November 2014: This is the third workshop I am facilitating with Combatants for Peace (CfP) on behalf of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. My co-facilitators this time are Ben Yeger, an Israeli CfP member living in the UK, plus Ali Nassal from Ramallah in the West Bank. Both are new colleagues to me before we begin this workshop.
We are at a particularly critical moment in the escalating violence and increasing dehumanization between Israelis and Palestinians. Especially in Jerusalem, where I stayed before the workshop, tensions are high and both populations feel their wellbeing and sense of security threatened.
Approximately 50 Israeli and Palestinian members of CfP gathered for a 3-day retreat in Beit Sahour, a small village near Bethlehem in the West Bank. The Israeli members of CfP served in the Israeli Defense Force and generally also in reserve duty following their service. Palestine members found their own ways to battle against the occupation, many landing in Israeli jails for long or short durations as a result of their protests. For all the members, some event, incident, or insight served as a wake-up call to relinquish their guns or stones. Somehow, they found their way to Combatants for Peace, where they discovered a new way to engage, this time with words and actions focused on ending the occupation rather than through weapons that cause harm and continue the cycle of violence.