Ever since he was 16-years old, Bethlehem-born Sami Awad has been asking himself what is so powerful about non-violence. "Can I make a decision that is motivated by the future that I seek – not the past that I experience?" Megan Titley, from Amos Trust, writes.
Speaking to an audience in Stroud as part of his UK tour, Sami, a Palestinian Christian peace builder, told the crowd how his uncle was deported by the Israeli army for his part in non-violent resistance against the occupation. Sami’s Uncle was deemed a threat to the national security of Israel and to this day is not welcome back except as a tourist. “That is how dangerous non-violence is,” Sami said. And the event has shaped the course of his life.
Growing up in a violent period of history in Bethlehem in the West Bank in the late 60s and seeing his father abused on a daily basis, Sami felt that he “had every excuse and justification to hate Israelis.”
Later on in life, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Sami asked himself some fundamental questions. "What makes our enemy our enemy? What shapes the mindset of our enemy? What made the Jewish community come up with this mindset of exclusivity – that they have an exclusive claim to the Holy Land and do not recognise the equal rights of others in and to the land."
That is how dangerous non-violence is," Sami said. And the event has shaped the course of his life. "We need to be able to understand what motivates us to make a decision for the future, to create a possibility for the future."
He wondered if he could truly follow the teachings in the Bible. “When Jesus commands me to love my enemy what does that mean?” The answer to these questions came when Sami’s Jewish American friends invited him to go on the Bearing Witness Retreat to visit the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
“My enemy was a group of people that had experienced continued threat, violence, discrimination and racism,” Sami said. “There was never a healing for the Jews. Both groups, the Jews and the Palestinians have a similar type of trauma – an existential threat to their existence – so they can never let their guards down."
"For the first time I began to see that peacemaking is not about making a political commitment, it’s a commitment to a deep healing of deep traumas. Until we do that we can never do peacemaking.”
Calling for a paradigm shift in peace and justice Sami, who established Holy Land Trust with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists, explained how his organisation tries to help people to look into the past with a different lens.
There was never a healing for the Jews. Both groups, the Jews and the Palestinians have a similar type of trauma – an existential threat to their existence – so they can never let their guards down.
“We need to be able to understand what motivates us to make a decision for the future, to create a possibility for the future. What is that future in the Holy Land that is free from the past we created – that truly honours the freedom of the Jew, the Christian, and the Muslim?"
"Can I make a decision that is motivated by the future that I seek - not the past that I experience?" It’s a question that Sami hopes to see answered with a “yes” in his lifetime.
This blog post was originally posted on our partner, Amos Trust, website. Read the original here.
I grew up living under the Israeli military occupation, in a situation where my friends and my foes were clearly defined, those who were for the occupation and those who wanted the occupation to end. I witnessed the Israeli army and Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists. So when it came to Israeli society it was clear, there was the left and the right, the settler and the Israeli on the other side of the “green line”, the secular and the religious, the activist and the soldier … the friend and the foe.
In the early 1990’s a redefinition of my friend and foe was created. It was not just about the occupation; it was now linked with those who supported and those who opposed the Oslo Peace Process, and for the first time the definition included Palestinians. Any Palestinian who opposed the Oslo Process was an enemy of peace and an enemy of Palestinian national aspiration, therefore, my enemy. Any reaction by Palestinians towards the occupation, violent or nonviolent, was not only seen as being justified or not, moral or not, strategic or not, but was almost seen as anti-Palestinian if it did fit into the framework of Oslo.
During that time, the Israeli settlers and especially the religious ones were given more weight to the title of the “enemy” because they now became the obstacle to achieving peace. Negotiations were happening with right wing leader, so they were kind of our friends. The Israeli army, which a year before was shooting, arresting, and even killing Palestinians was now conducting joint patrols with Palestinian security forces to protect “the peace” from Palestinians who opposed it. Even though the paradigm of definitions was flipped inside-out during the Oslo era, the majority accepted all these changes because they trusted the leaders and trusted them to deliver what they promised, freedom and peace.
The promises were not fulfilled during that time and do not seem to be achievable anymore. The old definitions and redefinitions of my “friend” and “foe” no longer hold ground because the frameworks in which these definitions were created, the frameworks that promised us liberation and peace based on the Oslo two-state solution model have simply collapsed.
