School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: January 2011
Mending the Circle - Israel

By Ben Yeger

This is an account of assisting Ya’Acov in December, on “Mending the Circle” in Israel.  I hold a lot of personal history and current investment in the place and its people and this was with me during the Workshop journey and I feel it now as I write.

I have been dancing primarily with Ya’Acov for ten years and am now coming to the end of the Movement Medicine Apprenticeship journey on route to embarking on the Teacher Training one.  Its been a magical mystery tour of which joining Ya’Acov in Israel, several times as a student and more recently as an assistant, has been a natural and very important part of my learning and development.

I am Jewish, born in England, grew up In Israel and as a young man I served in the Israeli army as a paratrooper during the first Lebanon war (83-86).  I am currently the UK Representative of Combatants for Peace (CfP). We are a bi National Organisation made up of Israeli’s and Palestinians who in the past were involved in violent action (As Israeli soldiers or as part of the Palestinian armed resistance against the occupation) and who now choose to participate in a non violent, joint struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I believe that as well as being a profound infringement of the human rights of the Palestinians that the occupation is deeply unhealthy for the healing of the collective Jewish/Israeli Narrative. Both peoples are imprisoned by this reality and I am driven by a desire to bring about freedom for all.

I have and continue to seek the links between my work with CfP and MM practice.

I have to admit that since becoming more closely involved with Combatants for Peace during the last two years, I have openly questioned the validity of offering such transformational work to Israelis in the light of the occupation of the Palestinian People. Questions have been pre occupying me during this time. ; Do Israeli’s who aren’t fully engaged in trying to end the occupation really ‘deserve’ the work? Should I be offering my time and energy to these workshops? Should Ya’Acov be addressing the issue of the occupation more directly in the workshops? What about Palestinians who can’t access this work, how could MM be offered to them? What about bringing Palestinians and Israeli’s together in a space to do MM, How might that work? These questions have been running around my head and have sat sometimes in conflict with my deep respect, love, commitment and trust of Ya’Acov and MM. And, here I was faced with a call from deep inside to step into my own conflict and to assist, to follow this voice that won’t go away that tells me that this is part of the work I’m here to do, this is part of my own journey, be a bridge between people, between practices, between countries. So I stepped in…. and  ‘Mending the circle’ was one whopping magical step.

Here is my personal account of the visit …

7th of December- Ben- Gurion airport, Tel-Aviv, Israel- Ya’Acov, Sabine and Silvana emerge from the gates of customs beaming.  I am there to meet them and be their driver and host.  My heart is warmed and I relax.  On route to my Fathers house, I decide to take them all to my childhood beach, for a stunning sunset and a swim. This has been my ritual for near to 25 years now and it was  a real privilege to share it with my friends. We take in the sea in our own ways, I swim in the beautiful waters of a sea oblivious to the fact that Europe is engulfed in some of the coldest conditions in history. Grandfather sun skillfully and gracefully does his thing and sinks into the waters guiding us to gentle darkness. 

We then arrive at the Kibbutz where I grew up and where my father and youngest brother still live. Although I haven’t lived here for over 20 years it still has a feel of home. We go out for dinner at an Arabic restaurant and when we arrive the table is already abundant with many beautiful salads, humus and other wonderful Mediterranean dips. We decide that this could become a wonderful custom just simply accept what is put before you - the food is sumptuous too.

Next day after I have had a morning cycle with my 72 old father in the wonderfully warm and comforting sun, we set off of on the journey to the workshop that is taking place in an amazing eco space.

As the dancing tribe arrive I recognise many familiar faces- mostly women who have been coming to dance with Ya’Acov since I have been coming here- about 6 years now. As in the past – the welcome is warm, and the hugs abundant- it’s like meeting old family on the annual visit.  As ever the first dance is deep and warm. Ya’Acovs sensitive words introducing the need to dance to mend the circle in this land touch me deeply. The circle here, in this complex land, this land of contradictions, this land full of pain and historical conflict, really needs mending in so many ways and in so many places. Ya’Acov is gentle and very honest about his own complex relationship to this land, to its people and the current situation. It’s strong and I feel moved by his directness-We dance for two full days exploring the MM Mesa. Dancing the fascinating journeys between micro, media and macro. Getting to know our own circle in relation to one another, learning how to stay true, safe and real whilst becoming aware of the other and the whole community. This groundwork feels vital in this context. It seems to me that one of the fundamental issues in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is both peoples fear of stepping into the shoes of the other for fear they will loose their identity/safety So dancing this particular aspect of the practice felt  very profound.

