Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

Working for social change is a labor of love and patience; at sometimes, of rage and righteous indignation. But at the end of the day it is mostly about love and patience. Working for social change is also about knowing to care for ourselves and for others; so that we will not burn out too much, or lose our spark, our passion and our belief that change is possible.

Those who dedicate their lives to this labor of love often make a conscientious choice to operate from the margins; they insist on doing something and talking about issues that only a few actually care about; or even worse, that too many people with power who wish for things to stay just the way they are…

For me, working for social change means constantly looking for the deep narratives that undermine or hamper efforts for positive change, as well as for inspirational stories that spark the passion and endow people with the power and determination to go on. Most of the time I insist on maintaining a positive and hopeful attitude. However, when that does not work; when I am simply short of magic or the strength to go on, I find solace in stories. The stories sustain me; and the people who shared their stories with me remind me that the quest for social change is not for the weak of heart, nor for those who seek quick fixes and immediate gratification.

Moreover, working for deep, structural change means that we must always look for connections; for the shared sources of social and political problems and ills. Of course, this complicates things even more.

Well, since I am at an age when it is important for a woman to maintain her physical health and overall well-being, I practice – as I mentioned earlier – positive thinking. It really works, well, most of the times… There are things, however, that really threaten to punch holes in my "Miss Positivity" robe. One of them is what I like to call "the Two Wrongs Make a Right Principle"; when people believe – or claim – that one social ill can actually make another one acceptable. Truth is, it is a mechanism of denial or of avoiding doing something to correct a wrong that is, well, hmmm, "not our problem".

TWO WRONGS

"Not our problem" is one of the deep narrative that hamper social change efforts. It is when people just cannot be bothered with a problem that does not affect them; be it poverty, inequality, modern slavery or violence. The things is, we are all affected by those wicked problems. But if we dig deeper, and look for the root cause of the "not my problem" phenomenon, we'll find it in good (or rather evil) old practices such as "divide and conquer" and setting one disenfranchised community against another.

"Not our problem" is an adequate name for this wonderful story, which I found thanks to my wonderful storytelling on-line (and off line) colleague, Norm Perrin. I think it makes a compelling case to my point about multiple wrongs adding up to a disaster.

kingThe King who could not be bothered. Illustration by Daniel Gouri De Lima

It is a story of king standing on the porch overlooking his kingdom, eating a rice puff with honey. A drop of honey falls from the rice cake to the street below, but the king could not be bothered to send someone to clean it, because "it is not our problem". Well, the single drop of honey causes great mayhem that leads to a full-fledged war, destruction and death. The king thought that the problem he caused will simply go away, or fixed by the terrible violence that ensued. It is a story of corrupt and obtuse power and about "divide and conquer" at its worst.

And now I have written my last word of interpretation. Now I will let the story do its work, with love and patience. Please read the full story here: http://storywise.com.sg/storytelling/a-little-drop-of-honey

The Naked King

The Naked King*

Would I do it all over again? I would like to say yes, of course! But when I think of the price I paid, that my family paid, I have to say, I do not know. If I knew then what the future held for my family, and me, perhaps I would have kept silent like everybody else did.

Those were my five minutes of claim to fame. And why? For screaming at the top of my lungs that which no one else dared to say, because they were afraid everyone will think they were stupid. Yoy will not believe what fear does to people. I remember it like it was yesterday; I was sitting on my father's shoulders to see our king showing off his new clothes. Surrounded by horses and trumpets, he walked, his head upright, and waved majestically at the crowd, with only his throne on his head, and his underwear. I remember my father's shoulders shivering under my weight. Now I know that he was swallowing his laughter; trying hard not to giggle. And everyone kept waving their flags and calling "Hail King!" as if nothing unusual or out of the ordinary was going on; as if our king, a chubby little man, was NOT walking the main street in his underwear.

So I sat there, on my father's shivering shoulders, and I just could not understand why none of the grownups around us – including my own father – said nothing; is it possible that they did not see what I saw? Finally, I could not hold it in anymore and I yelled, "The king is naked! And suddenly there was a terrible silence, and the band stopped playing, and everyone looked at me with tremendous relief and great horror; relief, because they realized they were not stupid for not seeing the king's new clothes; and horror, because they knew what will ensue.

I was only five years old at the time, so they could not really do anything to me, but the Crown charged my father with for high treason, libel and defamation. This broke him completely; it broke all of us. He spent a fortune on legal defense fees, and eventually they settled out of court. My father pleaded guilty for failing to educate me and instill the fear of King in me. This whole story destroyed our family. My father went bankrupt, and he and my mother fought ceaselessly; he blamed her for spoiling ne rotten, and she claimed that I inherited all my bad habits from him, including his big mouth. Truth is, they both blamed me; for seeing and speaking truth to power.