This does not mean that peace and justice cannot be manifested in the land, on the contrary; today presents a real opportunity. A new paradigm needs to emerge that is not a repetition of the old frameworks but is founded on deeper and much more challenging understandings of peace and justice, on values that were in the past ignored and neglected.
In this new paradigm, my Israeli friends are not the ones who want to arrange a cease-violence agreement with me and call it “peace.” They are not the ones who want to hold on to all that they gained (land, power, resources, etc.) and give me the least amount to survive on and call it “freedom.” They are not the ones who are so afraid of me that they want to create self-rule for the Palestinians and call it “statehood.”
My friends in the new paradigm will be the ones who stand for human and equal rights for all in this land (Christian, Jew, and Muslim), rights that will not be constraint by any physical, emotional, or mental barrier. My friends are the ones who will recognize and acknowledge the atrocities that were committed against the Palestinians and the injustices that pursued them. My friends will stand for resisting all systems and structures of oppression, fear, segregation, control, racism, and discrimination in this land no matter what they are and no matter who inflicts them.
My friends will challenge themselves to recognize my historic rights without thinking that this denies in any way their rights. My friends will recognize my deep-rooted historic love to this land without fearing that my love in any way infringes on their love for the land. My friends will recognize the right of all peoples in this land to live in freedom, equality, honor, respect, content, safety, and prosperity. My friends will trust me and respect me and seek the same from me.
So who could be my friend in this new framework? Anyone who believes in peace and justice and is not motivated by fear is my friend. My friend can be a settler or a secular lefty, a devout Jew, Muslim, or Christian. My friend can even be a supporter of the two-state solution, the one-state solution, or any other political solution.
Yes, there will be those who would still believe in violence and war, in segregation and separation, or in continuing the illusions that were created during the Oslo process. Such voices on both sides need to be challenged because I believe they are a foe to their own people before they are a foe to the other.
These thoughts are reposted from Sami's personal blog.
Water is an important life-source for communities all over the globe, but humans don’t always honor, respect and protect the environment around it.
Recently, Holy Land Trust welcomed Kate Bunney from Walking Water, a California-based movement with a call for collaboration and unity in vision and hope for preserving water, a natural, beautiful element of life that is threatened by man-made project. The movement was inspired by the “development projects” that bring clean mountain water to the large metropolis of Los Angeles at the expense of indigenous people and the environment.
Walking Water is an invitation, an action, an educational journey and a prayer that unites many voices in the act of walking together. The Peoples of the Eastern Sierra and Los Angeles as well as environmental activists from all over the world walk side by side, following the waterways— natural and manmade — between Mono Lake and Los Angeles, from the natural source waters to their end consumers. This collaboration is a pilgrimage — a way to directly experience the land, to experience the heat and dryness of the Valley as well as its beauty and expanse.
Phase 1 of this journey started in 2015 and spanned 180 miles, lasting 22 days (you can read a full report here). The fall of 2016 will see the second phase of participants - Contact Walking Water if you’d like to join them on the next journey from Owens Lake to the Cascades in Sylmar, LA.
The vision of Walking Water is more than this physical gathering of people. It is the desire to unite voices from all over the world that can relate to water issues and scarcity. It is an invitation to ask questions and seek answers in our communities. It’s a plea to radically re-think how we act, think and live in relation to water.
The struggle for indigenous rights and environmental justice is something we relate to in the West Bank, where communities are cut off from their water sources (like natural springs), people are prohibited from digging wells that would capture precious rainwater to be used for irrigation, and where farmers and many households are forced to buy water from Israeli authorities. See graphic below for more info.
We at Holy Land Trust invite you as well to be part of the movement! Educate yourself about water scarcity and pollution, Conserve water individually and within your communities, Pray for all peoples (indigenous and otherwise)… and Join the movement!
I had volunteered at Holy Land Trust a few years ago, but I jumped at the chance to come back in order to research the issue of trauma and healing in the Palestinian Community. As a licensed Clinical Psychiatrist, I know that for individuals, addressing our fears and traumas are an important prerequisite for beginning the process of healing. The same is true for communities, particularly communities that have experienced intergenerational traumas (not all members have experienced the trauma-inducing event, but collectively it is experienced through exposure to other members of society).
