We both live in a country ridden by an intractable conflict. We remember times when the conflict peaked, when no hope was on the horizon. We also lived through periods when the hope for peace appeared as a real possibility. Nowadays we experience a deep disappointment, witnessing a reescalation of the conflict and observing with horror how peace is slipping away.
Unfortunately, the state of Israel is exposed to a conflict dating from well before its formal establishment – for more than 100 years. As such, it serves as a real-life laboratory for learning about the psychological foundations, facets, and dynamics of a conflict. Whereas the interest in reactions to stress formed in conflict, such as trauma, has prompted much theoretical, empirical, and practical attention, the acquisition, development, and nature of mental representations in conflict have attracted relatively little interest. Believing that psychology has much to contribute to the prevention of intergroup conflicts and their resolutions, we decided to expand the study of the influences of conflict to consider issues faced by every normal child, adolescent, and adult in a society engulfed by conflict – that is, to investigate the various aspects of self-definition and the definition of one's opponents, as well as the accompanying attitudes, emotions, and behavioral intentions. In Israel, it became possible to accomplish what many social scientists urged should be done, namely, to explore the nature and development of social representations in real life rather than in a laboratory or in artificial field conditions.