Read the Article on RA HERE
Read the article on Unfamous Resistenza HERE 'French only', English below.
In october I participated again in the Being Peace retreat in the West Bank of Palestine. Our objective is to help families harvest their olives as they are less likely to be harassed by unfriendly and sometimes violent settlers. With the presence of international volunteers the Palestinian farmers are less likely to be harassed by unfriendly and sometimes violent settlers and the extra labour also speeds up the harvest. We are a group with meditation as our common denominator bearing witness to the situation in the occupied territories (see my article from last year for more details https://sp23.org/cultural-space-2/). My experience this time was very different although equally profound – the shock I experienced last year from seeing the reality of the situation was less intense and I was able to see and absorb more layers of complexities and appreciate the paradoxes. Here are a some glimpses of my time there this year.
One day we were picking with the Olive Harvest Coalition right next to a settlement. The separation barrier has totally cut off the village from all of it's (very) fertile agricultural land. Farmers now need permits to access their own lands: they are often granted very short windows of time in which to harvest their trees and so are very grateful for the help of groups like the Coalition, which also ensures their safety from potential settler violence. We met the bus load of helpers on the 'Israeli' side of the separation barrier (illegally built inside the 1948 partition line on Palestinian land). At the checkpoint there is a kind of large cattle shed where Palestinians with permits to work on the 'Israeli' side wait at least 2 hours to get processed every day. More and more checkpoints are now manned by private security firms because they are cheaper to run than the army. At the checkpoints there are 3 lanes – Israeli citizens, Palestinian Israelis and Palestinians. Before the first Intifada in 1987 there were no checkpoints or separation barrier. People could travel freely and there was more rapport between the 2 peoples, more Palestinians spoke Hebrew. Now, since the 2nd Intifada in 2000 young people only learn Hebrew in prison.
A member of our group was an ex-Israeli soldier who had previously been stationed at the village where we were staying. He also happened to be half Arab as his mother is Moroccan – and jewish. With the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 there was an influx of Jewish arabs from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia etc. Because their own governments became more hostile to them they were forced to leave everything to go to Israel where they lived in real hardship, often living in tents and makeshift shelters for many years. Even now they are still too often treated as second class citizens because they are arabs. At school Israeli children are often taught to fear arabs, so being part-Arab our friend's sense of self-worth was minimal. No one seems to know where this deep rooted hatred actually comes from, no one knows how long the arabs or the jews have been on this land. Of course the first couple of days in the village were very fearful for him, he was convinced that the villagers would recognise him as one of the soldiers and be confrontational towards him. After a few days harvesting with the families and communicating in his slightly broken arabic, feeling their warmth and hospitality towards him, helped him to see through all the years of conditioning, fear and propaganda.
Picking olives with one of the ex-mayors of the village he told us how Palestinian olive oil gets exported to UK, France etc via Israel which has to be paid for the 'service'. They often leave the containers for ages in the sun so that the oil goes off. Which means that when the oil arrives in Europe it fails the test to be 'Extra Virgin' and gets shipped back and the Palestinians have to pay a fine. One of the terms of the Oslo Accords in 1993 was that all goods must be bought from Israel, but the cost of living - and therefore the wages - is much lower in Palestine. So it is much harder for people to afford to buy basic essentials.
One day we had 2 meetings – the first was with a settler and his wife from the settlement just next to our village. The settler, a man in his 70s, born in Germany who came here just after the war, began with a long and detailed history lesson justifying the presence of the establishment of Israel in this region – quoting all sorts of names of ancient kingdoms apparently found in the bible. His stance was one of defense as he was convinced we would be aggressive towards him (which we weren't – we were actually interested to hear his side of the story). After he realised we weren't threatening to him he calmed down and we could ask him questions.
His view was very one sided, he believed that the two peoples could co-exist perfectly well except that the Palestinian leaders are too hostile. The only dealing he has with arabs is as employees and he has no understanding as to why the local population should be hostile towards these illegal settlements. One complaint he had was that this summer there were such severe water shortages that the settlement couldn't water their park, meanwhile the Palestinian villages down the road had no drinking water.
The second meeting was in a small Palestinian village created by refugees after 1948. There are only 250 people – 50 families. Out of 95 houses 55 have demolition orders. According to the Israeli government, outposts (which are illegal, as are all settlements) need guarding and so the army move in. The army needs roads, water electricity and therefore the illegal settlers get these. If Palestinians build their houses without permits (the granting of building permits to Palestinians is virtually non-existent) they have to demolish their homes themselves or they get charged to do it. This meeting was with Combatants for Peace, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who were involved in the armed conflict and have chosen to now 'fight' for peace in a non-violent way. The two speakers recounted their stories – one as a serving soldier in the Israeli army witnessing all the injustices and inhumane treatment of Palestinian civilians, and the other as a Palestinian civilian wrongly accused of violence towards a settler and the long periods of torture and imprisonment he subsequently received.