The HLT is grounded in a philosophy of non-violence. While acknowledging the power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians and the suffering of Palestinians under the occupation, they believe that all sides suffer while locked in violent struggle, much like Gandhi. HLT believes decades of trauma have conditioned both sides to distrust the other and the current spate of violence has not helped. How do you reach these people?
So using what I know as a psychologist, I have been exploring societal level interventions for healing by working through some of the accumulated trauma of the conflict. I feel like I made a tiny initial contribution to this huge task—but one I can continue from afar and in collaboration with others when I go back. It was difficult for me to say good-bye to all the friends I made at HLT and in Bethlehem.
And so, after 2 months of adventures in volunteering, including meeting some inspirational people and learning a bit of Arabic, I said goodbye to this beautiful and conflicted land by with a hike on my last weekend.
The beautiful Wadi Makhroor between Battir (a UNESCO-protected village) and Beit Jala is breath taking. Wadi in Arabic means “valley” and this one winds under terraced slopes and rocky hillsides for about 4 km, a good trek for me but perhaps easier for my younger companions. It was overcast and sprinkled occasionally and walking across some of the tilled plots caused lots of reddish mud to accumulate on our shoes. “My shoes weigh five pounds each,” one of my hiking companions, Nicola, laughed. Rasha, who hiked in Battir before, said that the wild flowers in the spring make the scene even more beautiful... but I found the stark winter scenery and the solitude and silence welcome and pleasing, a nice break from the crowded conditions in the West Bank.
As a humble outdoorsman, who frequently takes refuge in solitude with nature, I was disappointed to see litter scattered between olive trees and small caves! Apparently, not everyone adheres to the principle of leaving a natural spot cleaner that you found it, the way we did. The girls found a red bucket and squashed as many used bottles and trash as they could into it, in order to carry it out … but it would have taken many hikes with large plastic bags to get it all.
In the final stretch, we put our face to the wind and hiked up the last hill towards Beit Jala. My reward for my efforts was to be an evening at Hosh Jasmin Organic Farm - a funky out-of the way restaurant serving delicious traditional Palestinian food. Arriving off-hour, we were treated to a table by the warm crackling fire and were cheerfully joined by a later arriving group, two young Americans living in Tel Aviv and their friends, an American woman from North Carolina, and an Israeli woman. We admired the Israeli woman, Diana, for venturing into the West Bank and she candidly admitted how frightening it was to come here at first.
We had a lively conversation, over dinner which consisted of fresh-made Stuffed Grape leaves, musakhan (Chicken on bread with sauteed onions and sumac spice), Rabbit, zarb (a dish which is slow-cooked under the ground), and delicious little meat dumplings cooked in a kind of hot yogurt sauce (labane). The owner, who noticed us enjoying ourselves, joined us and supplied us all with a free round of stomach-warming house-made Arak (a clear grape/anise liquor; in Greek it’s called Ouzo, Turkish Raki), and we continued talking around the fireplace into the evening. For me, this was the perfect ending to 2 months volunteering in beautiful Palestine, and I hope to come back… again!
This blog was posted by: Jerry Lawler, an American Clinical Psychologist with a private practice in Baltimore, MD. He has volunteered before at Holy Land Trust and been to the West Bank and Gaza 6 times for extended volunteer stints. He has taught in the US on inter-ethnic conflict and maintains a private practice for adults in Baltimore. You can read more from his blog here.
By: Holy Land Trust
One of Holy Land Trust’s intentions for the years to come is to build and strengthen female leadership in the Holy Land. We believe women leadership is an essential component to building a lasting and sustainable peace. The first step in this process was hosted by Holy Land Trust in November 2015! We held an intensive leadership development training and organized a fact finding and networking mission for women. The non-linear leadership methodology challenges and develops leaders to make decisions based on a vision for the future rather than their past experiences. The overall aim was to create a platform for these leaders to learn more deeply about the realities of the conflict and for them to embark on a journey of personal transformation, emerging as a team to develop new possibilities, and implement new projects in the region which will focus on perpetuating transformation and building women leadership.
