about this. So, like, you would just tell my friend.

Chloe: So, Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that was brought to Brazil from slaves, or by slaves from West Africa. And it’s a really beautiful both way of fighting, but also way of dancing. And I’ve been playing Capoeira. You don’t fight Capoeira, you play Capoeira. So, I’ve been playing since August and I really enjoy it. It is my yoga.

Noam: Are you good?

Chloe: I’m pretty good.

Mijal: You love dance, right?

Chloe: I do love dance. I do love dance, yeah.

Noam: It’s an extension.

Chloe: It’s an extension. So I have a lot of friends there and there are people who I would say are in the pro-Palestine camp. And the other day I put my water bottle down and I saw there was someone who had a keffiyeh in the cubby hole where I put my water bottle.

And it was this incredible moment where I felt like triggered when I saw it. And the moment that I accepted that I felt triggered, the trigger dissipated. It disappeared. Like the moment that I was able to say to myself, I feel resentment against this movement without shame and also without like without needing for someone to validate it and also without needing to impose that opinion on anyone else. And the moment that I fully accepted that, I felt like I would have been able to have a conversation with someone who was in that camp to just say to them, I feel resentment against this movement. The reason why I feel resentment against this movement is because family members of my friends have been killed in the name of this movement. And I don’t want to have resentment for this movement. I know that resentment eats a person alive, it can be very corrosive. I don’t want to feel that, but this is how I feel. So there’s like teachings in the theory of enchantment, there are skill sets, there are exercises that we teach just for the purpose of getting you to like own your feelings. And I can’t emphasize enough how important that piece is in all of this.

Noam: So you said, or Mijal said earlier, that you don’t have, one of the interesting things about you is that she doesn’t have allegiance to one group.

Mijal: At least she writes in a way.

Noam: She writes in a way that doesn’t have allegiance to one group. So is that true? Is there…

Mijal: Pick a team, Chloe.

Noam: No, I don’t mean a team–

Chloe: No, I love this question. It’s a great question.

Noam: Why are you here? What do you have allegiance to?

Chloe: It’s a great question. I have allegiance to this idea that all human beings are sacred and made in the image of the divine. I definitely have a bias towards Israel.

Noam: In terms of what?

Chloe: I mean, the culture that I was raised with, my friends, many of whom I consider family.

Noam: But why do you have a bias towards Israel? What does that even mean?

Chloe: Well, you know the reason.

Noam: Remind me. Okay. So. And what does that mean? You have a bias towards Israel. And therefore is that, so is that.

Mijal: Are you saying it as like a human thing? We all have a bias towards the group so we’re part of?

Chloe: Yes.

Noam: And that’s why you are broadly speaking supportive of Israel. It’s because of that bias?

Chloe: Yes, that’s part of it for sure. But it’s not an independent objective reality that one should be.

Mijal: I mean, the question is, do you believe anybody can have an independent objective?

Chloe: I think we all have biases. I think that I know that we all have biases from just like a neurobiological perspective. It’s important to become…

Noam: And to own your bias. 

Chloe:…a fully unbiased person. Yes, it is possible to own your biases, right? But it’s impossible to dispense with your biases entirely.

So because of my upbringing, I grew up in a Christian family that observed Jewish holidays in New Orleans. And then subsequently, because of my work in Israel advocacy in college and constantly traveling to Israel, I have friends who’ve made aliyah, so on and so forth, I am a part of that community. And so I’m biased towards that community. Yeah.

Mijal: Can I, maybe I’ll get into some of the weeds here, Chloe.

Chloe: Sure.

Mijal: I’ll tell you something that I’ve been struggling with. Before 10/7, I found myself that I would often push against the grain in many settings that were very politicized and that basically said being in relationship with someone from the other team is betrayal. So I’ve been like, like in one of the most extreme cases, I was like accused of white supremacy for saying that I have friends who support Trump and that I love my friends and that I can talk to them in relationship with them. I also, I mean from the other side, people who are like, you know, you’re self-hating Jewish, like, you know, you voted Democrat, whatever. And I was always being like, no, we should en masse invest in relationships across the line.

