Staff Development: Taking the competition out of pain

By Michal Ner David and Selina Petschek, Kids4Peace staff

We – Michal and Selina – two Kids4Peace Staff, are here together at EXCEL: Training for Trainers program, hosted and facilitated by Jerusalem Peace Builders. Along with the other participants, we just completed the first part of our program facilitated by Dr. Paula Green, the founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.

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In trying to analyze conflict, we studied a number of theories. One of them affirms that when human needs are not met, it inevitably leads to cycles of violence. These basic needs include security, recognition, water, food, shelter, etc. While this feels obvious, it took us thinking about this deeply while feeling appreciative for having all our needs met, to make the disparities that exist in our world come alive.  Here we are enjoying the tremendous hospitality of Nicholas, co-founder and executive director of JPB and his wife Dorothy, who are opening their home and land, feeding us, sheltering us, and taking care of every little comfort we could possibly ask for. It is thanks to Nicholas and Dorothy that we are able to be together, to discuss and dialogue about the peace work that we do. This would not be possible without the environment where we have found ourselves.

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In discussing the causes for violence and trying to understand the conflict in Jerusalem –in trying to untangle the mess– we realized that when the needs of one of these groups are not met, it creates despair, loss and anguish. One piece of guidance that our trainer Paula offered, is that pain should not be made into a competition, it just is. So often, the people involved in a conflict tend to vie for the position of most victimized in a reflex of self-protection against the pain you may have inadvertently caused someone else. If we’re able to stop competing, or stop comparing, if we’re able to contain all the pain without judging where it is coming from or how great it is, we can hold the space for a different kind of reality.

After asking one of our Palestinian participants about his experience thus far, he reflected on how much impact being here in a space that can contain all of us – all of our pain and suffering and our hopes and creativity – had on the freedom of our conversation. In his words: “back home, it would be harder to find people who are willing to listen and understand”. In contrast, everyone who is here came with a willingness to be open and engage in dialogue. He went on to say that, “it’s even slightly interesting that we are acquainted with people back home who don’t know very much about the conflict.” He was further surprised that there are people who don’t live in Israel-Palestine [i.e. Americans], and perhaps have never even visited, but know so much about it and have their own ideas on how to address the conflict.

On thinking about what he is taking away from this training he added that “perhaps we’ve been able to gain a new kind of approach to this conflict, a new way of discussing it. We are not leaving with a collective plan of action per say, but rather a whole new approach that each one of us will carry back home individually. We are more capable than we were before.”