By Laurie Archbold, Compassionate Listening and Israel Palestine Journey Facilitator. This article was originally posted on her blog.
I started out my college career as an aviation major. One semester in I was failing calculus simply by not showing up, and sleeping through my aviation lectures, while approaching the dreaded “solo” flight in my private lessons. It didn’t take much to realize I should put my energy elsewhere. Forced to choose another major, I chose Comparative Religious Studies with a minor in Middle East Studies, so that I could take as many classes as possible from a Professor I enjoyed.
My dad asked some legit questions, like, “What are you going to do with that degree?” Followed by some light-handed advice, “Why not major in Finance?” I didn’t listen. And now, almost 20 years later, I can say confidently to my dad, “Hey, look! I’m using my degree.”
I now co-lead The Compassionate Listening Project’s annual delegation to Israel and Palestine, and in 2018, my dad joined me on the trip. He was interested in traveling, supporting me, and seeing what I was up to, but the trip ended up being hugely transformational for him.
He shares, “Having only viewed the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through the eyes of the US press, I saw for the first time the conflict from all sides. For me one of the most moving experiences, was seeing three Jewish companions on this trip realize for the first time that the Israeli government, US government and the US press were not telling the full story. I got to experience this trip with my daughter, and through listening to all people and seeing them anew, I got the gift of deeply knowing the truth, myself and my own daughter!”
The transformative nature is true for most people who participate. It’s true for me every time.
An intention we all hold during this trip is to keep our hearts soft and open, while listening to and interacting with people whose lives are profoundly impacted by the conflict. We support the peacemakers on the ground as we deepen our connection to ourselves, the incredible humans we sit in circle with, and the ancient land we walk while doing so. We expose ourselves to information and experiences that expand our open-mindedness and increase our capacity to hold complexity, nuance, and ambiguity. I believe that skill is sorely lacking and in dire need in our world.
I have a book called “Side by Side — Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine.” It’s published by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East and was created in the beginning of the second Intifada by a group of Israeli and Palestinian teachers who looked at standard educational texts and saw how different the historical narratives were of the same event. This theme of dual-narratives (or multi-narratives) is well known to Compassionate Listeners. Is it the War of Independence? Or the Nakba (the catastrophe)?
Well, it’s both. The context is decisive. If the circumstances in which an event occurs for you is fighting for a homeland and safety and security after centuries of oppression and genocide, then it’s a War of Independence. If the circumstances in which an event occurs for you is forced removal from your homeland and massacres of your people, that is a catastrophe. And all of it has traumatically impacted those who continue to try to find solutions today. Which is why softening our hearts and listening is so vital. Compassionate Listening pioneer Gene Knudsen Hoffman said “No one side is the sole repository of Truth, but each of us has a spark of it within.” I believe this is where sustainable solutions come from. It’s a simple but not easy task. One that I appreciate practicing again, and again, and again.
Jean Vanier, a Canadian philosopher and theologian has said, “As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.”
My dad’s heart was moved. Many other hearts have been moved.
This is a journey of stories. Of deepening. Of opening. Of learning to sit in the fire of conflict, fear, and disconnection, and still be willing to grow towards intimacy, love and connection. Of opening up to what is true to another and daring to see the humanity in everyone. Of reaching for humanization and listening for the truth and the spark within each person.
Laurie Archbold was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has B.A. in Comparative Religions and Middle East studies. She's traveled to and connected with the region through various people and organizations, including with Soliya's Connect Program, Mideast Wire's Beirut Exchange, and The Compassionate Listening Project. She is a Certified HeartMath Trainer and a Certified Compassionate Listening Facilitator. Her facilitation work is holistic by design and has spanned the realms of Conflict Resolution, Resilience Training, Emotional Intelligence and Nature Connection. Laurie is passionate about cultivating connection between humans and the power of heartfelt communication. She loves being a part of this delegation and supporting people in learning these embodied listening practices that are applicable across all aspects of life. She leads a variety of workshops and has a coaching business that you can find out more about