And part of what’s been really hard for me since 10/7, personally, is that I’m hearing myself saying something else. I’m hearing myself say, yes, we still have to invest in conversation and dialogue, but there’s some positions that I find so dangerous that I think the only thing I want to do is go to metaphorical war against them in the open marketplace of ideas. Because I find them dangerous to everything I believe in, not only as a Jew, but as an American and as somebody who believes in a certain type of freedom.

And I’m struggling with, I’m almost asking you to act as like somewhat a therapist, almost like conscience. Like I’m struggling with that because part of me wonders like, is this just like a human, like is this, is the position that I just have or that I can defend?

I did like a campus tour a couple of months ago and I went to like eight different campuses talking to Jewish and Israeli and sometimes non-Jewish students about what’s happening in Israel and I overprepared for that. I like wrote down like 20 hardest questions. And I was so taken aback because the most frequent question I got, and I found this question really hard and almost depressing, were people who raised their hand and who said, we want to be in dialogue so badly and nobody will talk to us. And we don’t know what to do. And I was broken by that. Because they said for us, I would say it in my own words, if we refuse to give up the fact that we believe Israelis are humans and that not all resistance is justified, we are being completely cut off from that. So, and I’m only mentioning the second thing because I think it affects my reaction. Like it affects the place that I’m in. And I’m curious to see your reaction to my very long rambly question. Sorry. I’m just like expressing emotions here.

Chloe: So, that’s hard. The feeling of not being able to have a dialogue partner, like wanting to really engage in the wrestling, the tough questions with an interlocutor that’s on the other side, quote unquote, and not having that. That’s really hard.

I would offer some teachings from the civil rights movement, which people in the civil rights movement understood that the white supremacists who perceived them as evil. Let’s remember, now that we’re in 2024 and it’s many several decades post that era, we tend to forget that the people who were identifying as white supremacists perceived people of color as monsters and as evil and as inferior and subhuman. And people who were protesting that understood that the people who believed that were caught up in their own prison of suffering. Because if you cannot see the beauty in another human being that is different from you, or even that you disagree with, or even that you vehemently disagree with, if you cannot see that that person like you is also sacred, then there’s something about yourself that you’re simultaneously not perceiving as sacred. This was like the, I’d say the main kernel of truth that animated the civil rights movement because the conclusion that protesters took from that was, okay, well, we’re going to protest segregation in a nonviolent way. And we’re going to do so deliberately and intentionally, not because we don’t believe that violence can change things per se, but because we are trying to model a way of being that posits, and it’s a very, it’s influenced by Protestant Christianity, but it’s also deeply influenced by Buddhism. Dr. King studied Gandhi and the East. And it’s this idea that like, no matter what I do to harm my brother, if I harm my brother, I am harming myself.

All people are interconnected. All beings are interconnected. And it was a really hard thing to do. It was a really hard thing to model. Remember, you had, you know, homes being bombed and churches being bombed and people being lynched. And this was really terrible time in the United States of America. And you had people who are from that community who decided to protest all of that injustice by saying, we were protested segregation, we protested Jim Crow laws, but we would do so in a way where we insist on loving you simultaneously. That will not have all the answers to your question, but I think it’s worth studying because it was the most successful protest movement in United States history for a reason. And one of those reasons is that it transcended the political. It spoke to something deep about what it meant to be human. So I would, And I continue to wrestle with that, the implications of that. And I would offer that as something to study, a very necessary model to study at this time right now.

Noam: So two questions, Chloe, challenging you now, okay?

Chloe: Yeah.

Noam: Question number one is, what is the Jewish community doing wrong right now in talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or Jewish communities, because there’s not one Jewish community?

And my second question is, I don’t mean as a joke, I mean, do you think that the theory of enchantment can solve this really palestinian conflict? Do you think that if we utilize these principles that actually it is solvable or is it intractable? Meaning, let me speak from the listener’s perspective. Chloe, you’re being naive. You’re being naive. Like, come on, you really think that criticizing in order to uplift right now is going to save the day when there are two peoples going against each other, arguably who don’t want the other to exist in the same area. Like, again, I’m speaking harshly for the sake of the point. Are you being naive? That’s question number two. And question number one is, what are we doing wrong? What are the Jewish communities doing wrong?

