My previous piece about Israel was posted here and included some of my personal experiences of present day Israel and my life as an exile and immigrant. In this part, I take a look at the complexities emerging from the particular national identity that has been forged before, during, and after the establishment of the state of Israel.
David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948
Hebrew has two words for nationalism. They are close to each other linguistically, and far from each other in connotation. One translates more accurately into chauvinism, in that it has distinctly negative connotations. The other, the “good” nationalism, is exalted. This time was the first since I left in 1983 that my visit coincided with the few days of the year where the national identity of a Jewish people fighting for its life against all odds becomes center stage in three separate holidays. Israel was created, after all, to be a Jewish state that serves as the sanctuary for all Jews in the world, a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that defined Jewish life, at least in Europe, for millennia.
At a site of one massacre in Bethlehem during the First Intifada, reclusive artist-activist Banksy painted a dove. Credit: CreativeCommons / eddiedangerous.
Like many people who live in voluntary or involuntary exile, I have no real home. Many years ago, while still living in Israel, I heard someone on TV offer a tip: if you feel like a stranger in your own country, he said, move to another one. Because then the feeling and the reality will be congruent. I have thought of this many times in the thirty two years of living in the US, where I have never felt at home despite my ability to write and teach in English; despite my deep connection to so many people and communities; and despite my continued preference and choice for living there. I also think of this tip when I visit Israel, where things are different. Being from Israel is part of me, though I never felt part of it. I feel utterly familiar and even continuous with so much there. I speak and love the language. I have friendships there that go all the way back to my childhood, where mutual understanding is still easier than with my U.S.-based friends even though I have more in common with many of my U.S. friends philosophically and in terms of life choices and experiences. At the same time, when in Israel I also feel alien, distant, and at odds with the culture. The years of living in the U.S. have only intensified this feeling.
Flying home this time, I am awash in the anguish of leaving my sister Arnina behind, my one and only remaining sister after our loss of Inbal last September. For the entire month I was in Israel, we were clinging to each other. I rarely left her company to go be with my friends. Most of the time we were together, at home, working in parallel, eating food together, taking care of business as needed, and simply enjoying the illusion of having a home together. That this was in Israel was almost incidental, while at the same time I was acutely aware of being in this country of so much paradox and contradiction.
How will change come about in the systems that govern our world and our daily lives? Will it take many individuals within the system undergoing massive personal change, as so many believe is necessary?
Does the flow go in only one direction? Or in both? Credit: Dave Belden.
I’d like to believe that isn’t so, because I just can’t see how waiting for so many individuals to change would create, fast enough, the systemic changes needed to end poverty, transcend violence, or attend, to any meaningful degree, the spiraling resource depletion and climate change we are creating for ourselves and our children. Perhaps this is why, going back to school in the early 90s, I chose sociology as my field, hoping to gain enough knowledge and insight about an earlier version of that very question.
I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)
by: Miki Kashtan on March 20th, 2015 | Comments Off
For years, I’ve been saying that I don’t know how the world of our dreams would come about. The gap between what I see in the world and what I want to see is so vast, that I don’t have any linear “theory of change” that makes sense to me. For some weeks now, I’ve been going to sleep, many nights, thinking about what could bring about a true shift to a collaborative future given how completely intertwined all the pieces of the existing social order are.
In my recently published book Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future, I humbly acknowledge my inability to show a path. Instead, I do two things in that book. One is looking at where we are and what we can do, now, in this world, to move in that direction, however small the steps are. The building blocks I see are a disciplined commitment to nonviolence, to learning how to work together with others to reclaim collaboration, and to a massive revision of our understanding of power and leadership. The other focus of the book is on painting as vivid an image as possible of what a fully collaborative future can look like, so as to inspire and nurture these commitments and to provide a direction to move in.
I am deeply involved in experiments in gift economy, both my own and those I hear about and engage with from the sidelines. The entire thrust of my work with organizations is about supporting a massive shift from adversarial relationships and systems to a collaborative overhaul of all our human affairs. I have just published a book in which I describe my vision of a possible future that is fully collaborative and based on gifting and a revival of the commons.
Given the unmitigated joy I experience at the prospect of giving away my work and being supported by the flow of generosity of those who believe in what I do rather than by people paying for services, I am continually and immensely curious to understand the obstacles to having this experience be the norm rather than the exception. In this post, I am writing about one piece of this huge puzzle that fell into place for me: why the idea of “deserving” might have come into existence, and how it’s related to the difficulties in establishing gifting and collaboration.
Recently, Alastair McIntosh sent me a gift copy of his book Soil and Soul, in response to a review of mine that was published in Tikkun about David Bollier’s book Think like a Commoner. Gifts and shared resources were in the air as I started reading the book and was instantly transported into the semi-pre-modern milieu that was Alastair’s upbringing in Scotland, on an island fifty miles off its coast. I have most of the book still ahead of me to enjoy, and already it supported me in pushing my thinking forward.
by: Miki Kashtan on February 12th, 2015 | Comments Off
Credit: Marina del Castell / Creative Commons.
