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Life Arts    H3'ed 2/3/09

A Palestinian and an Israeli Find Peace Together

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Message Fred Burks

The powerful true story below was sent to me by a wonderful friend a while back. What if Israel and Palestine somehow represent warring factions in each of our personal lives? What might happen if we truly focus on identifying opposing factions both within us and between us, and then consciously work to understand and have compassion for the needs and desires of the factions involved? Now is the time to be the change. Don't miss the inspiring links at the end of the story. Take care and have a beautiful day.

With very best wishes,

Fred Burks for PEERS and the Team

A Palestinian and an Israeli Find Peace Together
By Marion Pargamin

Quite an extraordinary event happened to me during a peace walk organized by a meditation group in Israel. The eight-day walk took place on the first week of April. It was intended to give an opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis to walk together, to develop dialogue and self-introspection, inspired by the ancient traditions that guided people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. During these eight days, participants walked together from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, passing by Jewish and Arab towns and settlements in silence and awareness, declaring a commitment to deep listening and nonviolence.

Monday, the 8th of April, the last day of the Walk, is the eve of the Holocaust day, a day of deep emotion for the Jewish community. The walk goes through Jerusalem to the foot of the old city walls. I had been planning to join the group in the morning, but after a sleepless night I decide to join later.

In the early afternoon, I walk up to the walls of the old city to join the walkers. When I get to Jaffa gate, I find myself in front of a very agitated elderly Arab man exchanging insults with an elderly religious Jew who is standing at a bus station a few meters down. They are extremely angry. Some policemen from a Border Police patrol are trying to calm them down, so that it won't turn into a fight.

I stand beside the Arab. I speak to him calmly and ask him to sit down without reacting to the other's provocation. I am quite impressed by the restraint shown by the policemen. They don't defend one side or the other and respect both sides. The bus arrives, the Jewish man boards the bus and the situation seems to have settled down.

Then, a Jewish woman who was there in the queue from the beginning of the argument takes it upon herself to start insulting the Arab, who reacts immediately. The police have gone and I am left alone to try to calm the situation.

I give my attention to the Arab, who would have stayed quiet if he was not continually provoked by the woman. I try from a distance to reason with her without success. She stops a passing police car and says something to the policeman. I explain to him what is going on. I am so happy that all the policemen in this situation act so calmly and help to restore peace.
Then, a Palestinian woman on her way to Jaffa gate bursts onto the scene. She jumps to the conclusion that the old Arab is under attack and rushes in a frenzy to rescue him. She yells insults at the Jewish woman, and the situation heats up again. All my attention is now focused on her. She is like a bomb ready to explode. I try to explain to her what is going on, but she is furious with me, screaming out her hatred, her despair and her pain.

This whole situation is greater than the two of us and takes on proportions beyond our present meeting. This is Palestine accusing Israel. At this moment I represent Israel for her. She shouts out her sorrow about what is going on now in the territories, the military incursions into Palestinian towns.

She has family and friends in Jenin and says that our soldiers are war criminals. She is convinced that we want to kill them all. Why do we hate them so much? They are not responsible for the Holocaust, why should they be paying the price? Pointing at the Jewish woman, she assures me that in the Arab country from where this Sephardi woman comes, she was treated with honor, as a human being and yet look at how she behaves with Palestinians now!

It goes on and on. She shouts and spews her hatred for Israel at me. I don't try to argue with her at all. I don't show any reaction to all these accusations. I feel a huge compassion and an intense need just to listen to her. My patience is nourished by understanding that behind this overwhelming hatred is a deep suffering and pain aggravated by the present situation of war. It must express itself in some way so that healing can take place. I don't let myself get tempted or trapped into guilt or anger. I am sorry for the tragedy on both sides.

I let her express herself for a long time without interrupting her. As she continues to shout at me, I tell her that she has no need to speak so loudly, because I am listening to her with all my attention. At the same time I find myself caressing her arm. She lets me do it and progressively lowers her voice, while continuing to let her despair overflow.

She says to me, “Do you understand why some of us come and commit suicide among you? You kill us anyway, so why not kill you at the same time?” She even mentions the possibility of coming and blowing herself up out of despair. I tell her softly that I don't want her to die. Nobody should come to this decision. We all suffer on both sides.

She goes on and on claiming that the Zionists only want to get rid of the Palestinians. I tell her, “You see I am a Zionist, and I don't want to get rid of you. I wish we could live together as good neighbors.” She listens to me! She tells me about the demonstration that took place the week before near Ramallah. Then she asks me to donate some money to buy phone cards for Palestinians who need them. I give her some money.

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Before resigning from the US State Department in 2004 due to excessive secrecy demands, Fred Burks served for many years as a language interpreter for presidents and other dignitaries. He interpreted for Bush, Clinton, Gore, Cheney, and many other (more...)
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