Well, first of all, I think that there is perhaps obsession with social media that affects all of us. And I think that the Jewish community’s impulse to fight the good fight on social media is deeply flawed because social media is not designed for you to win that fight. Social media is designed for you to be at war because the algorithms on social media are such that  they’re constantly trying to hold our attention and our attention will be held if we are angry all the time. And so the incentive structure is such that if you post more content that makes people angry, people will pay attention, but it won’t actually change anything, it won’t heal anything, it won’t move the needle, it won’t push the needle forward. So I think over-indexing on social media is probably one big mistake that the Jewish community is making.

Mijal: So are you saying that the Jewish community should stop trying to fight this?

Noam: For those who didn’t see Mijal, she rolled her eyes as she said.

Mijal: I did not roll them.

Noam: No, I’m saying you did a whole thing.

Mijal: Just kidding. I did roll them. No, but I’m asking this genuinely because I think that you said where I think that there’s many reasons to believe that things are worse for the conflict, for antisemitism, for all of these things because of social media. So are you saying that we just need to fight the fight in a different arena? Like just give us the implications.

Chloe: So when I’m on Twitter and I’m tweeting at Briahna Joy Grey. She’s a prominent anti-Israel commentator. I am engaging in a very disembodied way in the conversation about the conflict.

Noam: Why are you doing that?

Mijal: Is there something altruistic there? You’re doing it because you actually want to insert something positive and get into a very sick and awful conversation?

Chloe: Of course, yes, absolutely. It’s for very good intentions because I think that I can move the needle in some regards on Twitter. And it’s also because when I say something that I find cool or snarky, it feels good for a bit, for a moment, right? And then it goes away and then I’m in constant search for it again. And then it creates this really toxic feedback loop where I’m constantly searching for it again. And then my nervous system is actually not in a place where I can cultivate peace.

And so I’m saying, think about that at scale, right? I’m just one person who’s conscious of this, is conscious of the fact that this is what’s happening. Most of us are not conscious of that. We should be investing way more into developing in-person embodied ways of communicating and being in community with each other and developing skill sets to figure out what’s going on with our nervous systems when we see a keffiyeh and we’re triggered, or when we see something online, or when we see something in person at an encampment and we’re triggered, to get really aware and cognizant of what is going on for us on a human nervous system level. Take up as many practices and modalities to breathe through that, move through that, whether it’s a dance practice, a martial art practice, breath work practice, and then design solutions from that place, not design solutions from the fight or flight limbic system that is constantly being triggered by being on social media.

Noam: I wanna go back to my earlier question. You and I had breakfast together a few months ago.

Chloe: Yes, I remember.

Noam: In which you said strong things. I don’t have to like, I think I don’t –

Mijal: I wanna hear those questions.

Chloe: I don’t remember.

Noam: I don’t remember either. I remember my limbic system reacting though.

Chloe: It’s just like the fight or flight message, which is cultivated by the medium, is not productive.

Mijal: I mean, there’s so many examples. What do you do when you have the protesters at the Nova Festival who go and they say this was like a rave next to a concentration camp and hence everybody that deserves to be killed? And those are not just protesters. They’re literally harassing anybody going in and out of this mass grieving site. How do you respond to that is the question? Because what happens to me at that moment is my heart starts racing.

Chloe: So do you have a way to calm your heart when that happens?

Noam: Outside of Xanax?

Chloe: Yes. Outside of Xanax.

Mijal: Well, I think what I’m hearing you say is we need to, and this deeply resonates with me, is that I think we are creating strategy out of outrage.

Chloe: Yes.

Mijal: And there has to be a way to acknowledge the outrage and the emotions and the passions. Yes, name them, acknowledge them, accept them. You’re human. And there also has to be a space in which you say, no, we’re going to be strategic.

I think what I’m struggling with is that even if we put the outrage aside, I think part of what many of us are struggling with is how are you strategic when you are often dealing with a movement that doesn’t want to engage. You spoke about friends who won’t speak to you. A movement that doesn’t want to engage, that won’t talk to you unless you agree to do it on their terms. A movement that is deeply illiberal. A movement also that is not… This is why I’m also a little bit struggling with the example with the civil rights movement.