Towards the end of our stay in the West Bank we visited Hebron with Breaking the Silence (ex-Israeli soldiers who expose the truth of life in the occupied territories during their years in service). Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank with over 200,000 Palestinians. Because of 800 settlers illegally occupying buildings in the centre of the city, the high street is now completely closed to all Palestinians. All their shops have been welded shut – to leave their own homes they have to exit via fire escapes, their back doors, or even over the rooftops.
This whole central area is now named H2 by the army, H1 being the part of Hebron still under 'Palestinian control'. Many have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in H1 so only the poorest remain. For those who cannot leave they are subjected to constant harassment from the settlers and have to build cages over their windows to protect themselves.
The army only intervene if there is violence towards the settlers, never the other way round (settlers go out of their way to befriend the soldiers). It is very surreal to walk the main streets of Hebron which are completely deserted apart from the occasional child of a settler riding by on their bike. At the end of the tour we had a very informative meeting with the activist group Youth against Settlements – a Palestinian activist group that encourages the population of Hebron, especially in the H2 area under Israeli military control, to remain in the area, stand firm, and mount nonviolent resistance and resilience campaigns.
The complexities and injustices of the situation in the Occupied Territories are incomprehensible. It was heartening to meet so many positive Palestinian people who despite everything raise their children not to hate Israelis or Jews and welcome all of us so warmly, often calling out 'shalom' in the streets (Israeli greeting) and to meet so many activist groups determined to promote peace through non-violence.
Sangha Seva http://www.sanghaseva.org/comingup.html#bp
Olive Harvest Coalition https://www.facebook.com/OliveHarvestCoalition
Breaking the Silence http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/
Combattants for Peace http://cfpeace.org/about-us/our-vision/
YAS - Youth Against Settlements شباب ضد الاستيطان http://www.youthagainstsettlements.org/
Debbie and Denis had been interviewed by Lili Moayeri, journalist for the Website "Insomniac".
Bellow, extracts of this article.
The spiritual connection between repetitive beats and the human heart is undeniable. Though impossible, it can feel like your heart is beating in time with what is being played on the dancefloor. A techno enthusiast since the late ‘80s, Debbie Griffith felt that connection for years as cofounder of the free party sound system Spiral Tribe, and she continues to feel it as a member of the group’s descendent collective, SP23.
Debbie met Denis Robberechts, a 10-year meditation and retreat leader, and told him about her tandem worlds. “I explained to him about my techno background and the chaos of it all, but also the creativity—how so many people I know, myself included, find themselves in a loop with the scene,” says Griffith. “They see a glimpse of something spiritual on the dancefloor, a connection with the music—whether enhanced by drugs or not—and then continue trying to find that same feeling, often getting deeper and deeper into the drugs and losing the connection.”
Robberechts suggested a three-day silent retreat with an evening of techno, as an introduction to meditation for ravers.
From these two worlds, Dharma Techno was born. The first three retreats took place in the Drôme department of southeastern France. The space used there has a number of rooms with two to three beds each, a large kitchen, dining room, and a great hall that serves as the meditation room, movement room, and techno dance floor.
Read the article on insomniac www.insomniac.com/media/dharma-techno
Mark Angelo Harrison talks about how the ancient symbol of the spiral has influenced his artwork and was the mandala that sparked the creation of Spiral Tribe and which resonates deeply with the essence of meditation and the new Dharma Techno movement.
“Working in a printers on Ladbroke Grove, London, in 1990, I learnt to use a laser copier (new technology then). On the wall above the machine was a photograph of a spiral ammonite fossil. The image pulled me in. Taking it off the wall I put it on the copier glass and zoomed into its centre – and in – and in. Something at this moment connected – the primordial all-connecting symbol of life. The spiral image, then the word ‘spiral’ fitted so beautifully with the word ‘tribe’ – it was poetic but also demonstrative – the words Spiral Tribe where self-explanatory – viral. The combination of the image and words formed the seed from which it all grew. This has always interested me, as does geometry. I kept a sketchbook in which I invented tessellating shapes – positives creating negatives, negatives – positives: one symmetry generating another. It was me who put pencil to paper, me who positioned the lines, but I felt I was only giving shape to what was already there. Mapping patterns that pre-existed, if pre-existed is the word.
The tip of my pencil and the nib of my pen tracing outlines around an invisible mathematics, inking-in an unseen architecture, discovering some of the geometries that lie hidden above, and below, the surface of the page. For me the image and words of the logo Spiral Tribe was such a discovery.”
Excerpt originally published in Hey! Magazine #3.
For me, walking in nature is a meditation that nourishes my mind, body and soul. Hiking this weekend, in an area recently engulfed by forest fires, I took these photos. The ferocity of the fires was clear – whole mountainsides and valleys burnt to a cinder. Trees burnt to stumps and rocks splintered in the heat. I could not imagine how anything could have survived such an apocalypse. And yet, just a few years later, new growth had blossomed. I was particularly struck by the beautiful way microbes and insects had dismantled and digested the remains of the blackened trees, and began the cyclical transition from sterile remains into fertile earth.
Photos © Mark Angelo