Announcing the Formation of Mideast NVC-Palestine

Last Monday, January 29, 2018, I was privileged to attend the founding meeting of an organization to promote Nonviolent Communication in Palestine. After much discussion, the Palestinian Nonviolent Communication community decided to try out the name Mideast NVC-Palestine.

About 15 people participated in the meeting in the beautiful meditation/workshop room of Holy Land Trust (HLT) in Bethlehem. HLT has been a host and partner to Nonviolent Communication trainings in the West Bank for 6 or more years. Many of the people in the room had attended the first Nonviolent Communication training there 6 years ago, and have since attended numerous 9 day residential trainings, classes and weekends. Several are actively involved in offering Nonviolent Communication trainings and classes in schools, women’s groups, government agencies, peace organizations, universities and other venues in the West Bank, Jordan and Jerusalem. Several have attended Train the Trainer sessions over the years with visiting international Nonviolent Communication trainers (including me).

Founding members of Mideast NVC-Palestine

Founding Mideast NVC-Palestine

Palestinian trainer Amal Hadweh from Beit Jala opened the gathering with a “remembering”. Amal shared that she was inspired by Nonviolent Communication founder Marshall Rosenberg to begin trainings with a poem or song or other reading that opens hearts and reminds people of what they are yearning for in coming to Nonviolent Communication. Amal accompanied Marshall through Palestine in the 1990’s.

She said, “I want to begin by reading a poem Marshall shared with us in the ’90’s, called Words are Windows (Or They’re Walls). This is the first time we have this poem in Arabic and its important so we can be part of the Nonviolent Communication family.”

Here is the poem in English:

Words are Windows (Or They’re Walls), a poem by Ruth Bebermeyer
I feel so sentenced by your words
I feel so judged and sent away
Before I go I got to know
Is that what you mean to say?
Before I rise to my defense,
Before I speak in hurt or fear,
Before I build that wall of words,
Tell me, did I really hear?
Words are windows, or they’re walls,
They sentence us, or set us free.
When I speak and when I hear,
Let the love light shine through me.
There are things I need to say,
Things that mean so much to me,
If my words don’t make me clear,
Will you help me to be free?
If I seemed to put you down,
If you felt I didn’t care,
Try to listen through my words
To the feelings that we share.

(from the book Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life)

After the reading, Amal asked for reflections and feedback.

“Truly,” Fowzie from the hills south of Hebron said, “we need this language of the heart because we are so much in our thinking; we feel so much at ease when we start speaking this language of the heart. “ and he closed by saying, “ when we are spoken to with this language of the heart we feel human.”

Pal peace dove photo

How can we be a Palestinian Nonviolent Communication family?

Amal guided the meeting by asking, as the Palestinian family of Nonviolent Communication, how can we work together more? What would it mean for us to support each other to be a Palestinian Nonviolent Communication family? It would be a contribution to our society if it is known we are organized in such a way, that such things are possible here.

Amal told a story of when she was in Germany at a conference on ending violence against women. She mentioned to a German participant that she was giving Nonviolent Communication trainings in Palestine and he responded, sounding shocked, you have that there? She felt so hurt to imagine that the world would be shocked that in Palestine there is a Nonviolent Communication movement, as there is all over the world.
How, she asked, can we build a family of Nonviolent Communication, so that in our ideas and thoughts we are a family?

Some people advocated for prioritizing getting international affiliation and funding to create an organization. Others advocated for deepening their Nonviolent Communication training before seeking funding and forming an organization. Others emphasized looking more deeply together at what challenges are in the society and among the Nonviolent Communication core group itself to moving forward.

Some of the societal challenges spoken to:
-In certain localities, anything with the word “nonviolence” in it will be labeled normalizer ( normalizing the Israeli Occupation). How do I communicate that I am here for you, for us, to strengthen our society, not to connect with Israelis?
-In the structure of Palestinian society, you can’t just go into schools and communities on your own; you need to be part of an umbrella organization.
-much of the violence in society (what are called “crimes of honor”) are kept private; how can we make nonviolence a part of our culture?
– how do we build and work as a team when we are from disparate parties, clans, localities and groups, in a society where people usually function within one of these?

“We Palestinians are preparing to be a state. Our heroes are no longer those who throw stones and commit violence. Our heroes are those who stand up and speak for our rights; who can talk to the Israelis; who can express our needs as people. Working together as an NVC team is a training for working together as a nation.”

