Magazine article Tikkun

Sulha

Magazine article Tikkun

Sulha

Article excerpt

I grew up terribly afraid of all Palestinians. Over many years that changed. The process began with my refjections on the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and the realization that many people with strong anti-Semitic beliefs never had personal relationships with Jews. I began wondering if T too might have inaccurate perceptions about people I had never met.

Today, living in Jerusalem, 1 often meet Jews who express generalizations about Palestinians. When I ask them if they have any direct relationship with Palestinians, I am almost always met with the answer "No, but I know all there is to know about them." Outside of Jerusalem, I meet many well-intentioned people deeply sympathetic to the Palestinian cause who tell me what Israelis and Israeli society on the whole are like. Their perceptions are usually far from accurate. It is simpler to put entire populations into the categories "dangerous" and "evil" rather than deal with the complexities of others and the imperfections within ourselves that cloud our vision. Sometimes we hurt ourselves by marginalizing and even demonizing those who could be our most valuable allies within other groups. That doesn't mean we should be naive and open ourselves to people and situations that are in fact dangerous. Instead, we must learn to discern between what is safe and what is dangerous based on reality, not based on "stuff" we are carrying with us.

One path towards clarity is the gentle testing of our beliefs through direct experience. Encounters with the "Other" do not need to focus on the topic of conflict, and in fact such a focus can be counterproductive, as it keeps people fixated on the problems. It is vital to develop the capacity to turn our attention towards that which is healthy and unaffected by conflict, both within ourselves and around us. Otherwise we can drown.

This approach is central to several peace initiatives I have been involved with. In 2001,1 co-founded Peace Begins With Myself-a program which brings Palestinians and Israelis to Thich Naht Hanh's Plum Village in southern France. "Being peace" is seen as necessary for "making peace," and the training includes how to eat, walk, and speak mindfully.

Another project, The Sulha Way, currently planning its fourth annual gathering this summer in Israel, was founded by Argentinian poet and musician Gabriel Meyer with Christian Arab Elias Jabour. …

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