Peace Building in the Middle East – A Great Idea

I am trained in mediation, conflict resolution and peace studies approaches to peace building, however over the years I have come to see that real peace emerges from love and this heals situations.  Love and inspiration is accessed through creativity.  It has the power to change the world; it is an example of one hand clapping, it simply flows.  Peace is the responsibility of all, it resides within all and love expands through creative action. Like the 2nd law of thermodynamics it transfers, it never disappears.  In truth peace is love.  Anything that is not peace, is not love.  Division is a statement of fear, always.

Children could be encouraged to engage in positive activities to build peace through learning of peace through their own culture and the opposing side.  Children could research all the creative approaches on both sides that teach of positive peace.  Adults could join in but as guides and helpers.  Children would search for the best in the other.  Here is my idea published in my blog.

Peace Building in the Middle East – A Great Idea

I felt inspired to write this dream when I first started Peace Studies at La Trobe University in 2002.  I remember organising to speak to some lecturers of mine.  I recall one sitting listening and asking me ‘why do you want to do it?’ I said ‘because I love people’. After I read out my ideas he said he would ask around, but I was sure intuitively he wouldn’t. My work through academic eyes was not serious enough.  Peace is never serious but it is discerning.

Peace begins with all of us.  When we all believe peace is possible, amazing things could happen.  For me much of my attempts are planting seeds.  In the future the support will be there when we realise that peace is not idealism it is the foundation to a civilisation that survives and thrives.

Enjoy my ideas.  Imagine an alternative future for the people of the Middle East.  I send this to all sides with great love and hope for the future of children.


PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAS
 

‘Building Bridges to Peace’

Peace resides within all people.  The challenge is to unlock the feelings and thinking (consciousness) associated with acts of Peace or acts of love and open communications to change the perception of the opponents.  In my opinion, conflict is two halves of the picture, peace is the whole.

In my opinion peace envoys coming from countries that are perceived to back one side against the other are a camouflage to real peace.  The initiative of peace must come from the people themselves enabling an empowering process to take place.

The road to peace is blocked by rational belief systems which take positions and mask various configurations of self-interest.   The concept of peace is best understood in the realm of the heart, it is only when peace is experienced through love, kindness and compassion that ways become present in order to further build upon actions.  It is important to understand these actions are not meaningless, they are subtle and positive.    Each positive action shifts thinking in terms of generating a thought based in love not fear.  Thus redirecting or channeling negative energy into positive.  Each step builds to greater steps and confidence and generates enthusiasm to tackle bigger issues.

A few ideas which represent the seeds of possibilities have been put together to create a starting block from which to build the foundations to peace.


CREATING A SENSE OF UNITY

How do we change an atmosphere of hate into an atmosphere of love and peace?  We start by investigating the highest thought of both sides.  This entails looking into the greatness of each culture and making it visible.  In an atmosphere of hatred the opposition side is demonised and seen as less than human and emotions become entangled under the heavy weight of negativity.  By making visible excellence we can begin to witness the beauty that resides in both sides.  For example a bringing together of musicians, poets, writers, actors, dancers, all committed to love, nonviolence and freedom.   This generates creativity and produces positive feelings connecting to joy and unity.  This reminds people of why it is worth preserving each side because of their incredible contributions to life.

Music as unifying

We bring the best music from both sides together.  The music encapsulates peace songs from both cultures.  We bring out the best of Israel and the best of Palestine music.  We look for where the two cultures are similar and remind people of their oneness.

Music is a very powerful intermediary.  It joins all people.  There are no boundaries with music, everyone can hear it and the words channeled through it can be empowering and changing thinking to love.  Through music we can create a symbolic joining of two cultures, which rises above religion connecting peoples through ancient music from a time when they were together.  Moreover, the music chosen is universally known and brings a spirit of joy.

The symbol of Palestinians playing tablar and sitar (representing the Palestinians) together with a Jewish person playing a traditional instrument.  Perhaps they are playing together in songs both sides know or they play each other’s      famous songs together.    We attract great singers so it sounds like heaven on earth when they play.