It’s not only a local movement here. I could trace this movement to like Iran and China and Hamas and Hezbollah and like the relationships between all of them and between the protesters and the actual terrorists and the so and of course, of course. So I’m trying. Yeah. I think, yeah, I feel like we just started the conversation. I think, I think many of us in our communities, some of them people are operating out of outrage, a hundred percent, but many other people, it just feels so overwhelming. Of course. And it feels so, I’ll just name it. It feels so scary. Yeah.

It is scary. How do I react against this avalanche of hate when we still have Holocaust survivors around us and we have that, I don’t want to call it trauma because I think trauma is often used to minimize it. I would say like historical memory of what happened when we didn’t take threats seriously enough.

Chloe: Yes, and I think that the fear is sensible. I think that the response that I would have to the question of that plus what are you doing when you are trying to get into the Nova exhibit and things are happening, it’s like… A question that came up for me when you were describing this is like, are you going to let someone else take your joy? That is the central question for me.

Like, if my heart is racing, if I’m coming into this moment where people are saying things that are deeply harmful and I lack the consciousness to be able to be aware of how my nervous system is responding to that, and then move myself to a place where it’s, it’s not that it’s like calm in a naive way, but it’s, it’s when, when our limbic systems fire, our sense of perception actually narrows. Like there have been books written about this and scientific studies on this. So when we get into the fight or flight sort of viewpoint, the number of options that are available to us actually become smaller because we’re basically having tunnel vision.

And so being aware of that, how can I move myself? And this is my answer also to like how, when you said, how can we engage with the other side? I don’t know that it’s necessary to engage with the other side. Question for me is like, how can, in the community, we be engaging these practices and modalities such that this is, cause this is what people did in the civil rights movement before they went out to protest. They trained themselves. They actually simulated what would happen when they would get called those names and called those insults. And they worked on bringing themselves into a state of calmness so that they could respond from that place. And so I think we’re actually skipping a step here. When we ask ourselves the question, how do we engage with the other side? They’re not willing to engage with us. For me, the question is, how can we cultivate like a vortex within the community such that we have the necessary modalities and practices that we’re aware of our nervous system reaction as a species and we can come back to calmness? And then respond to that place and then make decisions from that place. Because if we’re responding from a fight or flight system, we’re having tunnel vision.

Noam: So that’s the internal thing because, Mijal, when you were asking your question, I was thinking about in one of the independent schools that I’m working with, there was a Muslim student who said that she felt as though she was being disloyal to her people by engaging in these conversations. And she was dealing with this tribal, you know, she didn’t use that word, but this tribal issue of this limbic system, but from the other side, from her lived reality. And so then what I’m thinking is like, there’s this intractable reality that there’s one reality over here, one reality over here. And if we’re not gonna be working, like Chloe’s saying, within our own communities to solve for this, then it’s gonna always exist. And you’ll never be able to have these conversations.

So I want to ask you that question again. I need to hear your thoughts on, do you genuinely think that what you’re saying is not naive and that the theory of enchantment really can solve a conflict like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Chloe: I don’t think that the theory of enchantment alone can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I do think it is a paradigm that can shift the needle towards, like from Olympic system fight or flight, us versus them, which both communities are very much caught in right now, to a how can we like holistically problem solve so that we can actually thrive in this land. I do think that theory of enchantment can be a paradigm that can bring that, help bring that into fruition along with many other paradigms.

Mijal: Okay. There’s so much more I want to ask, but…

Noam: We have to do a part two.

Noam: We just started. Mijal, we have to do a part two.

Mijal: Yes, yeah. I’m thinking so much, like my brain is just racing right now. I just want to thank you. Thank you so much for bringing yourself here, your wisdom and your empathy and your pushing us and I want to continue this conversation in a very serious way.

Chloe: Likewise.

Noam: I’m gonna continue wondering about this. That’s for sure.

Mijal: Thank you so much.

Noam: Thanks.

Chloe: Thank you both.

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