Archive for August, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, Under Siege


In honour of the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, who died recently, I want to share a few stanzas from his powerful poem, Under Siege:

[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!

Our cups of coffee. Birds green trees
In the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wall
To another like a gazelle
The water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to us
Of the sky. And other things of suspended memories
Reveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,
And that we are the guests of eternity.

Translated by Marjolijn De Jager

These are a few stanzas from a much longer poem. I chose them because they touched me and rang true.


A British doctor in Gaza


Last year I interviewed Tony Davies, a retired medical teacher from Exeter, England, about his time as an Ecumenical Accompanier in the occupied West Bank. In July 2008, I talked to him about his recent trip teaching in medical schools in Gaza and the West Bank. The interview is on my Listen to Inspiring Peacemakers page.

The power of writing


I used to make myself ill with rage. I didn’t and still don’t agree with the establishment of a Jewish state and I especially object to Israelis claiming to speak in my name. By focussing on stories of injustice, inhumanity and violence, I became irritable, tormented and self-righteous. In 2004, after years of outraged activism, I was in danger of slipping into apathy and powerlessness as anger overwhelmed me.

My salvation came from a Compassionate Listening delegation to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This organisation provides an opportunity for Americans to hear the stories of people from a range of perspectives and experiences while learning the skills of non-judgemental listening. For me, it was a wild ride on the roller coaster of emotions, as we made heart to heart connections with our hosts, the other delegates and ourselves. It was a powerful experience, transporting me to a state of grace I hadn’t expected.

I came home eager to share what I’d gained with people in my community and I have been blessed with opportunities to do this. As well as the dialogue groups and Radio Salaam Shalom, I’ve also written a novel.

The novel is called Checkpoint. Set in 2002 at a checkpoint, the novel starts with the death of two teenagers, a soldier and a suicide bomber. It shows how their families suffer and their two communities remain divided, that is, until the two mothers refuse to be enemies. Writing this novel helped me understand people’s motivations and to develop empathy for all sides. Checkpoint is about the possibility of redemption, about a common humanity, the illusion of being on opposite sides and the need to stop the cycle of fear and violence. I believe that a just peace is possible for all in the Middle East. The message is one of hope and I’d like it to reach a wide audience. More information about Checkpoint is at



For the last year, I’ve been presenting a weekly radio programme on Radio Salaam Shalom, an internet radio station promoting Jewish-Muslim dialogue. I’m going to post some of the programmes for you to listen to at your leisure. I’m starting with a programme about dialogue first broadcast in September 2007. I talk about the Compassionate Listening Project, the New Jewish Thought website and the guidebook “Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. I interview Joy Hilden of the Bay Area Jewish Palestinian Dialogue Group and Rabbi Cohen of the Neturei Karta. It’s on my Listen to Inspiring Peacemakers page.