Several Americans came to the Holy Land in November and participated in the training and fact-finding and networking mission. The first three and half days of the program were entirely dedicated to the non-linear leadership development training. These initial trainings were with a trainer/coach, Paula Alter from the UK, and were focused on the past and present sections of the non-linear methodology. The future portion of the methodology was taught to them towards the end of the program by the Director of Holy Land Trust, Sami Awad.
Other than the trainings, much of their time was spent meeting with various women leaders around the land.
One of the places the women visited was the Tent of Nations. They met with Jihan Nasser, where they were able to discuss possibilities of assisting Jihan in her work helping women in Nahalin. Nahalin is a small Palestinian Muslim village between the Tent of Nations and several Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The next day they went to a traditional Palestinian cooking class offered by Noor Women’s Empowerment Group where they met Islam, a Muslim woman living in Aida refugee camp. Islam began cooking classes to raise money for disabled children in the camp. During the cooking class, the women were able to share ideas and potential projects for the future.
After the cooking class, the women met with Fadwa Abbad, who is the Director of Sunaa’ Al Amal for therapeutic training & counseling in Bethlehem. She has been invovled in social work and gender issues for many years. The women in the group were able to hear Fadwa’s story about growing up as a refugee in Bethlehem and the work she has done over her life.
The day after that the group of women met with Tamara Seagal, a second generation Holocaust survivor who is a teacher at an alternative Jewish school which encourages its students to have friendship with Palestinians in the future. They then met with Vered Levuinger who is an Israeli Jewish social worker and helps children through the arts in her community. At both meetings, the women were able to discuss gender issues and ideas about how they can work together to achieve peace and justice in the Holy Land.
The following day they traveled to a settlement in the West Bank and met with Hadassah Fruman, the wife of an orthodox Jewish Rabbi who was famous for making peace with his neighboring Palestinian villages and promoting peace activism. Since her husband’s death, Hadassah has continued his efforts at peace and recently organized a joint day of fasting for Palestinians and Israelis to pray together during the recent events.
The final day of the fact-finding mission the women met with peace activist, Siham Abu Awwad where they were able to hear Siham’s story and discuss her work in peace activism. Siham is a member of The Parents Circle Families Forum which is an organization of bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families who meet to work towards peace and reconciliation.
They then traveled to Baqa to meet with Sana Jawabreh who is an Arab-Israeli that has engaged a lot in the issue of violence against women and is a peace activist. Her mother is the first women to create a Mosque where women were able to pray together and speak with a female Imam. The women enjoyed dinner with Sana in Baqa and were able to listen to her experiences and her stories about growing up as a Palestinian in Israel.
At the end of the training and fact-finding mission, the women have committed to working together to implement future projects in the Holy Land to bring more foreign women to Israel/Palestine and to continue women’s leadership development in the Israeli and Palestinian communities.
By Sami Awad
One of the most common questions asked these days is when will the situation [in the Holy Land] calm down? Despite the rhetoric we hear both sides propagate, slogans like, steadfastness in the face of the other; resistance to the violence of the other, and having a united front in combating the other, most Palestinians and Israelis wonder when will the violence stop. When will things return to the normality that everyone seems to have gotten used to?
The reality is that the situation is never truly "calm" for those who live under occupation as well as for those who are the occupiers. Any calmness that people expect is nothing more than an illusion created which ignores the reality of the injustice and oppression of the occupation itself. While some might define the word "occupation" in the context of land and statehood, I define it more as the systemic domination of one group of people over the other and the dissymmetry and inequality it creates in the economic, political, cultural, social and civil rights of the occupied.
Creating a sense of calmness became dominant over the past few decades because it promised Palestinians and Israelis alike an end to the occupation, peace, freedom, security, and prosperity. This indoctrination of the minds of the people was done through the establishment of strong political institutions, the signing of countless political and economic agreements, billions of dollars in investments, mechanisms of reward and punishment, and unprecedented numbers of resolutions and symbolic gestures in global institutions such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. The Oslo Peace Process and the mechanism of negotiations became the vessels that carried the illusion of calmness because they were presented as the only means to achieving the promises mentioned above.
