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Bringing Compassionate Listening to Work

By Yael Petretti, Compassionate Listening and Alabama Journey Facilitator


I work at the Treehouse Community in Western MA, a planned neighborhood where adoptive families and their children, older youth, and elders invest in one another's well-being. Opened in 2006, this village's children find not just parents and a home, but also grandparents, playmates and an entire neighborhood designed to help them grow up in a nurturing environment, heal, and succeed in life. Treehouse follows its guiding values of respect, compassion, collaboration and commitment to create a strong foundation for restoring and strengthening the well-being of children who experience foster care.

In 2009, I was invited to facilitate an Introduction to Compassionate Listening workshop for the Treehouse staff. I came from my home in Jerusalem to do this. Just before coming, I had been accompanying a Palestinian farmer as he struggled to plough his tiny, rocky plot in the north of Israel with other volunteers with Rabbis for Human Rights. When Jewish settlers attacked, I fell on the rocks, breaking my knee and was still using crutches when I got to Treehouse. The event hinted at things to come.

Leading up to that point, I had been feeling for a long time that I might leave Israel. My energy and joy of living there had been ebbing away for several years due to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Perhaps the hardest part of it was witnessing the indifference to Palestinian suffering on the part of many of my fellow Israelis. And now, I was not able to walk well enough to continue my decades-long tour guiding career throughout the country.

So, I decided to move to the Treehouse community. Being in such a beautiful area and in such a positive atmosphere, I could feel what used to be my own inner calm returning. I continued to facilitate CL trainings here and there, and to co-lead our CL Journeys to Israel/Palestine.

At Treehouse, where I am now on staff, my duties include a variety of things such as organizing community events, listening to the older adults, and helping out with kids’ after school programs. For the last few years, I have facilitated a regular Compassionate Listening and Antiracism group at Treehouse. Now, as the Treehouse intergenerational model grows and expands across the state of Massachusetts, founder Judy Cockerton has enthusiastically supported integrating the practice of Compassionate Listening work into the foundation of every Treehouse community. One of the beautiful things about relating with compassion is that it is contagious! I can see through my interactions with community members how much Compassionate Listening core practices have taken root in their awareness and daily communication with others. Compassionate Listening is branching out here in MA!

Learn more about the Treehouse Community:


Yael Petretti Western Massachusetts

Certified as a CL facilitator in 2004, she led and co-led a number of CL delegations to Israel-Palestine where she lived for almost three decades. Yael co-authored “Making Peace with Faith: The Challenges of Religion and Peacebuilding” (Peace and Security in the 21st Century, 2018.) She lives in New England where she facilitates CL trainings and volunteers as an Alternatives to Violence facilitator in a men's high security prison. Witnessing the “new Jim Crow” there has brought her around full-circle to rejoin the struggle for racial/social justice here in the U.S. In January 2020, she initiated and co-led the first domestic Compassionate Listening delegation, “Listening in the Heart of Alabama.” You can visit her website at

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