School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: June 2012
My Journey in Israel

By Susannah

I feel both touched and sad. I feel happy and at peace with the wonderful wolay (work and play) of the ‘Poetry of Presence’ this last weekend in Israel. At the same time I feel the pain of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse and the pain of the suffering and despair on both sides. As far as I have understood both Palestinians and Israelis experience themselves as vulnerable victims and the “other” as a fearful monster ready to strike. And of course there is at least some truth in that, from both sides. And round and round we go.

This last weekend I gave a workshop at the wonderful Arab-Jewish community centre in Jaffa, right next to the jewel blue-green of the Mediterranean Sea. Close by, inland, is a town called Tul Karem in the occupied territory. There are men, women and children who have never seen the sea, been on the beach, swam in the waters even though it is 15 miles away. As things stand they cannot ever go there. Neither can they go to Jerusalem to see their families. Don’t get me wrong; I am not naive about why there is an apparent or experienced need for this “containment”. I am not concerned about who is to blame. I am concerned that in this status quo, everyone suffers. The Palestinians suffer the loss of their freedom, their land, their economic self-reliance and dignity, and they suffer the feeling that there is a great big (Israeli) demon always intent on hurting them, or who, at the very best, does not care for their well being. And so they feel they have to defend themselves against this callous enemy. The Israeli people suffer the recurrence of their fear that they will be attacked, “pushed into the sea”, that they are seen negatively by the whole world, that they have no friends, and the feeling that there is a great big (Arab) demon always intent on hurting them, or who, at the very best, has no concern for their well being. And so they feel they have to defend themselves against this callous enemy. And round and round we go. How does one contribute to the change from a vicious circle to a virtuous circle? Especially when one side is still reeling (but does not acknowledge that it is reeling) from the vicious genocide of the Holocaust in which many Israelis lost most of their families.

I feel the pain of the holocaust. I hear the stories, over and over, terrible, extra-ordinary stories of enormous loss and survival against all odds, I weep again for this horror of horrors. And, I want to tell you about a moment recently when I was working in Germany.

It was in Berlin in April and we were dancing the Arc of Time, in which we dance back in time all the way to an ape-human ancestor at the edge between the forest and the savannah in Africa. As we prepared for this journey I realised that in our retrospective journey we would be travelling through the 3rd Reich as well as many other periods of history. I prepared the group to move as compassionate, truth seeing witnesses through whatever they encountered in their time journey. As we arrived at the brink of the holocaust the whole group, (as far as I could tell) started weeping as one. Me, the translator, all of us. A great wave of grief engulfed us and poured through our beings as the tears tumbled down our faces.  It was so real, right and spontaneous, and felt, to me, as if it carried its own healing. After a little while we journeyed on, through so many human eras and finally back to our gatherer-hunter forbearers in Africa. A great relief and joy came upon us. Having communed with our ape-human ancestors we travelled back to the present day. Once again we passed through that Second World War, once more a collective weep, and once more, bearing our gifts from the past, and washed, humbled and humanised by our tears, we returned to the present.

I tell this story both because I was moved by it, and because I think it is important for Jews (both Israeli Jews and others ‘round the world) to know that they are not alone in caring about and grieving deeply for the holocaust.

As I said, I am not concerned about who is to blame. I take it for granted that both sides (as well as the UK and others who so clumsily instigated Israel in the first place) have responsibilities for “how it is and for how it has become how it is”. I believe that most Israelis and most Palestinians want to live in peace and that the conflict serves the interests of a few extremists on either side. At the same time, politicians rule only with the tacit consent of the majority. I do not believe that we “ordinary people” are powerless. We are as powerless as we think we are. What I am concerned about is “what can be done, and what each of us can do”. We can each make a contribution to peace, even if it is an apparently small one. As Lynn Twist says in the “Awakening the Dreamer Symposium” “You don’t have a big part to play, you don’t have a small part, you have your part, and if you play it, your life will take on a kind of meaning that you have dreamt of”.

Our beautiful and deep thinking organiser Aviya took me to the beach on my last day. Having bathed in the sea and the sun, and sent the energy of the water spirit to those who cannot come there, we walked back to where we had parked. As you leave this beach there is a big sign “Go in Peace!” in Hebrew, Arabic and English. I can’t tell you how (though I know its just a sign and signs are ‘easy’) moved I was by those words.

So, yes, go in peace!

Susannah Darling Khan

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.