As the majority of Palestinians and Israelis fell trap to "normalizing" themselves to the illusion of calmness and the illusion of the promises of the Oslo Peace Process, they in turn became its biggest defenders, because it became their bread and butter. When you are hungry and have been blinded to seeing only one fruit-bearing tree in the garden, you will make sure to protect it at all costs. Oslo was presented as that, either Oslo or chaos.
Until recently, and on both sides, those who did not assimilate or "normalize" to the illusion of calmness, challenged it, or suggested alternatives to it became marginalized and even accused of being "normalizers", anti-nationalistic, unpatriotic, unrealistic, naïve or living their own illusion. For the most part, Palestinianism became defined by loyalty to the Palestinian Authority and its agenda and Israelism defined by loyalty to the "defense" establishments of the state, loyalty to its military and/or to its isolationist ideologies.
The time has come for a wider awakening to the illusions created by countless negotiations and agreements, mainly being the Oslo Peace Process and all agreements that came after it. The challenge is not to figure out who is fulfilling or not fulfilling the agreements signed. It is important now to recognize that the foundations of the agreements signed are baseless and in no way meet the real needs of the peoples in the land, (Jew, Muslim, Christian; Palestinian or Israeli).
Real calmness in the Holy Land can only manifest itself if a real peace emerges between the communities of the land, not the politicians. It is a peace that is founded on the principles of mutual trust and respect and a desire to truly bring a sense of justice, equality and equity to all those who live in the Holy Land. It is a peace that addresses the existential fears of the past on both sides and does not allow that fear to be manipulated by the political establishments.
The structures of oppression, control and fear must be dismantled and if not dismantled by choice of the leaders, then dismantled by the force of the people through nonviolent engagement, working in unity and/or separately. A leadership must emerge that is motivated by a vision of peace and justice, not of maintaining calmness, making false promises, and creating space for prosperity of the few.
Some say that breaking the structures created by Oslo can lead to chaos and unprecedented violence; that it is insane to even consider such an option. To those voices I say, look at where we are now? If we had a choice between the insanity of staying attached to the frameworks of the past, that have made all our lives more difficult and challenging, or the choice to break down the illusion and develop new and real models of peace and justice, then what would you choose?
By Sami Awad, founder and Executive Director of Holy Land Trust
By: Mikaela Malouf
For the first month of my stay, I participated in Holy Land Trust’s Palestinian Summer Encounter (PSE) program. During this time, I was able to see different cities in the West Bank, hear a variety of speakers share their stories and experiences, and volunteer at both the Bet Lahem Live Festival and a local organization. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the PSE program, but it did not really give me an idea of what it would look like to someday work in Palestine. Because of this, I decided to stay for the month of September and serve directly under Holy Land Trust as an assistant/volunteer- and it has been an amazing experience.
As a short term volunteer, I had a couple of concerns about working at Holy Land Trust. Since I would be at Holy Land Trust for only one month, I was worried that I would be given very unimportant and easy tasks. On the other hand, I was nervous that I may be given only one project to work on and that I would not be able to obtain a solid understanding of the various components that come together that make an organization that tries to create peace in a heavily conflicted area like this work.
This however, was not the case. Since I began volunteering at Holy Land Trust at the beginning of September, I have been given a range of diverse tasks- tasks that I both enjoy doing, and that I feel are not ‘easy and unimportant’. To date, I have been able to:
Being here, I have definitely been kept busy, which I enjoy very much. By working on projects from writing and editing to learning how to format and enter information into a computer, I have been able to enhance my ability to work hard, as well as understand the dynamics of how HLT functions and grows as a cross cultural ‘bridge-building’ organization.
Another factor that has made my time at Holy Land Trust so pleasant is the staff. Everyone who works here is kind, friendly, and hardworking. They create a family-like environment, and have been extremely welcoming. Any time I have questions about anything, I have been able to email or ask one of the staff members, and they have always been willing to help. I have been asked repeatedly if I enjoy the work that I have been given- and it has been really great to volunteer in a place that not only cares about the quality of the work produced, but also the feelings of the person doing the work. Additionally, having just finished high school, I am the youngest person currently working/volunteering at Holy Land Trust. However, I have never felt that I have been ignored or treated like a child. On the contrary, I have been treated as an adult and, because of this, have been able to work on responsibility, time management, and excellence.