Music is a healer and it brings joy to the heart.  It lifts people out of the rational mind and transports them into momentary happiness.  It changes the emotional state creating the right energy for openness and exchange to occur.  It is the language of the soul.

Dance is incorporated in this activity.  Bring children together to learn dances from each culture.  Children are less likely to be in conflict if they are young enough.  Thus demonstrating that conflict is learned but also that our natural state as children is to not judge and be open to life.

Action:  we approach musicians and singers through Israeli/Palestinian communities who are loved by both communities to play music in a place that is identified with peace or love.  

Poetry as unifying

Ancient poetry connects people to a different time and opens them to the idea that people lived together in the past.  It is important to obtain poetry chosen from both cultures imbued with the messages of love and oneness.   Poetry is the emissary of pain but it brings new hope and it reveals the lessons learned from the past.

Action:  we approach poets or experts in literature through Israeli/Palestinian communities/universities who are inspiring.   Perhaps encourage them to write a poem together encompassing the spirit of peace.  Other poets could be encouraged to be involved.

Religion as unifying

Attract peaceful people from each religion to communicate the highest of religion, to read from both books simultaneously.  Reading passages which reflect the other.  It is important to focus on verses from both religions focusing on love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and neighbourliness, to remind people of the best parts of their faith.  To enable the faith to act as a guiding light to bring people together and resist those who use religion to divide.

Through prayer and meditation, people are encouraged to seek guidance in the way to peace.  To in-fact be peace through life expressed.

Action:  Approach moderate mullahs and rabbis who identify with the spirit of god as love and are willing to select passages which encourage love, friendships and neighbourliness.

Clowns are unifying

Clowns are safe, clowns are funny, clowns remind us of the funnier side of life.  The image of a clown also opens people to love.  They are there to bring peace and joy.  We attract clowns or people who would be regarded as the jesters from each culture to lightly and gently generate humour, creating a space for people to laugh.  The energy of joy opens people up to love and connection.   

Action:  Clowns could be brought in from all over the world, representing different nations.  Patch Adams clowns could be contacted to play a part.  The latter clowns could go to hospitals.


WORLD UNITY

Bring in peaceful people from other parts of the world to join hands with the Israeli’s and Palestinians to show unity with both and the need to move towards peaceful and nonviolent means of solving problems. They are supported in their positive initiatives.

Action:  to find out who the peace groups are, particularly those interested in creating unity.  Persons like Aung San Suu Kyi could be approached to talk in Israel.


Sharing food as a family

Symbolically share traditional foods from both cultures is a means of building trust and getting to know each other.  Breaking bread together in Jerusalem emulates what Jesus did and find a symbolic act that Mohammad did to symbolise friendship and trust, thus the coming together.  Food unifies people because it is welcoming, people are seen as guests, and people are looking after each other.

Action:  This could be activated initially by friends.  That is, people who know either Israeli’s or Palestinians and inviting them to their home for a dinner each week or going to a Palestinian home.  


Children know unity

We could also run a competition with the children of both sides asking them how peace can be achieved and what they would like to see as the outcome.  They could also draw pictures of what they would like to see happen.

Action:  Contact schools in Israel and Palestine and ask them to put the challenge to the children to devise a play with the outcome they would all like to see.

Friendship – small acts of unity

Encourage friendship between people.   Encourage Jewish and Palestinian people to talk about their friendships with the opposition.   To explain the story of how they met and what they loved about each other and particularly what they learned.  Also, how they feel in the present climate in relation to their friendship.

Action:  Contact newspapers and ascertain the level of interest.   If uninterested, a peace newsletter could be created to communicate stories about friendships between Palestinians and Jewish people. 

Knowledge of Non-violence Produces Unity

Leaflets or newsletters could be produced informing people about principled nonviolence.  The information could be drawn from the great nonviolent teachers in history such as:  Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela etc.  Making visible their struggles and how they resolved conflict through love.  The information would be to plant the seed of another way or an alternative to violence.  Maybe this can be facilitated through contacts within the Palestinian community or the internet.

