Purpose – This paper aims to present findings from a research project that examined the contribution of a third partner in an encounter among three groups: Palestinian/Arab–Israelis, Jewish–Israelis and Germans. In recent decades, planned intergroup encounters have played an important role in conflict management, reconciliation and peace-building. Nearly all models use a dyadic structure, based on an encounter between two rival groups mediated by a third party. Design/methodology/approach – The study was based on a year-long academic collaboration and two encounters between social work students from Israel and Germany (15 each). The central issues addressed were personal and collective identity; personal, familial and collective memory; and multicultural social work practice that were present in the encounter with the “other”. Participants were heterogeneous in terms of gender, ethnic background and religion, inviting exploration of personal and professional meanings. Using 15 in-depth interviews with Israeli participants, we identified and analyzed the personal and interpersonal processes occurring during these encounters. Findings – Jewish and Arab participants positioned themselves vis-a`-vis the German group in two main configurations (singular identities and multiple multifaceted identities), which alternated according to the contexts to which the larger group was exposed, and in congruence with the developmental stage of group work. Originality/value – The findings suggest that a “third” partner can significantly contribute to an intergroup encounter by reflecting on the relationship created between rival parties to a dyad, thereby helping them deconstruct their binary “us-versus-them” relationship.
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- Collective identity
- Identity construction
- Intergroup encounter
- Peace education