I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to volunteer at HLT. It has been a phenomenal experience. Everything- the work I have been given, my interactions with everyone on staff, how I have been treated- has been wonderful. Holy Land Trust is truly a unique organization doing amazing things for the community and it has been an absolute privilege to volunteer under them.
Putting a face on the need for peace
By: NATE VAN DUZER, GUEST COLUMNIST, Published 10:00 pm, Thursday, September 6, 2007
Hamas. Olmert. Emergency government. The Quartet. Abbas. The political terms of the relentless Israel-Palestine question appear constantly in the news these days. (My personal favorite: Fatahstan.) The language of politics is an easy frame of reference for thinking about a conflict. Unfortunately, it can also be used to maintain distance, dehumanizing the affected people and reducing them to mere "constituents."
This summer I went to the West Bank to volunteer at an orphanage and to improve my Arabic. Living and traveling around Bethlehem introduced me to these Palestinian "constituents." It made the conflict more real and its impact more heartbreaking. On the trip over I thought about politics; on the trip home I thought about people.
One weekend I visited Hebron, a city one hour south of Bethlehem, where ideological Israeli settlers have established themselves. The settlers, deemed extreme even by much of Israeli society, harass the Palestinian population to the point that Christian peacemaker teams have to escort local children to their schools. On a market street, Arab merchants erected wire mesh netting 12 feet off the ground to catch the garbage settlers throw down from their apartments above.
Nearby we met Hamid, who lives in the village of At-Tuwani. Wearing a baby blue Yankees cap and speaking softly and slowly like a farmer in no hurry, he describes the escalating pressure his community faces from nearby settlements. One day, when his 70-year-old mother watched the family flock, a group of settlers came to beat her with chains and steal the sheep. When Hamid ran to help, the settlers fired shots at his feet.
The nicest building in At-Tuwani is the school. However, because Israel restricts building permits for Palestinians, it was built without permission and is scheduled for demolition. A lawyer managed to delay that action for 10 years, but that was nine years ago. While Hamid declares quietly that he has no hope, his youngest daughter squirms and giggles in his lap, too young to understand.
I also listened to my host brother describe how he had to use the pretense of a laser-eye surgery consultation just to obtain Israeli permission for entry into Jerusalem to see "The Matrix" on a big screen. I saw West Bank roads that only settlers can use, shared roads that only Palestinians are ticketed on and vast orchards of Palestinian olive trees cut down, ostensibly, for security reasons. I drove past a Palestinian farmer working land that he has had to fight for in court for 17 years, despite owning property deeds dating to the Ottoman Empire. I saw the rubble of a home that a family had built four times and that Israeli soldiers had bulldozed each time.
I do not wish to talk about politics. I know that, if left alone, Palestinian society would be far from perfect; it would still be wracked by violence, sexism, fatalism and many other terrible things. What I do want to talk about is people. The West Bank is home to great and systemic human suffering. Perhaps if real faces can peer out from between all of the political words, the need for peace will seem more urgent and the status quo less acceptable.
Originally published in Seatle pi
by Sara Malamud
Over the past few weeks, we've been lucky to meet with and listen to some amazing guest speakers on the conflict and their personal experiences.
One of those speakers was Ghassan Andoni. He is currently a physics professor at Bir Zeit University and is also an advocate for non-violent resistance in the conflict. Not only that, he is the cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement, founder of the International Middle East Media Center and Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples.
He was an inspiring and engaging speaker and we were so lucky to be able to hear his story.
During the First Intifada, Andoni was involved in a peaceful resistance movement in the area of Beit Sahour in Bethlehem. The story is incredibly sad, impressive and humorous. I will have to watch the film, The Wanted 18, which documents the resistance (specifically, the comic-tragic story of the Israeli army's attempt to confiscate eighteen cows in order to prevent residents of Beit Sahour from producing their own dairy products in order to boycott the Israeli dairy industry).
It was a privilege to be able to hear his story firsthand and to hear about the amazing things he has done (he's also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee). His story is one I will share countless times.