Spring 2002 Activities
I am very happy to present here the activity report of the Pluralistic Spiritual Center for Spring 2002.
The subjects represented in these activities show the various directions being taken by the Center. For the first time since the series of seminars arranged by the “circle of reflection” in the 1980s and early 90s, we established a meeting place both for NSWAS members and for the general public, where we can share thoughts and feelings about ourselves in connection to the reality around us and in connection with our role of peacemakers in our societies.
I would like to observe that what has brought us to the position where we can conduct such activities and offer them to the general public is the serious and dedicated work that has been done in NSWAS over the last 30 years. The programs that we offer are based on what we have learned while living in this unique community, educating our children in a binational school, as well as the exploration into the roots of the conflict, and approaches to dealing with it, made by and developed at the School for Peace.
This spring we concentrated around three main subjects:
The first issue was the painful stories of suffering of both people.
We started with the commemoration of Land Day (Yum al-Ard), by sitting together to listen to personal stories of NSWAS members relating to this day and what it symbolizes.
Then, on the eve of Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day, we invited two extraordinary speakers, a Palestinian and a Jew, who showed us a new perspective on this painful subject and an example of how to feel the suffering of our own people, while at the same time remaining open and compassionate to the pain of the other.
The next activity was the screening of a unique film,1948, dealing with the catastrophe (al-Nakba) of the Palestinian people. With the help of the director of this sensitive film, we could share some of the stories of people in the audience and give others the chance to hear their painful story which, unfortunately, is too little heard in this country.
The second issue was the role of religion and religious dialogue in the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
We invited three speakers to an evening of discussion: a Jew, a Moslem Palestinian and a Christian Palestinian. As it happened, only two participated since the Christian speaker had to cancel at the last minute due to illness. Despite this setback, a lively and interested discussion took place. We had the opportunity to hear the thoughts of Rabbi David Rosen - an experienced “dialogian”.(i.e., a theologian engaged in interreligious dialogue), and of Mr. Ali Rafa - an experienced civil law attorney and interpreter of religious law.
The evening left us with the feeling that we still have much to learn as secular people attempting to approach the subject of religion and interfaith issues.
The third issue was an introduction to the spiritual practice and teachings of the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn.
We spent a weekday evening and a full Saturday learning about the art of “mindfulness” from Lyn Fine, an American meditation teacher with a doctorate in conflict resolution.
Mindfulness, according to this teaching, means being present in the here and the now, paying full attention to everything we say or do in the present moment and realizing that we are all interconnected. By implication, our peace and happiness or the absence of these qualities are intimately related to their presence or absence in the world.
Thich Nhat Hahn attributes great importance to the creation and preservation of the community. Peace starts from the individual, the family, and the community, and therefore we should cultivate the seeds of peace, love and joy in every moment in our daily life in the house, workplace, and our community.
Out of concern for the situation in the Middle East TNH is encouraging Palestinians and Israelis to learn the practice of mindful living. This practice includes developing better communication skills and the ability to listen deeply to the other.
The Pluralistic Spiritual Center is involved in this effort by helping with the organization of Israeli - Palestinian delegations to Plum Village, France, (The “Peace Begins With Myself” project), in order to study the practice. Similarly, the Center hosts the monthly meetings of Israelis and Palestinians in NSWAS, and provides a venue for the lectures and retreats of teachers who come to Israel about twice a year.
I am glad that the Center was able to conduct all of the above activities despite the very difficult and violent reality around us. Since the subjects that we chose were relevant, the activities raised much interest and participation in most of them was good. The discussions, in the shadow of what was happening around us were intense, but important.
These days, after the intensive two months of activities in the Spring, we are busy planning activities for the coming Fall.