Hello all, I read this post on a listserve I'm on and was touched and moved by the awareness demonstrated by this man and wanted to share it with you all.
For me, it's a hopeful expression of awareness in an extremely challenging conflict and a refreshing break from more usual media reporting.
Dear friends, it has been a long time since I have been active on this online group. I always saw the PW community as my global family and as such I hope it's ok to vent a little and express something of my experience during the last week as yet another violent and bloody battle unfolded between the Palestinian and Israeli people. I don’t want to talk about who started what and why this time around nor go into the history of the conflict. I just want to give a sliver of insight into my own experience and share the delicate hope that beyond the chaos and brute violence exchanged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are ever-growing roots of possibility for change that evolve slowly, largely hidden from sight of mainstream public opinion and the media feed.
I live in Beer-sheva, a town 30 km east of the Gaza border. During the eight days of battle 170 missiles were fired on my town. Each attack preceded by loud wailing sirens allowing 60 seconds for finding shelter. Many towns and villages closer to Gaza get fired at much more intensively and have far less time to seek safety. Thanks to US financial support some areas are relatively protected by new anti-missile technology that intercepts missiles mid-air with high success rates though not 100%. It is a scary experience especially with a 5 year old daughter. Sometimes the sirens would go off every half hour or so with multiple missiles exploding loudly only a short distance away. Going out to buy food entails carefully calculating if and where one can find shelter on the way in case an attack took place while on-the-go - and it usually does.
During the whole time I avoid watching TV or listening to the radio because the one-sided biased and propaganda-oriented feed makes me sickknowing the same works both sides makes the polarization media machine even harder to stomach. Since L (my, Bill Say’s abbreviation), my daughter is not indoctrinated to the high levels of fear, anxiety and anger on the streets at times such as these - and doesn’t yet understand the concept of war, missiles, killing, we are able to make the whole experience playful and even fun at times. Imagining the sirens were wolfs howling a wild song and singing along, making a fairy camp in the sheltered room etc. Yet while looking at her I can see branded in my mind's eyes the horrific images from the last battle of entire Gaza families killed by air raids and tank strikes far more terrifying and dangerous than what I have to deal with, with nowhere to neither run nor hide.
I am acutely aware I have more privileges of safety and freedom. As the days go by I find myself being strong and in positive spirits so I can best support my family and clients in the mental health agency where I work and so I marginalize the inner feelings of numbness and hopelessness. After a week, when the first near cease-fire agreement seems to fall through I feel like I need to step out of the safety of the sheltered room and do something, anything...
During one of the Worldwork seminars Gary Reiss facilitated here with Najah Al Khatib, a Palestinian peace activist, we met with founding members of an Organization called "Combatants for Peace". http://cfpeace.org/ CFP was founded 8 years ago by IDF combat soldiers responsible for upholding the occupation and Palestinians who partook in extreme violent resistance to the occupation the organization was founded by both sides working together under the realization that violence from either side will not bring an end to the occupation.
The joint effort of past extremists on both side to work together and create a movement to end the cycle of violence and an end to the occupation is unique and a powerful message of hope. Today the organization isn’ just restricted to combatants but open to all supporters perusing a non-violent resolution. CFP organizes advocacy and hands-on support to assist Palestinian families and villages under duress from Israeli authorities and advocate and lobby in all possible policy making avenues.
Anyhow, I am on their mailing list and received an invitation to attend a response gathering to recent events, in Tel Aviv, so I went. The meeting was based on a panel seated by Suliman Al Khatib, one of the Palestinians founders who lives in the west bank, besides him sat an ex-member of Knesset from Meretz (left wing party), a high ranking IDF officer turned peace activist, the representative of another organization that sets-up meetings between Gaza civilians and Israeli civilians living near the Gaza border and another ex military Israeli who runs an alternative ecology education center in an Israeli village not far from Gaza. (Since the meeting was in Tel-Aviv other Palestinian members of CFP couldn’t attendmost CFP activities, like the worldwork seminars Gary Reiss facilitates, are held in areas were both nationalities can attend). The discussion was held in a relaxed attentive atmosphere (all 30-40 people attending were homogenic in being left wing supporters of nonviolent peace efforts).
Although my minute taking skills are poor it is important to me that I briefly convey some of power embodied by this organization as an example of efforts to make a difference.
