Our Exiles by Nitsan Gordon

In anxiety, Dr. Dick Schwartz, IFS Training, Internal Family Systems, Israeli Palestine Womens Peace, Mindfulness, Palestinian Women, Psychotherapy, Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Founder and Director, Beyond Words

On a chilly yet beautiful winter day, at our new Women’s Center on the top floor of the Catholic Scouts building in the Arab city of Nazareth , we began meeting our exiles. From the balcony, the city ofNazareth and Upper Nazareth were both visible with churches, mosques and municipal buildings sharing the skyline.

The unique structure of the city of Nazareth (the largest Arab city in Israel) and sister city Upper Nazareth (a mixed Jewish and Arab city) mirrors on a smaller scale some of the issues that cause divisiveness and conflict among the Arabs and Jews in Israel and Palestine (religious conflicts, land disputes, oppression, discrimination, inequality in the division of resources and responsibilities causing prejudice, fear, anger and sometimes violence). At the same time this unique setting presents an amazing opportunity to create a new reality. The same place as described in the Bible where Jesus began spreading his message of brotherhood/ sisterhood and peace over 2000 years ago, can become a model for justice, reconciliation and peace which will reverberate and spread throughout Israel . For this reason we have chosen Nazareth as the place to create a centre where Arab and Jewish women can work together for empowerment of women and peace building. Currently no such centre exists in Israel .

When I say we met our exiles I am aware that in this part of the world these words have a special meaning. It is a meaning that lies beyond those young parts, who for some reason did not get their needs met very early on and are now crying in the basement, where we have banished them so they would not overwhelm us with their pain and neediness.

In this part of the world, exile refers to the fate of whole peoples. Many of our Jewish ancestors were exiled for more than 2000 years from their land. Most maintained their connection to this land through tradition and religious practices. The words from Psalms 137: “If I forget thee Jerusalem , may my right hand be forgotten ” or “By the waters of Babylon , there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion ” show their longing and their connection to the land.

During the time of exile Jews often suffered from persecution and pogroms and finally from the Holocaust, where more than 6,000,000 Jews and millions of others were brutally murdered by the Nazis. These are our legacy burdens, the exiles many Jews on some level still share. And the words “we shall not forget, and we shall not forgive” are part of the daily vocabulary. High school students go on trips to Poland and Germany to visit Auschwitz and other concentration camps so they will not forget and will never again go “like sheep to the slaughter”. Unfortunately, the continued struggle to exist in this part of the world helps in keeping this painful legacy alive. They affect the way we behave and treat ourselves and others.

Many of the ancestors of the Palestinian Arabs who live in Israel were also exiled from their land and homes. Some had money and left early, hoping to return when the war was over. Others escaped fearing Jewish retaliation and the oncoming war. They believed what they were told by the Arab countries surrounding Israel –that the war would end in a couple of weeks and that they should get out of the way so they would not be hurt. Still others were gathered by the Jewish militia and sent out usually by foot to the West Bank or into Lebanon . And some remained in Israel and became citizens in a democratic yet Jewish State, where minorities aren’t always treated equally.

The pain of separated families, lost homes and land, living under occupation, struggling in refugee camps and being oppressed both as women and as Arabs, are among the exiles and legacy burdens shared by many of the Arab Palestinians who in our group. In some families they are still holding keys to the doors of the houses that were taken away from them… The prejudice within Israel and the continued suffering of the people in Gaza and the West Bank helps in keeping these memories alive and the shared exiles ready to jump out and influence the behavior.

So when we gather to learn about and begin meeting our exiles, these his/her-stories are always in the background, a consistent river of painful memories flowing underneath the surface and made even more potent by the fact that the peoples of the woman sitting across from me, listening, have some responsibility for creating those exiled legacy burdens.

Yet, there is something about IFS taught by our courageous and skillful facilitators – Einat Bronstein and Osi Arbel – that is especially powerful in providing some possibility of healing and genuine dialogue in this wounded part of the world. Or, as one of the participants, S. who is an Arab Palestinian woman said: “The power of IFS is that it enables you to look at yourself separately from your distress or exile. You can speak for it but you are no longer just it. This can become a wonderful resource in a country where people are almost always talking and responding from a hurt or wounded part. Being able to recognize that we have a Self and to speak to one another from this Self is one key to resolving our conflicts.”

T. one of the Jewish woman, said that for her a powerful moment was a sentence that Osi said to a woman she was doing a demonstration with. V, a beautiful dark haired woman was feeling insecure about sharing a painful memory so she put on her glasses to look at the circle of women around her and see if they were really “there” for her and could be trusted. Osi offered: “Perhaps you can put on your glasses and look into your inner circle of parts, and see which of them are feeling unable to trust the group?”

That gentle invitation to shift our gaze from the outside and look inside lovingly, asking our parts to support our healing and growth, is so vital here in Israel . This is because it is also an invitation to stop being victims of situations, reacting to the actions of others from our parts. Instead we are being called upon to notice the power we have to change our reactions and how to do it in a way that does not include guilt, blame or criticism but actually feels caring and good.
We are thankful for this amazing opportunity and would like, once again, to thank Dick and the IFS community for seeing and supporting this incredible possibility.
Much love,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: