...reflections from a Compassionate Listener

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Love and courage in the heart of darkness...

Today we had two inspiring home visits in the West Bank. One with the former Mayor of Beit Ummar - a member of Hamas with the soul of a poet. We met him once before, and tried to meet with him again on our last delegation, but found that he had been arrested and imprisoned with many of the other elected Hamas legislators and officials from the West Bank. After his release from prison, he was not allowed to resume his post.

Today we met Farhan at his parent's home, with many family members joining us, including his mother, and his son Salaheddin (in the photo). We spoke of many things today. At one point in our time together, it seemed that many of us in the circle were in tears. This was unusual, and I continued to wonder what was going on. After a while, this is what came to me: Hamas, who won democratic elections in Palestine, under the intense scrutiny of international monitors including Jimmy Carter, has been existing under an international boycott since just after their election. They received the label of "terrorist organization" from Israel and the United States, which provides a justification for members to be arrested and held without trial at any time. This group has been marginalized within the global community, and very few people take the time to really listen to them - or to understand the distinctions between Hamas in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza (Hamas in Gaza is a much more muddied situation due to the complete closure for many years now. In Gaza, Hamas includes mafia-like elements, complete with family gangs and feuds. With no access to the outside world, a much more fundamentalist strain has taken hold there.)

The experience of sitting with a West Bank leader, of a marginalized community - one that is suppose to be scary and wicked even, and to find such a beautiful human being - a poet, who speaks the language of the heart...and this, despite multiple arrests, imprisonment, and torture by the Israeli military...
I dare to say that some of us were experiencing the blessing and grace that comes from creating a sense of "wholeness" in the world. Listening to marginalized voices is a deep precept of Compassionate Listening. As Carol Hwoschinsky says so beautifully, each one of us holds pieces of the puzzle, and if we don't listen to one another, we'll never find the answer."

After hearing too many painful stories, Farhan told us near the end of our time together: "I have hope in my heart, so every good act gives me more hope. Even if it’s a very small action, it’s like a hole for more light to pass through. The important thing is to hold the hope that change is coming... People must be honest with themselves. You can cheat others, but you will never be able to cheat yourself. So every small action is important.

"If you notice water, falling down drop by drop, and if you look just under the ground, where the drops are falling, there is a softening there, under the hard surface. We will have it – change must come. If all of us can turn our tears into action – to tear down the walls from within, we can turn our fears into good actions. If you can see me and hear me, and I can see you and hear you, this is one of the starting points. We need to allow ourselves to truly see each other...Don’t look for the empty part of the cup, but always keep looking for the full part, even if it is very small. That will give us the hope and courage to live and love and have the strength to keep standing."
Thank you Farhan, for your incredible hospitality and friendship to us today. I was especially moved by your interaction with your Mother, when you told her that she is your heart. And your mother shared the same about you. I think about the agony of a mother's heart when her child is imprisoned and she is unable to help. Seeing the joy and love in your family was a beautiful gift and we wish for your safety always.


Our second visit was in the same village, at our friend Jamal's home, where about 10 Israeli Jewish members of "Wounded Crossing Borders" joined us. These are Israeli Jews and West Bank Palestinians who have been wounded in the conflict, and have decided to reach out to do the hard work of seeking the humanity on the "other side". One of the Israelis was the former head of the Hebron prison (for Palestinian political prisoners); another was the wife of an Israeli politician who doesn't understand why she is doing this work...
It was beautiful to sit together with these courageous people. For many of the Israelis, this was their first visit to Jamal's home in the West Bank, even though they have all been to Bosnia and Switzerland together, as well as attending numerous meetings together in Jerusalem. The psychological barrier and fear involved in coming to a Palestinian village is immense (especially when your host's home is tear gassed on a regular basis). So this was a special occasion with an atmosphere of friendship, love and celebration (and amazing food, lovingly prepared by Jamal's wife, Saadiye).

Today we have learned so much about love and courage in the heart of darkness. Thank you to all of our incredible teachers. 

(here is a slideshow from our day in Hebron yesterday. To see the photo captions, you have to click the arrow, and it will open the slideshow on flickr. The two photos above are by Ellen Greene, and I took the ones below.)

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thx for your visit
and for telling the world about us
we hope to meet again and again
your friend,,,baree fahjan,,,