Israel and Palestine Peace Walk
A Palestinian and an Israeli Find Peace Together
"Then, a Palestinian woman on her way to Jaffa gate bursts onto the scene. She jumps to the conclusion that the old Arab is under attack and rushes in a frenzy to rescue him. She yells insults at the Jewish woman, and the situation heats up again. All my attention is now focused on her. She is like a bomb ready to explode."
The powerful true story below was sent to me by a wonderful friend a while back. What if Israel and Palestine somehow represent warring factions in each of our personal lives? What might happen if we truly focus on identifying opposing factions both within us and between us, and then consciously work to understand and have compassion for the needs and desires of the factions involved? Now is the time to be the change. Don't miss the inspiring links at the end of the story. Take care and have a beautiful day.
A Palestinian and an Israeli Find Peace Together
By Marion Pargamin
Quite an extraordinary event
happened to me during a peace walk organized by a meditation group in Israel.
The eight-day walk took place on the first week of April. It was intended
to give an opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis to walk together, to
develop dialogue and self-introspection, inspired by the ancient traditions
that guided people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. During these
eight days, participants walked together from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, passing
by Jewish and Arab towns and settlements in silence and awareness, declaring
a commitment to deep listening and nonviolence.
Monday, the 8th of April, the last day of the Walk, is the eve of the Holocaust day, a day of deep emotion for the Jewish community. The walk goes through Jerusalem to the foot of the old city walls. I had been planning to join the group in the morning, but after a sleepless night I decide to join later.
early afternoon, I walk up to the walls of the old city to join the walkers.
When I get to Jaffa gate, I find myself in front of a very agitated elderly
Arab man exchanging insults with an elderly religious Jew who is standing
at a bus station a few meters down. They are extremely angry. Some policemen
from a Border Police patrol are trying to calm them down, so that it won't
turn into a fight.
I stand beside the Arab. I speak to him calmly and ask him to sit down without reacting to the other's provocation. I am quite impressed by the restraint shown by the policemen. They don't defend one side or the other and respect both sides. The bus arrives, the Jewish man boards the bus and the situation seems to have settled down.
Then, a Jewish woman who was there in the queue from the beginning of the argument takes it upon herself to start insulting the Arab, who reacts immediately. The police have gone and I am left alone to try to calm the situation.
I give my attention to the Arab, who would have stayed quiet if he was not continually provoked by the woman. I try from a distance to reason with her without success. She stops a passing police car and says something to the policeman. I explain to him what is going on. I am so happy that all the policemen in this situation act so calmly and help to restore peace.
Then, a Palestinian woman on her way to Jaffa gate bursts
onto the scene. She jumps to the conclusion that the old Arab is under
attack and rushes in a frenzy to rescue him. She yells insults at the
Jewish woman, and the situation heats up again. All my attention is now
focused on her. She is like a bomb ready to explode. I try to explain to
her what is going on, but she is furious with me, screaming out her hatred,
her despair and her pain.
This whole situation is greater than the two of us and takes on proportions beyond our present meeting. This is Palestine accusing Israel. At this moment I represent Israel for her. She shouts out her sorrow about what is going on now in the territories, the military incursions into Palestinian towns.
She has family and friends in Jenin and says that our soldiers are
war criminals. She is convinced that we want to kill them all. Why do we
hate them so much? They are not responsible for the Holocaust, why should
they be paying the price? Pointing at the Jewish woman, she assures me that
in the Arab country from where this Sephardi woman comes, she was treated
with honor, as a human being and yet look at how she behaves with
It goes on and on. She shouts and spews her hatred for Israel at me. I don't try to argue with her at all. I don't show any reaction to all these accusations. I feel a huge compassion and an intense need just to listen to her. My patience is nourished by understanding that behind this overwhelming hatred is a deep suffering and pain aggravated by the present situation of war. It must express itself in some way so that healing can take place. I don't let myself get tempted or trapped into guilt or anger. I am sorry for the tragedy on both sides.
I let her express herself for a long time without interrupting her. As she continues to shout at me, I tell her that she has no need to speak so loudly, because I am listening to her with all my attention. At the same time I find myself caressing her arm. She lets me do it and progressively lowers her voice, while continuing to let her despair overflow.
She says to me, "Do you understand why
some of us come and commit suicide among you? You kill us anyway, so why
not kill you at the same time?" She even mentions the possibility of coming
and blowing herself up out of despair. I tell her softly that I don't want
her to die. Nobody should come to this decision. We all suffer on both
She goes on and on claiming that the Zionists only want to get rid of the Palestinians. I tell her, "You see I am a Zionist, and I don't want to get rid of you. I wish we could live together as good neighbors." She listens to me! She tells me about the demonstration that took place the week before near Ramallah. Then she asks me to donate some money to buy phone cards for Palestinians who need them. I give her some money.
At this stage the conversation is quite normal between us. She doesn't shout any more, she is even able to listen to me. She is almost calm when I notice the people of the Walk approaching us slowly, at the top of the street. They are in a line, a hundred of them, one after the other walking in silence, slowly, quietly, aware of each step, creating an atmosphere of peace and safety around them. They are very present. They radiate calm and warmth.
I point them out to her and explain that this is the reason I came here, to join a walk of peace in which Palestinians and Israelis walk together. I tell her about the Walk, its message of coexistence and peace; peace at every step, here and now. I suggest that she come into the line with me. She hesitates and rejects my offer.
At this moment they reach us. Several people I know shake my hand warmly as they go by. A young woman approaches her and gives her a kiss. It appears that they know each other. I notice that she is very moved by the Walk and the atmosphere it radiates. She is much calmer now. Nothing like the furious woman I met only several minutes before.
The end of the line passes by us and I want to join it. Again I invite her and again she declines. I tell her that I understand and respect her decision. Before I go I tell her, "I am sure that someday we will succeed in building peace between us." She smiles and replies, "Me too."
Then to my total surprise, she comes close to me and kisses me on my cheeks! She walks alongside the line for a while. She tells me that she likes this Walk, that it makes her feel good. She says it gives her relief and that her mood is much better now. I am very, very moved. I feel overwhelmed by this encounter, especially by its unexpected ending. Peace was there around the corner! I did not miss it!!
I never understood so fully as in this moment, the deep meaning of the words pronounced by Thich Nhat Hanh in Shanghai on the 19th of October, after the September 11th tragedy:
"Terror is in the human heart. We must remove it from the heart. The root of terrorism is misunderstanding, hatred and violence. This root cannot be located by the military. Bombs and missiles cannot reach it, let alone destroy it. Only through the practice of finding calm and looking deeply within can our insight reveal and identify this root. Only with the practice of deep listening and compassion can terror be transformed and removed. Darkness cannot be dissipated with more darkness. Only light can dissipate darkness. Those of us who have the light should display the light and offer it so that the world will not sink into total darkness."
Note: The author of this moving story was using some of the transformative techniques of Nonviolent Communication to create a powerful breakthrough with her new Palestinian friend. For an excellent summary of the principles of nonviolent communication, click here. For more empowering ideas on how each of us can take greater responsibility for being the change in the world, click here. And for a brief statement which reminds us of the common humanity we share with all people in our world, click here.
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