As much anguish as I have about the state of the world – hunger, social inequality, violence, environmental degradation, and more – I also am continually and repeatedly in awe and excitement about living during a time when so many of us are actively engaging with transcending the legacy that created these devastations. As unlikely as such a transformation is, I completely see the possibility of consciously and collectively co-creating a future. In this future, we learn to integrate all the hard-won lessons from our experiments with powerful technologies into a revived awareness of our place within the larger order of things. What it would look like none of us can truly envision, even though I keep hearing that the technologies that can support sustainable living on this one precious planet are already in existence and all that’s needed is political will. How we can get there is also mysterious, because no linear or planned approach has yet emerged that can handle the impossible-to-change web that ties so many dysfunctions together.
And, still, within all this, I continue to have complete conviction that change is possible, and to keep coming back to the same conclusion: what can get us to a new level of functioning as a species, where we can channel our enormous power to create and participate instead of consume and destroy, must include learning to collaborate with each other and within systems.
This is why I am so immensely curious about the explosion of interest in collaboration in the workplace that keeps popping up, and why I myself am putting more and more of my own energies in participating in that wave of action. Organizations, especially the large ones, are the most powerful entities on the planet, and all of our lives are affected by them. As one illustration, I recently heard of someone who aimed to go for a whole year without using anything produced by Monsanto, and how impossible that was to achieve.
It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us. – Gandhi
Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. I am happy to honor him today and every day by continuing to dedicate myself to a deep exploration of nonviolence.
I have written before about the idea of expanding what I called the Circle of Care, the collection of people in our lives that we care about. I suggested expanding it in two directions. One is to include ourselves as a way to overcome deeply ingrained habits that lead people to give up on their needs in relationships. Instead of caring only about the other person’s needs, expanding the circle of care leads to putting my own needs front and center while also caring for the other person. The other direction of expanding the circle of care is about including more and more people and groups within it.
More recently, I was struck by the connection I saw between this notion and my continued investigations into the implications of nonviolence. It now appears to me that one way of understanding nonviolence is as having an infinite circle of care: there isn’t any person or group that is beyond the pale.
by: Miki Kashtan on December 4th, 2014 | Comments Off
Last week, when I sat down to write in response to the situation in Ferguson, I ended up writing much about my own journey of learning about how to engage the topic of race; I wrote more about that than directly about Ferguson. The difference between that first draft and the piece that finally got posted was dramatic. It was made up of feedback from Dave, my editor and supporter, that initially knocked me out completely in its depth and intensity. This was the point at which I turned to Uma and Ya-Ping for support, as well as my colleague and friend Roxy Manning. After about ten rounds of back and forth with some combination or another of all four of them, the piece that is now on the website came into final form.
As much as I like the result, I was left with all that was cut out of the original piece. Although I wholeheartedly agree about taking it out from that piece, I still want to share it. This is what this piece is. If nothing else, for anyone who is like me, I have always had the experience that understanding a process in addition to seeing the results deepens my understanding and increases the chances of integration and personal application. Also, because I want to spell out what I learned as part of my own continuing learning, and in the hopes of supporting others’ learning about the very complex questions involved in these topics. Lastly, because I want it known that this learning process is neither easy nor comfortable. The two days of feedback were, at times, excruciating and nonetheless I am in awe, I am grateful, and I found immense beauty and depth along the way.
There are times, and this is one of them, where my ongoing choice to stay away from public events and electoral politics no longer stands up to my inner sense of moral integrity. This is a time where I am just too clear that it’s only my privilege that makes it even an option to choose. No, I don’t think that privilege is “bad,” nor do I aim to make it go away, nor believe it’s possible or even always desirable to do so. Rather, I want to consider my privilege as a resource, and to keep asking myself day in and day out how I mobilize my privilege and use it for the benefit of all.
Credit: Vox Media
In my position of privilege, I can write whatever I want about Ferguson, and I don’t risk losing a job, alienating people who can make my life miserable, or possibly even more imminent physical risks to my body. I want to be taking the most risk that I can in speaking as much truth as I know, with as much love for all as I can muster, because this is my creed: truth with love, and with enough courage to face all consequences.
This is one small part of a larger aim I have regarding privilege. I want to find ways of getting those of us with privilege to recognize and own it without defensiveness or shame, and to become loving stewards of the resources given to us by the history of racism. Stewarding resources means to me that we know it’s not “ours” to own or use for our personal gain. This is my understanding of Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship, which I see as a major step towards a world that truly works for all. I plan to come back to the very complicated and exceedingly painful topic of privilege soon.