So all I had left were my five minutes of fame for that brief moment when I released everyone from the big lie and for the terrible fear of being stupid. However, when they saw when happened to my father, they went being to being mute and afraid. Truth is, I do not blame them.

They did blame me, though, because everything went from bad to worse afterwards. The story tells us that the king was thrown from the throne, and that the lying, thieving tailors fled the city. But it wasn't like that. The king fired a minister or two and waged war on the neighboring city, and everyone forgot all about him being naked, because he was really good at waging wars. And at times of war everyone keep silent, because wars are really scary.

So you are asking me if I would have done it again. Well, I guess I did inherit my father's big mouth, but yes, I would have yelled that the king is naked; but I would make sure that I was not alone. I would have made everyone yell at the top of their lungs together; because a king can terrorize one kid and his family, but not a whole city.

*Dedicated with love to the boy who yelled, "The King is Naked"!

המלך עירום

Illustration by: Daniel Gouri De Lima

Growing up, I was like that boy in Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes". I was honest, straightforward, and said things as they were, through the eyes of a child. Over the years, I learned that sometimes there is a price to be paid for being honest. Thing is, I am bad liar. I think I became an artist of words and stories so that I could speak my mind in a way that would make people listen. Because the art of storytelling is about making people listen, and share, and think and feel, and shake the dust off the shelves of their hearts.

Not a witch, nor a princess

The nettle leaves sting and bruise my fingers. Sometimes I remember to stop for a brief moment and suck the blood from them. Most of the times I just let it drip over the green leaves and taint their color. When one is silent for so long, your pain is mute, too. Besides, every minute I spend dwelling on my pain is a minute I don't spend weaving the nettle coats for my brothers, who are so tired of flying. I only think of them, and that gives me strength. If I think of myself too much I'll go crazy, and then what will be of the coats? Pain doesn't matter, nor does the muteness. Only the fear matters; what will happen if I don’t finish the coats on time, and then my brothers will have to go on flying forever. I wish I could fly, be a bird for while, and my brothers would be here, weaving a coat of nettle leaves for me. At least I'd be out of this cave.

I was the only one who didn’t hate the woman whom my father married to ease his loneliness My brothers hated her because she threatened their inheritance. I was very young and didn’t think about any of this. I just wanted a mother, because I never knew my birth mother. Everyone kept telling me how beautiful and kind and graceful she was and how I look just like her. I didn’t hate my father's new wife, because I longed for a mother; to comb my hair and to tell me bedtime stories and scold me. But she couldn’t stand the sight of us from the very beginning. She did not like my father, either. She thought he was a wimp and not ambitious enough. I think she was bored to death. She was a queen, yet she was unhappy. She would wonder the long, dark corridors of the palace and mumble to herself. I wished she would get up and do something, as long as she stopped her mumbling.

And she did. Oh my God, she certainly did. She put an evil spell on my brothers and turned into swans, and I had to take a vow of silence and weave coats from nettle leaves and keep silent, until the coats were ready, and then I would save them and end their misery. I matter now, and that is all that matters. When I am able to speak again and they no longer will be birds we can talk about everything; about how come they get to fly off together and I am sitting here all alone, bound to keep silent.

SIX SWANS

They hated her from the very beginning because she threatened their inheritance. I didn't have a right to it in the first place, so what do I care? I was to marry someone who did have an inheritance, some prince. And then I was to pretend that I am living happily ever after. Because how can you not be happy when all you have to worry about are the flowers for the dinner table?  .

So maybe this twist in the plot isn't so horrible after all. At least now I have a role. My brothers' faith depends on me. I can't sing, shout or curse, or even make a sound, because then the spell will never be broken and that would be horrible, because I will lose whatever family I have left.

And it’s not like I have anyone to talk to, anyway, and I talk to myself when no one ca hear. But I would have loved to talk to her, to my step-mother; I would like to ask her why she hated us so much. The women in the palace said she was overcome by jealousy, that she was haunted by the memory of my mother, who was to remain perfect, the way only meek and sweet dead queens can be. I personally think that this is only part of the story.  I think she really wanted to make something of herself; to have agency, to run things around the palace, but she learned quickly enough that it is not going to happen.  She had enormous energies and she couldn't do anything, so she turned to witchcraft.  Those are basically the two choices we women have; to be sweet and silent, or be a witch that can turn people into birds.

