We had 14 women in an AVP (Alternatives to Violence) workshop on healing from trauma in Hebron, Palestine. The facilitators were Lubna, Manar, Narjah, Miriam and Minga. Eman and Lubna were my translators. This workshop is popular and very much needed. One woman was taking it for the second time. At the end, most of the women wanted to continue learning from AVP.
We had obstacles the first day. Women trickled in, so we started 30 minutes late. Three women left early commenting that their husband needed them (or expected/demanded them) home. These women, not in control of their time, didn’t continue. One woman complained loudly saying that the brainstorm we did about self-care doesn’t work, and several women could not access a ‘safe place’ (an exercise) . We ended on an upbeat, matching the women with a listening companion, someone to be emotionally supportive.
The next day was chocked full of exercises–discussion of distress, then grief, then mourning; learning about neurological responses to trauma; the Empty Chair; the Whispering Circle. There were lots of tissues passed around. Some giggled uncontrollably. Of course we had short games to lighten the load–Kush balltoss; Clap, Clap, Wee!; Picking Grapes; and Skunk, Elephant, Palm Tree.
The facilitators met for 90 minutes every night to discuss, evaluate, and plan the next day. Miriam fed us amazing food (excellent self-care modeling) of Maglouba and Shoshbarak. A few of us had discussions of how much money it costs to run a workshop. Not one of the 12 facilitators I talked to could consider doing a workshop with Jews and Palestinians together (still a work in progress). Raw feelings were shared as we heard of continued killings and repudiated violence in this area. I saw many cigarettes consumed by facilitators: we drank lots of strong mint tea.
Women talked about loosing family members, seeing unjust deaths, experiencing soldiers ransacking their houses at night, brothers in jail, and ugly divorces. During the three days, the listening companions would meet to hear the trauma and process it. We did drawings such as showing an experience of when we freeze up, when we feel trapped, when we feel the problem (trauma) is over, what we do to feel better. Our companion helped process these steps for us.
The last day the women were happy to put the stories behind them. We took 3 different unjust events that the women chose, and they enumerated the action and the breaking of human rights. Then 3 spokesperson gave an authoritative speech to the public, standing proud proclaiming what needs to change in Hebron. Loud applause followed the speeches, and I encouraged that they all speak in front of the UN. There was singing, hugging with shining eyes.
We drew a Tree (olive, of course) of Trust and described what steps these women in Hebron can take to nurture this tree and reap the harvest. Inshallah (God willing) these women will be able to use these skills with others, may the healing and fair treatment travel like a warm breeze over the land encircling all with respect and fairness. We had a circle of gifts, we danced and ended with an AVP shout to the heavens. Have you tried AVP?