Ghost of the olive tree,Palestine

Ghost of the olive tree,

I’ve been on retreat for seven days. We are (sixty or so people) on a hill-top surrounded by fields, deer, and oak trees south of Petaluma California. We sit for 20 minutes –  participate in music, chanting, and movement for 20 minutes – sit for 20 minutes (back and forth) every day for ten days the first week in January. This is our tenth year.

IONS bench

 Today I’ve heard it snowed in Jerusalem! I’m wearing a gift, a black and white scarf made by Palestinians in Jordan. My friend Girija gave it to me. The Kuffiyeh is a symbol of Palestinian national sentiment. Here’s a translated excerpt from a spoken word piece by Shadia Mansour:

That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, cuz it’s patriotic
The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic
That’s why we rock the kuffiyeh, our essential identity
The kuffiyeh, the kuffiyeh is Arabic…

I sit in silence, deep into my days of meditation, wearing the black and white cloth that links me to the  Arabs, and specially the Palestinians, as does my name – Tamam. It was given to me by Murshid Hassan, a Jordanian living in Nabulus in 1975. It goes with Kahn, my husband’s Jewish family name. I sit with both names. Both names sit together peacefully with me.

I sit with eyes open most of the time, and the man in front of me wears a jacket black on his shoulders and a deep blue on the back. It’s like looking at the ocean at night; our morning is evening in the Middle East. Near Jerusalem and elsewhere, many Palestinians live in pain and uncertainty. The hopeless feelings are ever-present, and the black flower of hatred blooms. I am stunned by my own reflections as my world here on the hill at IONS is safe and peaceful. I am with people who are trying to be kind to one another. We don’t question the certainty of our next meal and a warm bed. Here there are no bulldozers breaking the centuries-old olive trees, no rocket launchers, no rats, no fetid water. I can afford to be focused, present and awake now  because I sleep safely at night.

My beloved mentor and friend, Naomi Shihab Nye is a world-class poet who lives in San Antonio. Her father grew up in Palestine, her mother – America. Here is a poem she wrote:Palestinian_Peace_Dove_by_Latuff2

Luncheon in Nabulus city Park

When you lunch in a town
which has recently known war
under a calm slate sky mirroring none of it,
certain words feel impossible in the mouth.
Casualty: too casual, it must be changed.
A short man stacks mounds of pita bread
on each end of the table, muttering
something about more to come.
Plump birds landing on park benches
surely had their eyes closed recently,
must have seen nothing of weapons or blocades.
When the woman across from you whispers
I don’t think we can take it any more
and you say there are people praying for her
in the mountains of the Himalayas and she says
Lady, it is not enough,  then what?

 The gong sounds, ending the sit. The blue ocean before me tips over as the man acknowledges the end of the meditation with a small bow. I am gently holding the two worlds, rocking first there then here, wearing the soft fabric of hope. May all prayers for end to the conflict in the Holy Land reach the heart of the earth. May all be safe and happy and free to live a full life!

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Some people doing work for peace the Middle East:

New, Oscar-Nominated Documentary film: 5 Broken Cameras about a Palestinian family <;

my kuffiyeh...

my kuffiyeh…