Truth is, I sympathize. I, like her, am a prisoner in this old and utterly un-politically correct book of fairy tales. I, like her, would have loved to have other alternatives. So in the meantime I sit here and weave coats of nettle leaves, and keep silent and bite my lips, waiting for someone to read my story and free me from my vow of silence.

Dedicated to the heroine of the tale of the six swans (or the three ravens). To read the tale, click here:  http://www.angelfire.com/me3/muppets/Story_ThreeRavens.html)

The thing with fairy tales; one needs to read them several times. The first time you just read it to enjoy the story; the trials and tribulations, the twists and turns in the plot, and finally, the happy end (in most cases). Then you read it again and get all worked up about the misogynistic point of view and how female protagonist are always destined to be either a wicked witch or a sweet and angelic – and often clueless – young girl with not an evil bone I her body.  And then you have to read it again and look for that which remains unsaid, and look for the gaps and wholes, and subvert the story and make it your own. That's what I did. I looked for what remains untold; I looked for what was absent; I looked at the context in which this story was originally told, and then at the context in which I am reading it now.

Folk tales were the newspapers and talk shows of the days of old. They addressed everything that was on people's mind: money, class and social stratification, fatal diseases and other perils, power struggles, loneliness and being orphaned, love and passion. The storytellers took the stories from one place to another, omitted or emphasized certain pieces as they saw fit. The storytellers broke the silence for those who needed them to do so. They did what they could within a system where wealth and power were the birthright of rulers who often lacked vision and resourcefulness.

I've been dwelling on this story for quite some time now. I mean what do I, an eloquent and hot-tempered woman, have to do with this meek and mute princess? Well, maybe I, who passionately insists that silence is not an option need to understand that sometimes, for some women, silence is the only option. Maybe I need to appreciate that being able to speak is a privilege. And what do I, the Jewish mother who dotes over her children, have to do with a witch of a step-mother who loathes her step-children? Because I, too, wonder around mumbling to myself when I do not know what to do with all that energy, this desire to make a difference. I need to converse with the witch and the princess because they both are a part of who I am. And I would venture and say that they are a part of what every woman is. There are very few wicked witches or meek princesses in the world. There are many women who, like me, are looking to find their voice somewhere in the middle, between these two impossible extremes.  Being either of them condemns you to horrible loneliness. Many women in this world strive to create a world of possibilities.

Epilogue: writing with a shaky hand

Using the keyboard rather than the pen did not take away that shiver in my hands. I've learned to recognize it, that sense of unease when wondering out of the comfort zone; when writing touches the bare, vulnerable skin; when the political is so personal; when I have something to loose, and that's scary.

Because words matter, and they should. Especially at a time when words are abused; when politicians talk themselves to death. Words matter, especially at a time when public discourse is so toxic and thorny, just like the nettle leaves from which the mute princess is weaving the coats for her brothers. Maybe she's keeping silent because she wants nothing to do with this toxic discourse. Maybe she knows that when she does speak up, she'll do it her own way.

A woman's prayer

I will fast on Yom Kippur again this year. Not because I have to, but because I choose so. It is a family tradition since the passing of my maternal grandfather, Shaul Beker z"l.

I will fast and pray at the Dror Reform congregation in my neighborhood, and my daughter, Na'ama, will join me. No, she doesn't have to, but she, like me, appreciates being part of a community that prays and chants and sings, women and men together, on this day. After the prayers, her father will take her to join her friends to play and ride her bike. And next year she will be free to choose where she wants to be.

I will prepare food for those in my family who do not fast, because a shared family space means each and every one has the right to live and be as they choose.

I will, again, shed tears during the Avinu Malkenu prayer, because 20 years ago this prayer pulled me out from an abyss of pain.

And I will dwell and reflect on what I have done, or didn't, or should have done differently. I will mind, time and again, the gaps between who I wish to be and how I am, especially towards those I love the most. And I will mind, time again, the gaps between my values and my practices.

And I will break the fast, time and again, with my parents, in their home, and the first thing that will receive me at the door will be the light in my mother's eyes and her warm "G'mar Hatima Tova" embrace.

I make a personal choice, time and again, how my Yom Kippur will be.

woman-praying-425

I will pray this year, time and again, in my own way, not to the Almighty, but to a private and very personal presence of spirituality and compassion, of deep humanity that is in the soul.

And this year, when Yom Kippur and Eid al Adha are celebrated on the same day, I will wish all my Jewish and Muslim friends who observe a meaningful holiday, one to be shared with family, friends and community.

And I will ponder on the proximity between the sacrifice of Ishma'el and that of Issac, and how we, the humans of this world, are obligated to celebrate the sanctity of life, and challenge the culture that sanctifies the sword.