Action:   Through peace groups, religious groups, women’s groups, kibbutz and universities a non-violence forum could be organised.  Moreover, information booklets could be handed out about what nonviolence is and how it works.


UNDERSTANDING THE FRAGMENTS OF PEACE (PEACING TOGETHER)


1.        Seek First to Understand

1.     Investigate the nature of the problem from each perspective.
2.     Evaluate the personalities of the key protagonists and their belief systems.
3.     What other countries are involved and why?
4.     What are the key obstructions/barriers/blockages and why?
5.     What underlies those obstructions/barriers/blockages?
6.     What creates and fuels hatred?
7.     What are the underlying interests of both sides?
8.     What are the peace drivers on both sides?
9.     What do both sides want as an ideal outcome?
10.  Does either side see or believe in a real solution?
11.  Why has the peace process failed in the past?
12.  What are the propositions for success? 

2.        What are the perceived similarities?

Investigate what links both sides.  What do they have in common, what do they share/shared, common humanity, history etc.  

 3.        What are the perceived differences?

What divides the people and why?  Actual and imagined.

 4.        Visit the Middle East

Through contacts in the Israeli community and Palestinian community, a group of peaceful persons could go to the Middle East and observe what is happening on the ground and get a sense of the feelings of both sides and also the level of restrictions and oppression.  They should spend some time connecting with other peaceful people and getting a sense of what they see.  It would be worthwhile to talk to people with extreme views on both sides to get a feel for the barriers and depth of anger.

 5.         Initiate Peace Activities

An approach to peace in this type of situation is organising small acts of peace.  In Buddhism they say random acts of kindness; it is within the same vein.  In an environment where large gatherings can attract suicide bombers or Israeli crowd dispersing methods.  Small acts of peace are harmless.  There is no limitation to love and compassion.  No-one cannot be legitimately stopped for sending warm clothing or food to an affected family in Palestine or visa versa.  No-one can be stopped from writing a poem which encourages love and peace.  No one can argue against a musician who is playing popular music together with another musician who happens to be perceived as the opposition. 

The activities listed below are just top of mind ideas and would be modified by the real situation on the ground of what is possible in the context of the situation.  The ideas are simply to find ways and means of creating peace through small things.  The core concept is to keep peace active and visible and look for opportunities to make positive contacts between each side.  The underlying idea is to remove the reasons for hatred and violence and replace them with reasons to love and to see similarity. These acts may be initiated in small ways leading possibly to larger group activities making visible the oneness of people.  The process needs to be slow and gradual.  As it grows, confidence and opportunities will be generated.    However, every act is not meaningless and needs to be done in a way that is based on love not fear.   Moreover, it is important that the people involved are driven by a sense of love and inner peace.  There is no vested interest other than the joy of connecting others and the desire to create something harmonious for all.


POSSIBLE PEACE ACTIVITIES


The objective of activities is placing love at the centre and not taking any side in the conflict.  Its purpose is not to decide right and wrong but simply to re-mind people of what peace is and how it feels.  Moreover, it redirects negative energy into empowered positive energy with visible results.   Building relationships helps people work together.

