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Peace Talks Radio Host Carol Boss talks with Palestinian Jwana Ghaleb and Israeli Jew May Freed who both attended the
Creativity for Peace Camp in New Mexico years ago and returned as “Peace Leaders” in 2012

Boss: I want to ask both of you, Jwana and May, what were some of the most significant things that you learned in the creativity for a peace camp when you were campers. Talk about the significance of learning how to listen.

Ghaleb: In the beginning when we started our dialogue sessions, I used to be a bad listener. It was so, so hard to me to listen, to people that I don’t agree with their point of views and I felt that I really wanted to hate them and I don’t want to stay in this place, I don’t want to listen. By the time, because we have many dialogue sessions, I started to understand that I should listen and understand and respect because when I want to talk, I feel that I need someone to listen to me and to understand and to speak what I said. And then during this process, I felt that I really got what I need from it and I start to listen and to be a good listener.

Boss: May Freed, when you got to camp, did you start understanding, listening in a whole different way?

Freed: Yes, absolutely. I think you maybe understand it when you feel like you’re not being listened to. You starting to become a better listener because you want to give other people what you want to get because for many people it’s very hard to listen to a very, very painful story without trying to share their, let’s say justification even if it’s not justified, maybe the reason why it’s happen. It’s very hard to just be there for that painful story without trying to make maybe your side look better and it took a long time just to be there and to listen and to give the other side the space of your being heard and then I can share and be heard a little bit better.

Boss: Did you have a breakthrough moment for yourself when it came to that?

Freed: I think even the breakthrough for me came a long time after camp when I was just dealing with the emotions that the camp brought up, the experiences in the camp. I was processing them for a very, very long time afterwards until I could understand with myself what is my place and my opinions in this conflict, in this process that we’re going through in the organization. So I don’t remember a special breakthrough moment.

Maybe I remember like this time when I realized that my “suicide bombers” are their “freedom fighters” and my “soldiers” like “freedom fighters” are their “terrorists” and to see that was very important for me that there isn’t right side or wrong side, they’re just two sides.

Boss: Jwana, you mentioned that at first you weren’t a good listener, so I want to ask you; how did you learn to listen?

Ghaleb: I learned how to listen by first of all being patient because it’s so important. If you have an idea and you want to share about it, you should like I was so patient. If someone is talking and there is another girl raising her hand, she will be the second, not Jwana for example. I have to wait for all the girls who are raising their hands until they finish, I speak. This exercise makes me a good listener and listening like better than in the past.

Boss: And it sounds like you’ve got the tools. They taught you the tools to be able to do that. May, do you have any advice for listeners?

Freed: I think that every time we listen, if it’s about a conflict, many times we want to jump to give justifications or even if it’s life and we want to find the right thing to answer like right sentence that will support, many times instead of really listening, we’re thinking what we’re going to say and that is not listening and that is something that needs to be practiced so hard because it’s something that comes naturally, but just when you’re a listener, it’s not about you, it’s about the other person. Give him his place in this conflict and in general in life, it helps.

Boss: May, what other skills besides listening were really significant for you that you took home with you from your camp experience?

Freed: All the process, all the experience in camp and afterwards, going back to our societies and our realities brings up so many difficult emotions, so much confusion and to know how to understand what’s going inside your heart, inside your body, inside your mind and to know to control it in a way that you can take it to a positive way and become stronger with what you have and accept that. That was a very long and very, very important process that I got from this organization and it started in camp.

Boss: Now you mentioned the meeting because after the camp experience, you are able to meet. You all get together back home. Can you give an example?

Freed: In my experience, after the experience of camp when I got back home, I went I think maybe one year, I went for a few like one or two meetings, and afterwards I just stopped and today I realize it was because it was too hard.

Boss: What was hard?