G'mar Hatima Tova and a blessed Eid al Adha.

To Hagar. To Hijer.

To Hagar. Hijer. My sister.

After many years, I am once again reading about you and your story.  It is good that I am doing this, my dear one.  It reminds me how important you are in our history.  And the more I read, the more my soul is bound with yours.

You, Abraham's concubine, were passed on to Sarah, who passed you back to Abraham so that you would provide him with a son. Back and forth.  You were persecuted because you were a stranger, because you were loved and loving, because you didn't belong.

You were made up of all possible contradictions, in your life and after your death:  Royalty and slavery; a symbol of supreme maternal devotion but also of obedience to the patriarchal, economic, and class structure; the mother of Ishma'el, the founder of the Arab nation, the source of inspiration for religious texts but also the symbol of expulsion, of otherness.  So many words have been written about you, and I search for you in the mounds of interpretations, appropriations and sophisticated debates.

Your story is composed of infinite materials.  It is not one story, but rather, many.  And from these many, I sit and pull out the threads, one by one.  First, the thread of you and Sarah.  The woman who must have felt very ambivalent about you, burning with intimacy and jealousy.  I find myself angry with Sarah.  After all, you, the handmaiden, were the victim of a social and economic order that placed the will of your master above your own.  Perhaps both of you – you and Sarah – were victims of the patriarchal order that measured and valued women according to their ability to give birth, to produce heirs (preferably male, of course).  That same order that did not allow Sarah to create a close, loving relationship with you.

And then I pull out the thread of motherhood.  The thread that turned you into a model of devotion and grace.  When you put Ishma'el your son down, and went off to seek water and to spare him the sight of his mother weeping over his bitter fate. The fate that awaited both of you.  In the end, you were both saved.  Thanks either to your resourcefulness and tenacity or to the hand of God. The Bible tells us that God revealed himself to you.  At that moment, were you overcome with awe, or simply tremendously relieved that your life and the life of your son had been spared?

Expulsion_of_Ishmael_and_His_Mother

What did you want, Hagar?  Did anyone ever ask you what you wanted? You – who refused to sacrifice your only son whom you loved.  You – who withstood all of the tests.  What did you want?  What were you thinking about, as you sat in the desert, crying bitterly over your son?  Did you know then, as your were banished a second time, that your son would become a great nation?  That your banishment from the home of Abraham and Sarah would lead to one of the most bitter and harsh conflicts in history, a conflict that eats away at our hearts to this very day?

I cannot but think about what would be if Sarah had not demanded that you be sent away.  If Abraham had not given in, without even protesting.  Perhaps Isaac and Ishma'el would have grown up together as brothers, despite the age difference between them?  Our history in this space – as Arabs and Jews – would be very different.  And in these difficult times, I think about what we women – mothers, sisters, friends – can do to help to heal this open wound, to right the terrible historical wrong of your banishment.

I don’t know what you would have wanted.  They have all taken ownership of you.  Judaism. Islam.  Even Christian scholars have made their interpretations on your back.  I don't want to appropriate you, or your story, or your life.  But every so often, I would like to have another conversation with you.  If I may.

Written in 2010, for a special exhibition by feminist Mizrahi artist and leader, Shula Keshet, on Biblical Heroines

להגר. להיג'ר.

להגר. הג'ר. אחותי.

אחרי שנים רבות שבתי וקראתי את סיפורך ואודותייך. וטוב שכך, יקירה. נזכרתי איזו דמות משמעותית את בתולדותינו. ככל שהוספתי לקרוא, נקשרה נפשי בנפשך.

את, שנמסרת כשפחה לאברהם, שמסר אותך לשרה, שמסרה אותך שוב לאברהם על מנת שתלדי לו בן, וחוזר חלילה. נרדפת בשל היותך זרה, בשל היותך אהובה ואוהבת, בשל היותך לא שייכת.

את היית עשויה מכל הניגודים האפשריים, בחייך ולאחר לכתך: בת מלוכה ושפחה, סמל למסירות אימהית עילאית וגם לצייתנות לסדר הפטריאכלי, הכלכלי, המעמדי; אם אבי האומה הערבית, ישמעאל, מקור השראה לטקסים דתיים וגם סמל למגורשות, לזרות, לאחרות. כל כך הרבה מילים נכתבו עלייך, ואני מחפשת אותך בין הררי הפרשנויות, השיוכים, ההתפלפלויות.