  • Daily prayer/mediations for peace through synagogues and mosques.   A peace candle vigil visible to the public.   Ensure that the focus is one of an intention for peace and visualising it happening.  These types of gathering can include any group of like-minded people who believe in the power to change events.
  • Organise a celebration of peace through music from both sides.  The idea of bringing Palestinians and Israeli musicians, singers, dances together to celebrate unity, love and peace.  
  • Bring in the clowns to create a sense of joy and friendship e.g. Patch Adams clowns.
  • Inspiring speakers and famous artists.  Perhaps have Jewish holocaust victims talking about their experiences and why it is important to overcome hatred and prejudice against any people.
  • Children’s productions.  Produce a play which shows both sides celebrating ‘who they are’ and showing a possible story line where peace is achieved.
  • Children’s competition gaining ideas for peace from children on both sides.
  • Women for peace.  Encourage women’s groups to undertaken activities to build bridges.  It could include welfare activities to those suffering on both sides.  Sending cards of love to the victims.  Ensuring that if an Israeli has suffered, a family of Palestinians who have suffered the same fate, write a letter of love and sympathyThese communications can be published, to show that both sides are suffering as human beings but care for each other in this time of need.  Perhaps financial support or support in kind is offered to support people.
  • Market research could be conducted in both to finding out what peace means to them.   What do they think creates peace between people?   The surveys would keep away from the political issues and focus people’s attention on the possibilities.  This information could be used as an input into new campaigns.  University students could be recruited by peace groups from Palestine and Israel to conduct surveys; women would be used as interviewers.  Two random surveys would be conducted in Israel and Palestine simultaneously and translated into English.
  • Creating a peace journal to talk about what is violence and what is peace? What are the ways and means to create peace through love.   Remind people in both cultures of the positive achievements which have been made.  The thrust of the journal is positive and empowering.
  • Disseminate regular leaflets or newsletter and updates on non-violence with inspiring quotes from people admired in both cultures.   Give cases of peace that have occurred.   Reveal what the actual people are doing.  The information does not take sides, simply encourages love not hatred.
  • Connect peace groups to draw on the collective willingness for peace and develop initiatives.
  • Friendship schemes.  Remind people of loving their neighbours.  Provide idea of how to build community and make a difference through following the highest thought for another.  Make visible friendships (without names) but stories of friendships and why they are special.
  • Find a universal symbol of peace perhaps a heart, dove, image of the earth , flower to make visible how many people want peace.  People can either wear this image or plant flowers in the garden ceremoniously to lend energy to the idea of peace.
  • Constructive works:  rebuilding roads, buildings, health supplies, schools etc.  Coordinate groups of people willing to donate their time to help rebuild affected areas.  This displays people working together for a common good.  It builds a sense of oneness through public works.
  • Flowers:  Distribute flowers on the streets of Tel Aviv with the words ‘peace and love’;
  • Encourage regular random acts of kindness:  When people think a high thought they follow it.  The act of giving and the feeling of receiving promotes positive thinking.
  • Advertisement:  To encourage those who believe in a lasting peace through acts of love and tolerance to come together.   A survey of all the skills will provide new opportunities of giving.
  • Meditation/prayer sessions:  To recommit to non-violence in thought, word and deed on a daily basis and to cultivate a deep sense of love for all people.   To practice peace behaviour.  No hitting back or verbal violence.
  • Investigate the feasibility of conducting alternative dispute resolution for the people by the people.

UNIVERSITY FORUMS

Latrobe University could be proactive in creating a forum to discuss ideas.  I am a trained market researcher and could facilitate any discussion.  The purpose of which would be to build bridges to peace through generating ideas on what is possible.  I would like to attract people from the Middle East to attend and raise their thinking to a level of creative (unity) consciousness. 

Suggested Programs of discussions:

  • Politics of the Middle East
  • Hold a discussion into solutions to the Middle East crisis.    Attract Palestinians and Israelis.  Devise a topic guide.  Use a big white board.  We can use De Bono’s 6 thinking hats to change perspective (disciplined thinking).  Also how to create connection.  They can look at it through nationalism, then through Latrobe students and use the tools of dissection and then imagine how peace can be rebuilt
  • Dispute resolution forum, how could problems be solved from an alternative dispute resolutions perspective.
  • Gandhian approaches to resolving the Middle East crisis.  How could strategies of nonviolence provide an alternative to the deadlock?    How would Gandhi have approached it?

 
CONCLUSION

This type of proactive action acknowledges that nothing comes from sitting at home and doing nothing.  We are all witness to these actions overseas.  We are aware that there are problems.  There are actions we can take.  When we decide to take responsibility for the world, we empower ourselves by acknowledging that there is something we can do.  When we look as distant observers we make a statement that nothing can be done.  However, if the situation expands into other countries we may find ourselves at some point, being affected by distant places.  My call is to those of like mind, who feel the desire to create a better place.  In this case, by small act of love and kindness we have nothing to lose, but much to gain.  If you resonate let’s see what the possibilities are.  In my book, nothing is impossible, literally.  We choose to live in either love or fear. 

I have made my choice.

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Mohandas Gandhi

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

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