A Better Future

In Dr. Dick Schwartz, Internal Family Systems, International IFS, Israeli Palestine Womens Peace, Mindfulness, Psychotherapy on September 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

By Nitsan Gordon

“I think the future is like anything else that’s important. It has to be earned. If we don’t earn it, we don’t have a future at all. And if we don’t earn it, if we don’t deserve it, we have to live in the present more or less forever. Or worse we have to live in the past. I think that’s probably what love is — a way of earning the future.”

— Karla in Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts p.91


A few weeks ago the Beyond Words Organization held a two day workshop at Nes Amim, a small community in Northern Israel started by Dutch immigrants

Nitsan Gordon – Giles M.A., Dance/Movement Therapy (Thesis on Nonverbal Cues to Prejudice) - is an Israeli Jew and the founder and director of “Beyond Words”. She is trained and experienced in dance/movement therapy, healing touch and multi-level listening techniques – all of which are used as part of the Beyond Words Educational Model. For several years, she has led courses on understanding and healing prejudice in three Colleges; as well as workshops and trainings using the BW model in Israel and the United States and more recently in NZ. Nitsan is the mother of two children.

 and dedicated to improving relationships between people of different religions who live in Israel . There were twenty of us, an unusual mixture of four religions – Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jewish women, who had participated in Beyond Words Level I courses in different communities. This was the first time they we had all ever met together.



The Beyond Words workshops have three components: movement and dance therapy, deep listening and touch. This workshop was no different. Through the gradual process of moving together in new ways, learning about listening partnerships, and sharing life stories —  crying, laughing, playing and touching — something began to emerge. There seemed to be a heartstring connecting us more and more intimately together. By the end of the day it was so clearly felt by everyone that after dinner the whole group did not seem to be able to separate. Instead, we sat together on the grass, sharing more stories, being silly and telling jokes.


Earlier that day, as we sat in small groups and in pairs, life stories began to emerge, stories that have hardly seen the light of day and yet needed to be heard by someone, needed to be acknowledged and accepted.


One of the stories was told by Samia, a woman who has many brothers and sisters from a well- known Muslim family. Her father had been the mayor of his town until one election campaign when some of his own clan did not support him and he lost. He was very angry. In order to punish them he decided to give Samia – his eldest daughter who was then 17 – as a wife to a member of the rival clan. When Samia heard about this she was horrified. She did not love her intended husband and did not want to become a part of his family. She did not want to leave her home, and she had heard some bad things about her future husband. She went to her father to plead with him to change his mind. She kissed his feet, crying and begging for mercy. But he had shut his heart to her and no amount of begging was going to make any difference.


She was married and began a 25 year odyssey.  At 18 she gave birth to a baby daughter but soon after began to bleed so profusely that her uterus had to be taken out. She would never be able to give birth again. There would be no sons from her. Even so her spirit was not crushed and after being beaten time after time she escaped with her baby to her parent’s house begging her father to agree to a divorce. She was fighting for her daughter’s life and this gave her strength, but her father forced her to go back to her husband. This happened many times.


In the midst of it all she worked and studied to become a kindergarten teacher.  When her father was on his death bed a few years ago she sat next to him and held his hand. He looked at her and said: “Samia, I know what I did … I am asking for your forgiveness, I sacrificed you like a lamb.”  All she could do was cry.


Last week her daughter married a good man. Before she left the house she told her mother: “Now I want you to get a divorce.” Samia spoke to her husband after the wedding and so far he has agreed.


The following day more stories emerged. Suhad, one of the Muslim women leaders of the group, was very happy on the first day laughing and dancing joyfully. She stayed up with the others gossiping and giggling until almost two in the morning. And yet the next morning after the morning sessions in pairs, when the group gathered in one circle, she seemed different – something had changed. We asked everyone to draw what they were feeling following the movement intervention. Suhad’s picture was different than all the rest.  On the one side of the paper she drew in red and black what to me looked like an emotional storm and on the other side a dark fence surrounding a jail. In contrast to all the other drawings in the room, no sun or grass or flowers or blue skies appeared in Suhad’s picture – only darkness.

When we divided into small groups Suhad was in my group and was the last to share. After some hesitation she told us her story. When she began to cry I asked the other three women in our group to move in closer and surround her in their embrace.  She reminded us that eight years ago in August 2002 a suicide bomber had blown himself up on bus # 361 near the Meiron Mountain killing nine and injuring 40 people.  

Then she said: “Today in the morning listening session I was paired with Rasha, one of the women from the Arab Druze village who was in the workshop and whom I had never met before. She told me that her cousin had been on that bus and had been killed. She shared with me her enormous pain and I could not respond. I just listened quietly. How could I tell Rasha that my two cousins had helped the suicide bomber? How could I tell her that they had purchased the battery for the bomb, gave the man food and a place to sleep, drove him to the bus station and picked out for him the bus that he would board where he would blow himself up 15 minutes later? How could I tell her about the sleepless nights, the psychiatric medication I have been on intermittently since the event? How could I describe the destruction of the family name and the inability to feel joy at any family celebration? How could I share the shame and pain of being called “murderer” by my Jewish neighbors or the anger I feel towards the boys’ mothers for raising them to do such a terrible thing? How could I scream about the unfairness of suffering from someone else’s sins and the thousand small and large ways in which my life had changed forever because of this horrible act? And finally, how could I tell her about the pain I saw every time I looked into my grandmother’s eyes because she knew she would never see her grandchildren, who are serving a life sentence for their crime, ever again?” 

As I listened and held her with tears running down my cheeks, there seemed to be nothing to say, no words that could heal or make better. All I could do was feel the waves of her pain and love her and hope that somehow that love would help earn a better future for us all.

The names of the women in these stories have been changed to protect and respect their lives and their story 





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