In November, I went to Israel and Palestine with the Compassionate Listening Project (www.compassionatelistening.org). Through this project, we spoke to many people about their feelings about the Israel/ Palestine conflict.
There were 22 of us in the group plus two co-leaders: Leah Green, an American Jew, and Maha El-Taji, a Muslim Palestinian. We met Israelis and Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian political leaders. We met Palestinian Muslims, Christians, Hamas leaders, refugee camp leaders, and people on the street everywhere. Through them we heard of the many sorrows and pain of the rift in the Middle East and how it has hurt everyone.
Here are a couple of stories:
Hagit Raanan, an Israeli Jew, lost her husband and then her pregnancy in the first war with Lebanon. She felt that was a message to her. She has devoted her time since, working for peace.
During the recent war with Hezbollah, she traveled every day from Jerusalem to bomb shelters in the north, in spite of bombs falling around her, bringing hope and peace and caring for children. She taught them, and us, how to make paper peace cranes.
She believes that if we can heal ourselves and individuals around us, there is a chance for healing between nations. She says, I dont think of myself as a peacemaker. I dont think you can make peace. Its already here. I just need to be that peace.
Ibrahim Issa, a Palestinian Muslim, is director of The Hope Flowers al-Amal School in Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine. The mission of the school is to teach the importance of coexistence and democracy, along with Arabic, Hebrew, and English.
The PLO blew up the school in 1992. Issa rebuilt it. Since the 2000 Intifada, no Israelis are allowed to attend the school.
In 2002, Israeli forces arrested Issa and accused him of giving refuge to a terrorist. Issa pleaded his innocence. He was tortured five days, and then released with an apology for the partial demolition of his home. Friends encouraged him to seek retribution. Issa said, I need to practice forgiveness.
In 2004, Israeli soldiers asked him, Why do you do peace education? Issa replied, There is no other choice.
We must all work for peace.
We were impressed with the intensity of so many individuals and organizations working for peace. No one wants war. Israel‘s new seperatation wall was seen as only temporary and no one really wants it. Pain is everywhere, in need of being healed.
Our listening helped and our mandate is to bring what we have learned home. All 22 of us feel the need to tell about our trip, so others can feel the pain and help work towards peace. You cannot obtain peace if you favor one side over the other. You are not open to healing all sides if you feel your favorite cause committed no wrongs. We learned to hold the pain of each side, and thus try to move towards peace.
Please come to hear about the program and the trip. Pain in the Land of Love- a Talk for Peace in the Middle East offers three presentations:
Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Congregation (UU), 6726 Center Rd., Mission Peninsula, Traverse City;
Monday Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. at Traverse Area District Library;
Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., again at the UU.
At each there will be a talk and slide show about my trip to Israel and Palestine.