Freed: I think it was hard knowing what I knew and walking with this knowledge in my society with people that couldn’t understand my side. It was just easier to stay on my family, friends, my society’s side and to understand both sides. It was just too painful; the understanding of the other side that I brought back from camp and all the difficulties I had like staying 100% on my side while knowing what was going on on the other side. And it was hard to say in front of my friends, family, society and then say, “I have both sides in me.” So I just didn’t for a while.

Boss: Were you able to reconcile that within yourself?

Freed: For a while, no. But when I felt like that I need to go back to that, it’s something that I owe to, I say sometimes, to the world. I have knowledge that is so important and I wish that everyone in the world had this knowledge. So I think it’s kind of my job to spread it around.

Boss: Well I hear that you struggle within yourself and after going through that, which sounds like a very important process, did you then take that and manifest it in your daily life?

Freed: Many times I try to show other sides. Sometimes my friends are crazy at me when they want me to take their side during some kind incident and I’m just trying to show them that there is another side, but I really believe in that and I think it affects people when they see somebody who’s coming in peace and not in shouting and not in “you’re wrong, I’m right,” just “you’re right, and I’m right.” It makes a difference. It opens up people.

Ghaleb: I want to share something that happened with me this year. I was with my dad on my way to Ramallah and we were about reaching Ramallah, but there was a checkpoint and they stopped us. And the soldier when he check the car and check us and everything, he told me your dad can pass, but you have to go back. You can’t pass. And then I told him, “Why I can’t pass?” And he said, “You can’t pass today.” And I tried to talk to him that I always pass with my father from this way and everything is okay and he said, “OK but today you can’t pass. That’s it. Don’t discuss more with me.”

And the people in the car, they were telling me; “Don’t discuss with him. They will arrest you or something.” And my dad keep telling me; “No Jwana, just go back and don’t discuss with the soldier.”

But suddenly I feel that I want really to discuss it with him because like this is something that I really learned from Creativity for Peace; how to be honest and just speak what I’m thinking about, not just stay silent and do nothing. And I told him; “Okay, I can’t pass, but I always used to pass. It’s more about humanity.” And he stayed silent for like one minute and suddenly he answered me; “This is the army. There is no humanity in the army.” But I feel that I really affect this person, this soldier because like I thought in one moment he just kept silent and he think about it like; I’m a civilian, I’m with my father, we’re on our way to Ramallah, he has a meeting, we had a meeting and they are just preventing me for no reason.

He checked my bag and nothing in it and then like after a long discussion with him and argument, I just passed and I did i. But it was after a very long time. It took me a lot, but we passed at the end.

Boss: It sounds like one of the valuable things that you took from your experience at Creativity for Peace is not only how to listen, but how to speak.

Ghaleb: Yeah, how to speak my mind. Even all the people in the car, they were in fear like “Jwana, stop, don’t talk to the soldier. He will arrest you or shoot you or something” and my dad was so afraid because I stopped talking to him, but even then I talked to him. The soldier, he doesn’t speak Arabic and I don’t speak Hebrew. We talked in English. And I tried to communicate with him because I know in the end, even if he told me; “This is the army and there is no humanity.” At some point, he’s a person, he’s a human and he will think about it. Maybe because he hates Palestinians at the beginning, he said, “There is no humanity in the army.” But at the end I passed with my dad.

Boss: So beyond the face, beyond his eyes, you were able at that point to see a human being in this soldier who may have had a gun that he was holding.

Ghaleb: Because like I know that every person like has a human being inside his heart, but the situation makes him be bad or think in this way. So I tried to talk to him about human beings because I know that when he would think about it, he would think in humanity or remember that there’s something called humanity. And that’s what I learned also from Creativity for Peace.

Boss: So I want to ask both of you; do you think, for example, how to listen and how to speak and being able to see the humanity in the other, is that a pathway to peace? May?

