School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: May 2011
Israeli Adventures

By Susannah

I’ve just come back from Israel. I had a wonderful time and was privileged to be able to connect with many great people and projects. And it’s intense! No escape from the cross currents of history, pain, politics, power, fear and the tensions between different loyalties.

And so many brave, creative people doing amazing things that don’t get reported here, let alone there. I was so glad to be back on earth (I really don’t like flying) and back in the UK that when we got to the Heathrow Express I lay down on the (thankfully clean!) station platform and felt my body and soul reach out and relax with gratitude with the earth and the relative peace here.

I was in Israel to teach ‘Wild Life’ in Tel Aviv and to go with Ben Yeger (who is an SOMM apprentice and a member of ‘Combatants for Peace’) to the West Bank and share some movement medicine with a group of Palestinian women, and with a mixed (Israeli and Palestinian) group of ‘Combatants for Peace.’

I want to take my hat off to Aviya Reches, our organiser in Israel who has been hosting our work in Israel for nearly 10 years now. Many of the group she brought together have worked with us for many years. This time I felt that the group of veteran dancers and many new ones, found a new level of understanding, depth, focus and commitment to themselves and to each other, which allowed hearts to open, blossom and heal. I thank all the dancers and wish them good continuations. I bow to you all, and thank you for the warmth with which you sent us off to Shufa in the West Bank to dance with the members of “Combatants for Peace.”

We arrived in Shufa to be told that the castle we were meant to work in could not be accessed as the key holder had gone away, and for a while it seemed we might have to meet in the dusk in the olive groves (sounded cool to me, but would have been uncontained and very exposed for the participants), and then we were invited by a member of the group to meet on the roof of his house. They laid out a circle of chairs for us around a stand drying garlic, as the sky coloured into sunset over the rocky hills. I was told that we could not stand up and dance, as we were too visible to the village. There were 8 or so Jewish Israelis, and 8 or so Palestinians. So I drummed softly and invited us into our bodies. Heads and shoulders swayed, spines loosened, deep exhalations from us all. And then, one by one, each individual led the group in a repetition. One guy, a Palestinian football coach, led us in a beautiful movement, which stretched to the heavens, then to the earth, then to each other, then to the heart. As we fell into this the mezuzah sounded and prayers intertwined. It was wonderful to feel the work this group has done building shared vocabulary through theatre practice. Then in cross-cultural pairs we found movements from our hearts and shared them in dancing sign language dialogue, each taking the other’s. Deep focus in the silence as the drum beat with our hearts. I felt a rare level of meaning and depth as people revealed themselves to each other and received each other’s humanity. We ended with an echo name and gesture round, tea was served, chatting, hugs and thanks and off we all went. Very simple.

What I keep understanding from my (thankfully) relatively naive and innocent place, as someone not directly involved in this conflict, is the enormity and rareness of this occurrence. To meet members of “the other side” unmasked and open, in simple shared humanity. To be brave enough to enter territory where you have been told over and over that “they” all want to kill you. To welcome the “enemy” into your village, extending the naked hand of friendship. It is a true gift to be able to witness the courage, dignity and open heartedness of these people from both “sides” who are committed to a peaceful solution which is based on recognising each other as fellow human beings, and to finding non-violent ways to open real dialogue for a real change.

We are very happy to be able to add drops of our work here and feel the continuity with our own history (Y and I met in the UK Peace Movement of the 1980s.). So the beat goes on! Thank you Ben for all your work that makes this possible, and great respect to all members of the movement.

The other offering we made (and big thanks to Sylvana) was with a group of Palestinian women in the women’s centre of the refugee camp in Tul Karem. It was a totally chaotic situation, in a room without a door, with women and children coming and going, builders next door drilling away, but a strong core group who stayed with it. We had some very bright moments of celebrating each woman’s dance and then at the end, gathered into a miraculous silence, we were all moved as we felt our hearts, and then they asked poignant questions about sadness and anger. A deep moment of connection.

I’m grateful for all the teachers and the whole journey who’ve held me as I developed to a place where I feel I can offer something in these contexts.

Wishing us all the independence of mind, the strength and sensitivity of heart, to be active, joyous creators of the kind of world we want to live in,

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.