We are preparing for ceremony on Friday.  In the ceremony the invitation will be to dance through the whole of the MM Mandala – what a treat!! On Friday afternoon I leave the group to join a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah ( -Israel) this is part of the ongoing struggle where Israelis, Palestinians and internationals stand side-by-side and non-violently demonstrate against the Israeli Governments policy and action on Palestinian house demolition and other human rights violations.  Despite my slight feeling of guilt about leaving my job as an assistant – this action feels connected and important to me. On my return I discover that most people in the workshop have no idea about this long- standing campaign. Many people show interest and want information about it all, so despite my initial shock at their lack of knowledge, - their response warms my heart- so this is one of the purposes of me going…

In preparation for the ceremony- Ya’Acov confirms that he would like me to DJ for the first four dimensions within the MM Mandala (self, others, community, ancestors/spirit world) this is a challenge and I feel very nervous. I have done a fair amount of warms ups and even a bit of music in ceremony (Ya’Acov took over mid way last time, I obviously wasn’t quite ready then…) but this feels like a whole other ball game. Moreover, Ya'Acov lets me know that he will be out on the floor doing healings so really wont be available to DJ if I am struggling- so the heat is really on!! I sit to prepare my music as best I can – I want to keep it real and fresh so that I’m responding to the group and what feels right in the moment. Im trying to find the balance between this and a certain level of preparedness. Ya’Acov sits beside me and smiles, one of those knowing smiles …

We dance through divine feminine/divine masculine, the four elements and the 9 gateways. At every stage of the dance I feel how this amazing Manadala keeps on revealing its riches to me and us- it has so much to offer and it has so much space to include all experiences and before I know it- Ya’Acov whispers in my ear- “Your on in 5 minutes…” Gulp!! My heart beats, my hands feel slightly sweaty, Ya’Acov smiles… I feel the support of both Sabine and Silvana throughout the 3.5 hours of my music playing as they keep time for the changeovers, offer smiles and Tea and loving hugs at the end- thank you dear fellow assistants. At some point during the first round- Ya'Acov leans in and asks me- “ What’s behind you?” I pause and am not sure what the answer is- I am lost in being alone in the task… he leans even closer and says- “All the support you need, just lean back and relax, its all there…” – In that moment I just sit back and trust the music I have chosen, the moment in time, the process and very importantly I trust Ya’Acovs words. It is so beautiful and such an honour to have this opportunity to offer music for ceremony- it is a truly magical thing. 

The whole ceremony is deep and moving.  I particularly notice my dear friend and fellow Combatant for Peace (This is his first time dancing MM) really dive deep into the ceremony and allow his body to absorb the richness of it all- beauty in motion… The Ceremony ends at 5am as the sun rises and the space is illuminated by all the amazing dancers and their dances – it has been a gentle and very moving experience which I imagine will echo for some time to come. We then peel off to our various beds to get a few hours of well-deserved sleep.

The following days dance (our last of the workshop) is full of light and lightness- smiles, hugs, Gratitude, some tears and much laughter. A storm is brewing after a serious drought here in Israel and after this workshop there is one more thing to do…

I have arranged for us to travel to Shufa in the West Bank where Ya'Acov will lead a short movement class with Israelis and Palestinians, all members of CfP. We drive through the checkpoint and then arrive in Shufa Castle, a small yet beautiful space. There are five Israelis (two men and three  women) and eight Palestinian men, We gather in a circle, we have no way of playing music so Ya'Acov will use the drum and Sabine will support him. I feel a sense of excitement- how will it go? How will the group respond? We gather in a circle and Ya'Acov speaks briefly about why we  Dance. Then we start to move- body parts, sensing our own circle, our own space and then Ya'Acov starts to talk of freedom in the movement, inviting us all to find freedom and I feel my heart beat, mentioning freedom in this context is so profound, so bold and so very right. I am so moved by Ya'Acovs courage to step so quickly and directly into the depth of the issue. I am also so moved as I see my fellow dancers and close friends slowly relax into the movement and the freedom it offers. The moment when Ya'Acov invites us all to simply let go shake out what needs to be released is so amazing and again so moving that tears come to my eyes. I feel so full of gratitude and hope- this feels like a real beginning of something. I have been dreaming of a moment like this for some time…

The feedback from the participants is rich and revealing- Many talk of the profound sense of freedom they felt in the body and how they were able for just a short while be free of the shackles of the occupation (on both sides). How the dance became a new medium for being together, to viewing the other and in some ways removing barriers and realising that we all have a body that can move and is essentially free to do so, no matter what anyone else says or does.  Of course this is paradoxical, because all of the Palestinians live under the occupation and have served time in Israeli prisons.  So they all have real experiences of external forces taking away their liberty- and for this one hour their inner freedom was visible and felt.

At the end of this hour I feel a visceral sense of excitement from everyone. It is time to bid Ya'Acov Sabine and Silvana goodbye now- my hosting of them is now done- I feel so very full of excitement, joy, tiredness and pride. Hugs and kisses, some gentle tears and as I am hugging Ya'Acov he tells me that when he was meditating on the rock by the sea on the first day, he realised that from now onwards his visits would include some teaching with Israelis and Palestinians.

Thank you Ya'Acov- thank you spirit, thank you to all brothers and sisters who invest in making peace with those who used to be called enemies, thank you for the opportunity to seek justice, peace and freedom as reflected in many different mirrors. Thanks for the spirit of the dance and the dancer in all of us which is already perfectly free to live and the hope that this notion gives us all. Thanks to Ruth and my children for traveling with me thus far.

My work is done (For now)

Thank you for reading…


Ben, Shine in the Dark (The Boss)

Here is a link to a video of the session at Shufa Castle



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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.