הסיפור שלך מורכב מאינספור חומרים. לא סיפור אחד הוא, אלא רבים. ואני יושבת ומושכת מתוך שלל הסיפורים חוטים חוטים. תחילה את החוט העוסק בך ובשרה. אותה אישה אשר ודאי חשה כלפייך רגשות מעורבים ביותר: קרבה וקנאה בוערת. ואני מוצאת את עצמי כועסת על שרה. הרי את, השפחה, היית קורבן לסדר חברתי וכלכלי אשר העמיד את רצון אדונייך לפני רצונך שלך. ואולי שתיכן – את ושרה – הייתן קורבנות של סדר פטריאכלי אשר מדד נשים והעריך אותן לפי יכולתן ללדת, להעמיד צאצאים (עדיף בנים, כמובן). אותו סדר אשר לא איפשר לשרה לכונן איתך יחסים של קרבה ואהבה.

ואני שולה את החוט של האימהות. החוט שהפך אותך למופת של מסירות ואצילות נפש. כאשר הנחת את ישמעאל בנך והרחקת בחיפוש אחר מים וגם על מנת שתוכלי לבכות מבלי שיחזה באמו ממררת בבכי על הגורל הצפוי לו. לשניכם. בסופו של דבר ניצלתם שניכם. בין אם בזכות התושייה והעקשנות שלך, ובין אם ביד האלוקים. המקרא מספר שהוא נגלה אלייך. האם חשבת באותו רגע על גודל הרגע, או פשוט חשת הקלה עצומה שהנה נצלו חיי בנך וחייך?

Expulsion_of_Ishmael_and_His_Mother

ומה רצית את, הגר? האם מישהו שאל אותך אי פעם מה רצונך? את, שסירבת להקריב את בנך יחידך אשר אהבת, אשר עמדת בכל המבחנים. מה רצית את? אילו מחשבות עלו בך, כאשר ישבת בלב המדבר, ממררת בבכי, על בנך? האם ידעת אז, כאשר גורשת בפעם השנייה, שבנך יהיה לעם גדול? שעם גירושכם מבית אברהם ושרה יוולד לו אחד הסכסוכים המרים והקשים, שהוא כמאכלת בלבבות עד עצם היום הזה?

אני לא יכולה שלא לחשוב מה היה קורה לולא דרשה שרה את גירושך. לולא הסכים לכך אברהם ללא ויכוח. אולי יצחק וישמעאל היו גדלים יחד כאחים, למרות הפרש הגילאים? כל ההיסטוריה שלנו כאן במרחב – ערבים ויהודים – הייתה יכולה להיראות אחרת. ואני תוהה בימים אלה איזה תפקיד אנו הנשים – האימהות, האחיות, החברות – יכולות למלא בריפוי הפצע הזה הפעור הזה, בתיקון הטעות ההיסטורית האיומה שהיא גירושך.

אינני יודעת מה היית רוצה. כולם ניכסו אותך. היהדות. האיסלאם, אפילו הפרשנים הנוצרים כתבו על גבך פרשנויות. אינני רוצה להיות עוד אחת שמנכסת אותך, את סיפורייך, את חייך. אבל הייתי רוצה להמשיך ולנהל איתך שיחות מידי פעם, אם אפשר.

נכתב לראשונה לתערוכה של האמנית והמנהיגה הפמיניסטית מזרחית שולה קשת "מסכת נשים".

shula k3מתוך התערוכה "מסכת נשים" פרי יצירתה של שולה קשת

The Power of Stories

The power of stories and storytelling

Stories are a powerful thing. Stories evoke strong emotional reactions: fascination, enchantment, laughter, fear, indignation. Stories have power over us because they are made of the raw materials of our lives as human beings: love, hate, passion, conflict, competition, adventures, cruelty and kindness, overcoming obstacles and challenges, the victory of the mind and soul over matter and coercion, resourcefulness and wisdom, stupidity and innocence, faith, and more. Stories can helps us grapple with the darker corners of our being and celebrate the greatness of our human spirit.

Stories can remind us who we are, where we come from, and where we want to go. Consider for example the Odyssey, possibly the most famous tale of personal journey. After years and years of wondering and endless obstacles, adventures and temptations, Odysseus is finally able to find his way home after telling his story to others and to himself. Stories help us preserve our past, so that we may shape our own future.

Stories are not merely about facts, but are not the opposite of facts, either. Rather, they are an effective way of conveying information, in a more dramatic, picturesque, concise and inspiring manner. In that sense, stories can be a powerful tool in an organization's social marketing efforts.

A story well-told can unleash the power of other stories: it can help us tell owr own stories and elicit stories from others. Individual stories can then be woven together to tell a collective one: a community's, an organizations, a people.

