Being Together

In Israel and Palestine Excerpts from a journal By Sister Steadiness

Walking Peace in Yanoun June 15, 2003

At the village of Yanoun (an Arab village in the Occupied Territories, West Bank) we met with the mayor and a council member under an olive tree. There had been several attacks by Jewish settlers on the villagers and their animals, to the extent that all the villagers fled the village out of fear. The United Nations and international organizations (like International Women’s Service) had encouraged the villagers to return and offered an international presence to prevent further violence.

The mayor and council member shared with us how a farmer had been attacked with stones and had lost his eye and his leg was broken. Many of their olive trees were damaged and uprooted and their livestock were killed by settlers.

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We asked why they thought the settlers did that. They said the settlers told them, “God gave us this land.” We asked, do you think the settlers are afraid? They said, no. We asked, how were you able not to respond to violence with more violence? They said, we have no weapons. We have nothing. The council member, who was educated in Jordan and spoke English, served us fresh herbal tea and told us, “We can’t think about these things all the time. We have to enjoy the life we have right now.”

We shared our practice of walking meditation and together we walked in meditation through the village of Yanoun. Afterwards Brother Phap An shared with the council member about true brotherhood and peace.

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Visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem June 16, 2003

One and a half million children died today, perished away. Who are their descendants? Who shall carry their light?

At Yad Vashem there were many beautiful trees that had been planted, including pines and evergreens that were now healthy and vibrant. Each tree had the plaque of a “righteous gentile” at the base. Our tour guide explained: a non-Jew who helped save a Jew by hiding or helping him or her to escape, not for money or out of personal favor. I understood this and respected the need to honor such acts of deep courage and compassion. And something stuck in my mind also—the qualification of “righteous.” It seems too easy to say that one is righteous and the other evil—black and white—not acknowledging the spectrum and the seed of righteousness and evil in each one of us. Our manifestation, our behavior depends on to what extent this seed has been able to grow, to blossom. It feels clear to me that the one who inflicts suffering suffers enormously. To live with discrimination and hatred is to live a very sad life. There is no peace, no wholeness, no deep love. That is suffering. You see the one who is angry, who is rigid, who is caught in perceptions, dogma— that is deep suffering—there is no freedom in that person.

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The Wailing Wall June 16, 2003

In my heart the place I wanted to visit was the western wall, the wailing wall. We went there. The women on one side. There I felt at ease. In contemplation, prayer. We stood at the wall. I felt the presence, the calm, solid, deep energy of prayer. I know the holy place is created all the time with our own practice and the quality of our presence and aspirations.

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Womb Meditation June 19th, 2003

Ibtisam shared about containing humanity in her womb and embracing all as a mother carries her child. She is a traditional Muslim woman who has found a deep strength and wisdom and is able to share it deeply. She came to Plum Village last year for two weeks as a member of a Palestinian and Israeli delegation. Her name means “smile” in Arabic. She led us in the following meditation:

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“Be aware that there is a lot of space inside of you. Now feel a bowl within you and fill it with love, compassion, and light. Allow this light to flow over your own body, your head, your face, eyes, ears. Feel the light and love from the space inside of you flow over your shoulders, arms, torso, legs, and feet. Now allow the light and love to flow over your neighbors, and those near to us, through the streets, cities and slowly to flow over the whole of humanity, the whole world.”

She spoke continuously and then stopped and we rested together. I felt a deep peace – expansion, a womb meditation!

Photography by Simone Coiusti and Sister Steadiness.

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