Strategies to Address the Challenges

-As Nonviolent Communication trainers, we want Nonviolent Communication to be inside us and to work together.
-We are teaching communication skills that are much more than “nonviolent”; the word nonviolent connotes criticism of our resistance to Occupation ( this is what people in the Deheisha refugee camp told Marshall in 1996 when he came after the first intifada)(Palestinian uprising).
-The word nonviolent connotes weakness in our society. The terms “nonviolence” is a distraction-right away people think you are talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it placves you in a particular camp. Let’s call it the Language of the Heart.
– Let’s call it “Raheem”- Compassionate Communication, a term that is accepted in our society and more fully conveys what it is about.
-And, as international affiliation is important to us- being part of the Nonviolent Communication family, having an umbrella organization to be part of- our international face can use “NVC.”
-Building a team to bring Nonviolent Communication into schools. There is violence in the schools and we want training to build a team of people who care about violence in the schools. We need an organization that helps us develop more so we can launch this into our society. We need financial support to do this.

Birth of Mideast NVC Palestine

“As a school Principal ( in Palestine), when my teachers ask me, how did you learn to speak to us, to the children, to the parents this way, I am proud to say, I learn from NVC. I want to know what’s going on in Nonviolent Communication in India, Pakistan, everywhere.
We want to be recognized by the global NVC community as part of you.

Consensus: We are a body, everyone present here today is part of the administrative committee, and we have a hope and request to be recognized by CNVC ( the international Center for Nonviolent Communication, founded by Marshal
Rosenberg) as part of the family.

Author: Steps2peace

In the world with a peaceful heart

3 thoughts on “Announcing the Formation of Mideast NVC-Palestine”

  1. Oh wow Roberta…words as windows or walls. Isn’t that the basic truth. Send me the link again to send financial support…I may have by passed it this time. So well said about our heroes.

    We Palestinians are preparing to be a state. Our heroes are no longer those who throw stones and commit violence. Our heroes are those who stand up and speak for our rights; who can talk to the Israelis; who can express our needs as people. Working together as an NVC team is a training for working together as a nation.”

    Much love and many blessings,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Roberta, A very moving report about the formation of Mideast NVC-Palestine. The dilemmas they described about their involvement and commitment to non-violence is the context of the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation reminded me of an episode I’m writing about in a book I’m writing about 50 years of life and activism in Israel/Palestine. In 1978 I was serving as Managing Editor of New Outlook magazine, a Middle East monthly based in Tel Aviv in the spirit of Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue, “I & Thou”. On September 5th and 6th, we organized the first major Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, held at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. All of the participants were committed to publishing the encounter, which eventually appeared in the form of a book, “When Enemies Dare to Talk” (Croom Helm, London, 1979). At the same time, singer Joan Baez came to give two performances in Beirut and in Jerusalem, to spread her message of non-violence following a clash between Israel and the Lebanon-based PLO in the spring of 1978. After the concert, Joan said she wanted to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. We took her to meet the Israeli participants in the encounter at the Jerusalem home of Dr. Ya’acov Arnon, former Director General of the Foreign Ministry and one of the first Israelis to enter into dialogue with the PLO leadership. The next day, I accompanied her and Ira Sandpearl, the cofounders of The Institute for the Study of Non-Violence in Palo Alto to the West Bank. We met the Palestinian participants in the dialogue at the home of Birzeit University professor Dr. Nafez Nazzal, and then went on to the university itself for a meeting with a group of Birzeit professors. Joan and Ira gave a passionate and detailed presentation about the importance of non-violence as the key tool in the Palestinian national struggle. Unfortunately, the reaction of the professors was that they found it difficult to see how the concept of non-violence could become a tool in the Palestinian struggle. Their reasoning echoed some of the comments made a the formation of Mideast NVC-Palestine meeting – “The word nonviolent connotes weakness in our society. The terms “nonviolence” is a distraction-right away people think you are talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it places you in a particular camp.” In my view, the relative success of the primarily non-violent First Intifada, compared to the failure of the more violent Second Intifada, demonstrates that non-violence can be heroic, and also a vital tool in the struggle to end the occupation.
    Hillel Schenker
    Palestine-Israel Journal

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.