To read more about the power of stories click here: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxoYW11dGFsZ291cmljb25zdWx0NGdvb2R8Z3g6N2E3MDU3MmUzZmM3YzhhYg

If you want to learn more on how storytelling can benefit your group, your community, your organization, please wonder the pages of this blog, and then contact me at: consult4good@gmail.com or call: 972-52-5601859

My People

The plane finally landed at Oakland Airport. Only a short trip from there to the home of Akaya Windwood, the President of Rockwood Leadership Institute. I traveled all the way to California to participate in a Rockwood Art of Leadership Seminar, as part of a process of exploring the idea to bring the program to Israel. .
I have never met Akaya before. We spoke on the phone a couple of times and exchanged e-mails, and she invited me to stay with her over the weekend, before the seminar. The taxi drove up a peaceful street, and pulled over just as Akaya came out of the house to greet me, a tall, beautiful woman. I was so happy to finally meet her, and we embraced as if we were long time friends. I felt like I was home away from home.
The Art of Leadership seminar started on Monday afternoon. I was the oldest participant in the room, and the only one from Israel. It was March 2009. America was in love with its new black President, while in Israel; Benjamin Netanyahu was putting together another coalition. On that first evening, we stood in a circle, 24 people from different places, races, religions and genders, and with endless stories to share. Our two amazing trainers, Helen Kim and Toby Herzlich, asked us to say: who are my people?
– My people are my family…
– My people are my family and friends…
– My people are my friends and colleagues who are working to end racism and prejudice…
– My people are all those fighting for justice and equality…
The seminar was a truly transformative experience. I experienced a whole spectrum of emotions; I felt the pain of revelation, I shed some tears, and was inspired, and curious; I learned a great deal about my own leadership, my privilege, my responsibility. I discovered myself through the eyes of people I have just met, but I had to trust them to share their wisdom with me, and let me share mine with them. For four intense days they were “My People”, as we all shared in an experience of learning and discovery. It’s been five years since then, and what I learned there about myself, about leadership and about social change is still alive within me, like a potent “suspended release” medicine, that runs through my veins, through my system of values and beliefs.
And the learning and revelation continued, in the four years in which I was the program Director for the Rockwood Art of Collaborative Leadership for Social Change in Israel, thanks to the generous support of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Social Justice Fund. I met amazing people, our participants; so dedicated and passionate about their work, even when it gets so frustrating, challenging and downright unthankful. I met people who represent such a rich diversity of ethnic, national, gender, cultural and political identities. Each and every single one of them holds a special place in my heart. Our alumni in Israel, along with many other remarkable people I met during my 25 years in working for social change, are “My People”. I wish I could name each and every one of them, but the list will so long. My people are the feminist activists and professionals who never take a break to breath; my people are the human rights and peace people; the environmentalists, and those working to keep Judaism pluralistic and inclusive, and those fighting against racism and injustice, and all of those who insist to end the occupation. My people are kind. They are my kind of people.
And each and every one of them has a voice, loud and clear, complex and fascinating; a voice that holds a richness of identities, of stories, of affiliations. My people give me hope, despite the ill winds that keep blowing in our country, despite legislation initiatives that threaten to deepen the rifts between Jews and Palestinians. They give me hope, because I know that there are people, amazing people, who work to bring people together, to create circles of conversations, to create spaces for shared living.
It gives me great pleasure to host my people on my blog. And this time, I invite you to gather around an imagined fire place, or an imagined town hall, and listen to two of our Rockwood graduates in Israel: Shahad Abu-Hamad, a Palestinian pre-school teacher, a special education fairy godmother, and Prof. Daphna Golan. A Jewish scholar and educator, a magician in her own way, and the founder of the Academy-Community Partnership.

storyteller2The Storyteller, Illustration by Daniel Gouri de Lima

Power Failure/Shahad Abu-Hamad

Power failure
Darkness
Waiting for the light
Power failure
Painful memories
And people’s stories

System overload
Power failure
Pouring rain
Thunders roaring
The voices of whole nations
System overload
Power failure
Paralyzing thunders
And the rain washes away painful memories
Feeds a new scent of hope
A scent of love

Power failure
Darkness
Hot and cold
Will you make up your mind already…
Don’t say it’s impossible
We are out of words
Silence
Power failure.

This powerful poem was written at the end of a whirlwind week of the Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day that were followed by a rain storm, in early May.

