Dear Compassionate Listening Community,
I want to express my deepest outrage for the Hamas terror attack and the existential trauma and fear it triggered for Israelis and for Jewish people around the world. I pray for the safety and quick release of the hostages in Gaza - including Vivian Silver who hosted our groups many times. I also want to express my deepest outrage for the on-going civilian catastrophe in Gaza. All violence and terror is brutal and will never bring peace for Israelis and Palestinians. As an American Jew, I am adding my voice to the many voices around the world crying out for an immediate cease-fire. As Rabbi Tirzah Firestone wrote so eloquently, “If we are to be truly human, we must repudiate the inhumane.”
With heavy hearts, we canceled our 35th Journey to Israel and Palestine with our beloved delegation leaders Laurie Archbold and Gil Bar-Sela, set to begin in Jerusalem on November 4th. (I'm posting Gil's personal statement below.)
I have devoted my life work to Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation, including leading 26 of our 34 citizen delegations to Israel and Palestine, and facilitating many trainings there. We stayed in Gaza on 17 of my delegations, until the borders were permanently closed in 2005.
In my experience, true peace comes from the process of rehumanizing those we hold as “other." And I will never give up; I will never stop holding the humanity of everyone on both sides caught in the endless rounds of violence and revenge. I have witnessed the transformative power of listening and reconciliation with our delegation participants, with the Israelis and Palestinians we have sat with, listened to, and offered trainings for, beginning in 1990.
I met my mentor, Gene Knudsen Hoffman, in 1996. She learned "compassionate listening" from her friend and colleague, Thich Nhat Hanh. I founded the non-profit, gathered people committed to developing and practicing Compassionate Listening as a life-skill, and we created the curriculum that has been taught all over the world for the past 20+ years.
Within our Compassionate Listening facilitator community, we've always spoken about the need to "hold the whole", and that is urgently needed by the global community now. It was Gene who wrote: "An enemy is one whose story I have not heard." We must listen as a means of discerning the roots of violence. Jewish history gives me an extra responsibility to speak for those experiencing unspeakable brutality. My Grandfather Ben (Baruch) lost 6 siblings and their families to the Nazi genocide, and for me, the words "Never again!" mean never again for anyone.
Nothing excuses the brutal Hamas atrocities and massacre of October 7th. And, like countless others, I have been trying to sound the alarm about the extreme brutality of the occupation for over 30 years. I invite you to read "Just Listen", my article published in YES! Magazine in 2001 (you can see the original article with photos here.)
Even though I thought I knew a lot about the occupation from my extensive time in the West Bank in 1982-83, it wasn't until 1990 when I spent two weeks in the West Bank and Gaza during the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) that I began to truly understand the magnitude of the daily oppression and human rights violations that Palestinians live under, and the enormity of their grievances and anger. I was a witness to the occupation for decades while traveling between Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the US, where the Compassionate Listening Project is based. And I echo what is being stated clearly by countless others who have been dedicated to healing this conflict: the military occupation of Palestinians must end.
Over the past decade, I have learned a lot more about the role of trauma in conflict and I believe that unhealed trauma is a large factor in this conflict. Israelis and Palestinians are highly traumatized people, which makes the cycle of violence and revenge harder to break.
There is no contradiction to holding compassion for both peoples while advocating for a political solution based on dignity, security and human rights for all. I truly believe that our human evolution is predicated on our collective capacity to hold the whole - to allow ourselves to feel the suffering of every human being caught in this conflict and in all conflict.
Grief is a key to breaking the cycle of violence and revenge. Valerie Kaur asks us, "Can we grieve their children as our children? ...Opening our hearts to grief - others and our own - is how we hold our humanity in a world that would destroy it. It's how we will begin to survive this."
This is the time to support those trying valiantly to hold onto their humanity - those who speak the language of "we" rather than "us and them". Those who understand that all violence begets violence. This war is fueling hatred and endangering not just Jews and Palestinians, but the world. I'm urging you to call your representatives now and join me in standing for a cease-fire and a political solution.
With tremendous sorrow,
Leah Green, Founder & Director
The Compassionate Listening Project
~ excerpt from the poem by Puerto Rican Jewish poet and activist Aurora Levins Morales
This time we're tied at the ankles.
We cannot cross until we carry each other,
all of us refugees,
all of us prophets.
No more taking turns on history’s wheel,
trying to collect old debts no-one can pay.
The sea will not open that way.
This time that country is what we promise each other,
our rage pressed cheek to cheek
until tears flood the space between,
until there are no enemies left,
because this time no one will be left to drown
and all of us must be chosen.
This time it’s all of us or none.
From Gil Bar-Sela, Israel-Palestine delegation co-leader:
Due to the recent developments, we had to make the difficult decision and cancel the Compassionate Listening Delegation to Israel- Palestine this year. I am heartbroken by the atrocities we are faced with — a cycle of violence that is certainly not new and yet has escalated to an unprecedented high with no end in sight. I’m grieving the lives that are lost. I’m grieving the suffering of innocent Israelis, and Palestinians. I’m grieving the ongoing collective trauma on both sides that continues to bounce back and forth between them. I’m grieving the next generation that will grow up in fear. I’m grieving the hope for change that seems further away than ever. I’m grieving the violence and desperation that systemic oppression yields. I’m enraged by leaders who take advantage of such despair and fear. I’m filled with despair watching the escalation of violence that will continue to bring more pain and loss to everyone. I pray for the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians during these incredibly turbulent times. I pray for a more humane world that fosters the livelihood, safety, dignity, and sovereignty for all peoples. I pray for all of us to open our hearts to the suffering we see — wherever we see it — and allow that pain to bring us closer to our shared humanity. I pray for a global community that is able to engage in meaningful and compassionate dialogue that fosters healing, rather than perpetuates binaries and violence. Obviously, we’re farther from all of it then ever, and all I can do is tend to my broken heart ~ Gil Bar-Sela, American-Israeli
Visit our Compassionate Listening event/workshop page here