The panel facilitator reported on a demonstration that CFP organized the previous day in Beit-Jallah a Palestinian town where Israelis and Palestinians can meet (this is where we do our worldwork seminars). It is highly unusual for Israelis and Palestinians to openly demonstrate together in a time of war on any Palestinian or Israeli street - holding together flags of both nations and sharing responsibility for the reality of the conflict, not just blaming, is a huge thing.
Gur Rotem, ex military officer, nowadays runs a permaculture ecology education center talks about living in a village that is attacked by missiles and mortars from Gaza on daily basis for years. His spiritual philosophy is that we all belong to the land the land doesn’t belong to us and he talks about the dreaming of the land that called him to live in this place. He talked about his son stopping eating after being traumatized by a missile landing right next to him. He talked about how difficult it is to openly and publicly stand for not being in a one-sided position that also respects and considers the wellbeing of the other side. He is one of the southern regional coordinators for CFP activities.
Suliman, one of the founding members of Combatants for Peace talks briefly about his life; imprisoned for 10 years in Israeli army for attacking Israeli soldiers as a young Fatah activist. He talks about how difficult it was for him initially to meet and sit and talk with IDF officers when the organization just started. It was so radical they had to start by meeting secretly so they don’t get persecuted as traitors. An ex Fatah terrorist/freedom fighter nowadays posting in facebook pictures of himself demonstrating with Israelis to end violence and finding a way to peace that is progress. Suliman talks about how in times of bloody conflict peace activists on both sides fade back yet makes a point that today there is much less criticism towards joint effort towards peace. Talks also on how important it is to address internal conflicts in the Palestinian community and beware of the tendency to project trouble onto Israel/US.
Uri Peled, a high ranking officer talks about how peace groups need to get off their butts and get out in the field and find ways to influence leaders on both sides to dialogue dialogue dialogue. How today people who talk about the possibility of talking with Hamas are still considered delirious. He says the question isn’t whether peace will eventually be made but how many people have to die before it is achieved. The importance of creating opportunities for people on both sides to get to know each other better, culturally and personally. Unifying peace groups to work together better.
Musi Raz, Ex-Knesset member in left party. CEO of "Voice of peace" an Israeli-Palestinian radio station, was chairman of various peace activist coalitions. Begins by Talking about how one-sided the media is in Israel, not relating at all to what is actually happening to the Gaza population. The media work is propaganda bordering on incitement. Media defines public opinion. In recent years both political parties and media have marginalized the conflict â€“ until the shit hits the fan and then it comes out all venomous. Â This time however he says there is slightly more attention to the minority who oppose escalating military action. Talks about the need for intense international pressure for peace talks, we need facilitation.
In the midst of the discussion at 21:00 someone reading the news on a Smartphone announced that the ceasefire agreement has finally been signed and implemented, everyone applauds.
Unfortunately I had to leave back to Beer-Sheva before a Q&A discussion opened up. The following morning after the first night not being woken by a wailing siren and having to rush to a bomb shelter I woke up utterly depressed and I could welcome that because now the imminent danger was over I could let my guard down and allow myself to feel - if only how much I can't feel. Many of us here are appalled and heartbroken by the violent bloodshed and killing of innocent lives and damage to civilian infrastructure on both sides. There are so many complex levels to take into consideration if one wants to get his/her head around this issue and it takes a lot of sifting to see through so many layers of propaganda and brainwashing on both sides - It would make a huge difference if we could just simply start by doing no harm, especially to children and just talk with each other and listen. It will take much love to breach the walls of hatred prejudice and fear on both sides. There is no justification for any bloodshed and acts of violence whatsoever on any side. May we all find ways to support each other and create safer, more sustainable ways to realize our visions of freedom and prosperity (like processwork &worldwork :)
I would like to take this opportunity to recommend joining a beautiful and important Facebook group my friend and fellow process work student Freema started called "if children mattered":http://www.facebook.com/groups/kidsmatter/ A group to promote discussion of how we can put children at the top of every public agenda, especially in situations of conflict like Israel/Palestine.
Thank you for the space to write/ramble and thank god (and of course the Mindells & colleagues) for PW for helping me be somewhat fluid between the roles and feelings...
DL (my, Bill Say’s abbreviation)