Learning with students, Acting for Change: a TED talk by Prof. Daphna Golan, Founding Director, Academy-Community Partnership

http://youtu.be/uvEwl2PHDgE

My People

המטוס נחת סוף סוף בשדה התעופה של אוקלנד. משם, הדרך לביתה של אקאיה ווינדווד, נשיאת רוקווד, כבר הייתה קצרה. נסעתי לקליפורניה הרחוקה כדי להשתתף בסמינר "אמנות המנהיגות לשינוי חברתי" של רוקווד, במסגרת תהליך החשיבה והתכנון על הבאת התוכנית של רוקווד לישראל.

לא פגשתי את אקאיה מעולם לפני כן. שוחחנו בטלפון כמה פעמים והתכתבנו הרבה, והיא הזמינה אותי להתארח אצלה בסוף השבוע שקדם לסמינר. המונית עצרה במעלה רחוב שקט ופורח, ואקאיה יצאה לקראתי. אישה גבוהה ויפה. התחבקנו בשמחה כמו חברות שנפגשות שוב אחרי זמן רב. הרגשתי כמי שהגיעה לבית אחרי מסע ארוך.

יומיים לאחר מכן התחיל הסמינר. הייתי הכי מבוגרת והישראלית היחידה. מרץ 2009. אמריקה מאוהבת בנשיא החדש והשחור שלה. בישראל עמל בנימין נתניהו על הרכבה של עוד ממשלה. בערב הראשון, ישבנו או עמדנו במעגל, 24 א/נשים ממקומות שונים, מגזעים שונים, דתות שונות, מגדרים שונים, ואינספור סיפורים מרתקים שטרם חלקנו. ונתבקשנו לומר בקצרה:

?Who are my people

"האנשים שלי הם המשפחה שלי"

"האנשים שלי הם משפחתי והחברים/ות שלי"

"הא/נשים שלי הם חבריי וחברותיי למאבק למען…"

"הא/נשים שלי הם/ן כל מי שמאמין בשוויון וצדק".

ארבעה ימים ביליתי שם. לעיתים דומעת, כואבת, בודדה, לעיתים מתרגשת ונסערת וסקרנית. למדתי שם המון, פגשתי את עצמי דרך עיניהם של א/נשים שזה עתה פגשתי, אך הייתי צריכה לסמוך עליהם/ן שיתמכו בלמידה שלי, שיעניקו לי מחוכמתם/ן וייתנו לי להעניק להם/ן משלי.  למשך ארבעה ימים גדושים ועמוסים גם הם היו "הא/נשים שלי", שותפים/ות לחוויה מטלטלת של גילוי ולמידה. חמש שנים חלפו מאז הסמינר ההוא והדברים שלמדתי שם על עצמי, על מנהיגות, על שינוי חברתי עדיין חיים בי, משתחררים כל פעם מחדש אל מערכת הדם והאמונות שלי.

הלמידה הזו נמשכה ונמשכת עד היום, אחרי שקיימנו בישראל ארבעה מחזורים של סמינר רוקווד לאמנות המנהיגות ושיתוף הפעולה לשינוי חברתי. פגשתי שם א/נשים מופלאים/ות, מסורים/ות, חדורי/ות אהבה לעשייה שלהם/ן, גם כאשר היא שוחקת עד דק, כפוית טובה לעתים, מתסכלת. פגשתי שם א/נשים שמייצגים/ות מגוון רחב ועשיר של זהויות לאומיות, אתניות, מגדריות, פוליטיות. כל אחת ואחד מהם נכנס/ה לי עמוק עמוק ללב. הם/ן, יחד עם עוד רבים/ות אחרים/ות שפגשתי במהלך חיי בשדה השינוי החברתי, הם "הא/נשים שלי".

ולכל אחד ואחת מהם/ן יש קול. קול חזק וצלול, מורכב ומרתק, קול שחובק עושר של זהויות, של סיפורים, של השתייכויות. "הא/נשים שלי" נוטעים בי תקווה שלמרות הרוחות הרעות שממשיכות לנשב כאן, למרות יוזמות חקיקה שנועדו לתקוע חיץ בין עמים, בין זהויות, שלמרות כל אלה, יש כאן א/נשים שהעשייה שלהם/ן מכוונת למפגש, להרחבה של מעגלים של שיחה, להרחבה של מעגלים של קיום ושל נשימה.

אז הפעם, אני מזמינה אתכם/ן להתכנס סביב אח מבוערת דמיונית או להתקבץ אל כיכר עיר משוערת, ולשמוע שתיים מהן. שהד אבו-חמד, מורה לגיל הרך, קוסמת לחינוך מיוחד, תושבת נווה שלום-ואחת אל סלאם, ודפנה גולן, מרצה, מורה, מחוללת נסים בדרכה שלה, מייסדת שותפות אקדמיה-קהילה ותושבת ירושלים.