Freed: Absolutely. When you learn to speak your truth, people are listening. When you try to speak like people’s truth or like nations’ truth and everybody has his own truth and it just causes kind of like antagonism between. You speak your own truth, people can notice that you are a human being and nobody can ignore that for the long-term because everybody has this human being inside of him. So when you show that you are a human being, it’s much, much easier to listen to you as a human being and to treat you better. I think that that’s a little secret that many people don’t know. They try to talk as if they’re like representing a group or an idea instead of just representing themselves.

Boss: May, will you share with us your experience with the Israeli Army? Which, we should say that every young man and woman are required to go into the Israeli Army and serve in the Israeli Army.

Freed: Yeah, in Israeli, it’s mandatory to go to the military once you are 18 or if you want to postpone it one year to do some community service, you can and then you go when you’re 19. There are many, many different jobs that you can do in the military, so if you go into the Army it doesn’t mean you’re going to be like a combat fighter.

In my experience, I didn’t go to the Army. To give you one reason, I can’t. I think just in general, armies are not for me. It’s not something that I feel that I can or want to do.

Boss: What do you mean when you say “Armies are not for you”? What does that bring up in you? What does that mean?

Freed: The ideas of having these levels and someone who is like one year older than me will be my commander and feels like he is the king of the world and treat me like (I won’t say bad words) just because he can and the idea of like uniforms and guns is just not for me, not at all. I think in general, yes maybe the organization, my experience in the organization got me to the place where I feel like that about armies in general and the confusion I got in all the process maybe got me to this place and I, instead of going to the Army, I did national service. It was a very, very hard process getting away from the army, but eventually, I managed to help my society and my community by working in the community and not in the military.

In a way, I believe that – well there is what we wish the world would look and there is what the world looks like. I wish there weren’t any armies in the world, but there are. And the Israeli Army is not going to go away soon.

So what I see the Jewish girls are going through this process, I think – I feel relaxed when those girls are going into the army because the army had built up of people and when a person has gone through the process that people are going through with this organization, it’s becoming a better human being.

Boss: You mean Creativity for Peace.

Freed: Creativity for Peace. I felt like my voice is not going to be heard in the army because the army is just not for me, but in a way, sometimes I feel maybe I should have gone just to be a different soldier, just to bring this other idea of what the army should be like, what soldiers should act like and for sometimes I think to myself, the checkpoints, how hard it is, I don’t wish to know Jewish girls to stand at the checkpoint, but I wish that all the Palestinian girls that if they are going through a checkpoint, they meet one of the girls from our organization in the checkpoint because then I know this terrible experience won’t be as hard as it is today. Do you know what I mean? Just being better human beings inside the army that sometimes can be so not human.

Boss: What do you think would do the most good in resolving the conflict between the sides back home, May?

Freed: I think for people it’s very hard to see both sides. People have a tendency to take one side and just remember both sides are right, both sides are wrong. Both sides have done beautiful things, both sides have done terrible things to each other which have justifications that are not always right, but it comes from a reason and to understand maybe that reason. It doesn’t mean to accept them, just to understand, to see where it comes from, to see where you’re coming from and to see that there are two sides, not to take sides. I’m telling it to people back home. I’m telling it to people all over the world because even people here so far away in the United States tend to take sides. It’s either we’re with you with Israel, we pray for you to Israel or with Palestine and the Israelis are killing Palestinians. Just see both sides.

Boss: What would help people to see both sides? Not everyone gets to come to Creativity for Peace.

Freed: I think I try to reach that are around me to show them my ideas, again, to show the other side with seeing my side.

Boss: Do you think being in political office would be a possibility for either one of you?

Freed: No, it’s not my way. I hate politics.

Ghaleb: I don’t know, maybe.

Boss: Oh, maybe?

Ghaleb: Yes.

Boss: Is that a new thought in your mind?

Ghaleb: Recently, like in the last year that I was at the university. Not exactly political voice, but like I believe in change and the word and I feel that we always need a woman’s voice in the government so from this way, I’m thinking about it.

Boss: And a woman who believes in peace.

Ghaleb: Yes, exactly.