 

storyteller2
מספרת הסיפורים

הפסקת חשמל/שהד אבו-חמד

הפסקת חשמל

חושך

מחכים לאור

הפסקת חשמל

זיכרונות כואבים

ימים ארוכים

וסיפורי אנשים

 

עומס ….

הפסקת חשמל

גשם שוטף

ברקים רועמים

קולות של עמים שלמים

 

עומס ….

הפסקת חשמל

רעמים משתקים

והגשם שוטף זיכרונות כואבים

מצמיח ריח חדש של תקווה

ריח של אהבה

 

הפסקת חשמל

חושך

חם וקר

אולי תחליטו….

אל תגידו אי אפשר

מילים כבר לא נותר

שקט

הפסקת חשמל.

 

"ללמוד עם סטודנטים, לפעול לשינוי" הרצאת טד של ד"ר דפנה גולן

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Motherhood and Leadership

The maternity ward at the old hospital was full, so they put me in the corridor, not quite sure what to do with me. The corridor was dark and silent, and I was left alone, caught in a web of emotions. “Miscarriage in 1st trimester”, was the dry, clinical diagnosis. “Don’t worry, it happens to one in every 7 women”, said the well intentioned nurse, “everything will be just fine”.

Morning came, and they brought the newborn babies to their mothers, to suckle. I lay in my hospital bed and was just very, very sad. The tears came pouring down when  I saw my mother’s tall and graceful figure coming towards me in the long corridor She held me and shed a tear with me. I was so very very sad and her embrace made room for my sadness.

Motherhood is about making room for sadness until it goes away by itself. And sometimes it is simply about making room.

25 years after that grim morning in the corridor, I read in a book “Fairytales of the Reversible Death” by Simona Matzliah-Hanoch (available in Hebrew), the story of her miscarriage; my story, and that of so many women. I had goose bumps all over. I can’t even find the words to describe the feeling of reading my own story told by another woman I never met.

Motherhood is about breaking the silence for others.

“Mom, am I assertive?”, Na’ama, my almost 8 year old asks me, as we’re strolling down the street. And while my mind races in a maze of feminism and language, wondering if I like this word, mostly used to describe women, comes the next question: “What is assertive, anyway?”

“It means holding your ground, standing up for what you believe in”.

“And is that a good thing”?

“Of course. And yes, you’re assertive”.

Motherhood is about saying the right thing. Telling your daughter what she needs to hear.

And motherhood is also about holding them to the highest standards, even if it makes you feel like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. And it’s about inspiring them to harbor high expectations, but at the same time, to remember that they should pursue their own dreams, not yours.

Motherhood is about letting go when you need to, and enfold them back into your embrace when they need you to.

It is about enabling separation and autonomy without conflict.

And motherhood is knowing that we all screw this up sometimes, but we usually get a chance to make it right.

Motherhood is not a physical or biological action; nor is it gender specific. It is a position, a way of being in the world; a commitment to the growth and well being of those around us and those who will come after us.

Yes, it is a commitment to the growth of others.

cropped-d79cd799d793d794-d79ed797d793d7a91.jpg

And now, to Dana’s poem.

Sometimes, the way to foster a leader is to enable one to see oneself in that image. Dana Myrtenbaum, a cause lawyer and a dear friend, says t so beautifully in her poem

Leadership

It's a big word, riddled with cliché

But it encases within

Myself – and other women and girls

Of all, it empowers

The strength within me

The voices inside me

The ones that leap and shatter,

Like in a dance

How do we "construct leadership"?

A wise woman once told me

"We say to you, time and again

You are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own –

And a leader you are".

We tell you, time and again

That a leader you are

And already you are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own.

More than anything,

In the voyages of life I see

That both our hands

Must grasp others,

Seeing eyes,

In endless circles entwined,

For there is no singular leadership

There are many

And me?

The places from which I've fled,

That beckon my return

Yearning to create,

Reeling fantasies in reprise

The strumming of leadership

On the strings of life

And simply put,

The man I loved and realized I could not change

Children I have birthed and guided

Women that were swept away with me

From words to cries into deafening silence

Towards action, and words, many more words

Friends that uplifted me

And another project born out of the first breath of the day

After the dream

And the elders that mentored me, now I care for  them

The endearing pauses,

The gift that I cherished,

Heeding the reading,

Comfort in another task, half a breath

My tempestuous laughter,

A gaze of love,

A dawn's embrace – in the warmth of the bed

Poem translated to English by Daniel Gouri de Lima