Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Campaign for Peace

The 2015 Report of peacebuilder Richard Martin, D.Min.

Work in Israel-Palestine 7/3/15 – 8/5/15

Was I a success or a failure at building peace and harmony in Israel-Palestine this July-August?  How can I tell? 

Was it enough that I overcame my fears of failure (or assassination) to place the option of non-violent com­munication before people engaged in chronic warfare since 627 c.e.?   Was it enough that I got half-way through my plan for that?

It was into the cauldron of dispute over conflicting claims to the Holy Land that I flew for the 11th year on July 3rd, 2015, to take up, (again) a month of peacebuilding between Jews and Muslims––Israelis and Palestinians––over their rights to what I think of as “my Holy Land, too.”

For ten years I have worked closely with a peace ag­ency known as “Tent of Nations,” located on a hilltop farm in the Arab village of Nahalin, a couple of miles south of Bethlehem, adjacent to the famous Israeli settlement known as “Gush Etzion.”  In recent years I have helped mostly by teaching conflict-resolution and peacebuilding to the staff of some 20 college-age “counselors” who gather each summer at Tent of Nations for a two-week “children’s camp” serving young people of the area.

I planned to do that (in a fresh format) this year, as well.

Carrier of the Dream

But this year, I also carried a dream. Having watched the friction-points between the Village of Nahalin and Gush Etzion––such as settlers blocking with boulders the straight road from Nahalin to the main highway (Rt. 60), or aggressively laying claim to each other’s acreage––I kept seeing myself mediating be­tween the mayor of Gush Etzion (whom I knew from the internet) and the mayor of Nahlin, to moderate some of their points of friction.  I could see exactly what to do to ease the representatives into getting acquainted, “speaking of the unspeakable” in terms of mutual ir­ritations, and picking points at which to lessen the harm they are doing to each other, and increase the helpfulness.

So, after settling-into my affordable Bethlehem “hos­tel” (Hotel Alexander), and recovering from jet-lag, I met with my ToN director, Daoud Nassar;  my med­iator-mentor, Huda Abu Arquob (regional director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace/a conflict-resolu­tion expert); and my beloved Elayne (teacher of meditation to Palestinians).  Then I was off to Gush Et­zion to try to make an appointment with David Perl, the settlement’s well-known mayor.

Quite to my amazement, I caught a ride from the bus stop to the mayor’s office on Yellow Hill in a military police car, described my mission to an interested as­sistant named Yehuda, and then was ushered into an immediate audience with David Perl, described as “He’s only got five minutes before his next meeting.”

It’s not just that Etzion has an awesome reputation from 1948, when its roughly 500 defenders immo­bilized for days the entire Arab Legion marching on Jerusalem from Jordan…until the settlers ran out of ammunition.  Popular Mayor Perl is a kind of friend­ly whirlwind of energy, and quite appealing.  After hearing my proposal for a “meet-up” with the mayor of Nahalin,” he simply said, “Sure.  If they want to talk, I’ll talk.”  What about a “neutral location”?  He replied, “Many places.  There’s Roza’s Restaurant, outside the security perimeter.”  And there’s also the interfaith “Roots Project” with its meeting place on public ground not far from the bus-stop.  My time was up, but I felt I had hit the ground running. 

The mayor of Nahalin was another matter.  Follow­ing some misinformation, I met first with the former mayor of the village (chairman of the town council), who actually came to my hotel with his wife and a translator.  We had a good and affable conversation. 

By the time I got to the present mayor, however, I found myself talking to a tired old man, reluctant to get involved.  Both village mayors made it clear that they would have to get permission from the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to speak to the mayor of Etzion.  And the present mayor made it clear that he would have to put up with criticism from the “anti-normalizers” of the village for “speak­ing to the enemy.”

So, after several tries at being persuasive, and with time running out, I gave up this year’s dream of bringing the “sides” together around local matters––leaving the mayor and council of Nahalin a friendly letter pointing to the future (with a copy to Mayor Perl, who left a meeting to shake my hand and wish me bon voyage.) 

I risked a touch of frankness in the Nahalin-letter: “As a trained and experienced mediator, I would like to leave with you (since I am departing Palestine/ Israel August 5th) my offer to mediate between rep­resentatives of Etzion and Nahalin, when the time comes that both parties have found the courage to solve problems rather than nurse grudges.”  Some­times honesty can be attractive.

Did I succeed?  Did I fail?  I did the very best I knew how, and in this 1,388-year dispute, laying a ground­work for next year may be “success”!  It feels like it.

Embracing Non-Violent Communication

Last year’s Summer Camp at Tent of nations was marred by war––rockets from Gaza, bombs from Is­rael, and local assassination of three Jewish teen­agers.  Participation in the Summer Camp was cut by over 50%––half the children (whose parents were afraid to send them) and half the usual counselors (similar reasons).  “Nothing good happens in time of war” is one of my mottos.

This year things were back to normal, and I tried––using a condensed agenda––to teach some new things to the counselorsOne was to include Non-Violent Communication (NVC, a la Marshall Rosen­berg[1]) in a conflict-resolution format known as “NVC Mediation.”

NVC is a different language.  It calls for dropping all words conveying judgment, insult, put-down, ac­cusation, demand, etc.––words used as “weapons.”  Instead it calls for (1) observer language, describing events objectively; (2) emotional language, describ­ing how events make us feel (negatives such as fear, pain/hurt, sadness––sometimes leading to anger; positives such as hope, joy, gratitude––leading to love); and (3) clear requests for (or offers of) help, ––based on “universal needs”––all leading to beautiful win-win compromises.  We role-played multiple con­flict-resolution scenarios, especially with the chil­dren.

I also taught a session on “Authentic Happiness”––the end-goal of peacebuilding––professionalized by Martin Seligman.[2]  Dr. Seligman posits a multi-point checklist of ingredients toward a life of “lasting ful­fillment,” based on dealing fruitfully with (1) the Past as a learning experience, (2) the Future as an op­timistic plan built on our “signature strengths,” and (3) the achievement of certain basic pleasures and
higher “gratifications.”

Thrilling to me was the fact that Dr. Seligman asserts the importance of certain “cardinal values” (similar to my own) which each person must acquire to be really happy:

(1)  Unconditional Love
(2)  Scrupulous Honesty
(3)  Fearless Courage
(4)   Eagerness to Learn––Curiosity
(5)  Fairness & Equality––Justice
(6)  Moderation in all things––Balance
(7)  A Spiritual Path (expanding Consciousness)

Following the example of Dr. Seligman, I created a questionnaire for my students touching on all the in­gredients of “authentic happiness,” encouraged them to complete it, and allowed them to ponder and to share.  In Evaluation, some found that highly stim­ulating.

I always give a class on how to meditate (Centering Prayer).  Some students even found that to be the high point.  We also took time to “check in” at each class, finding out daily how people were doing with the immense stress of working with the children.


I loved teaching these angelic souls the techniques of resolving conflict into harmony, serenity, and happi­ness; I was excited to come so close to getting Arab and Israeli to sit down together at the bargaining table.  And, of course, being with my beloved Elayne was a taste of heaven on that one day a week which we called “our own.”  Even a trip to Qumran (the “Dead Sea Scrolls”) inspired new thinking.

The pressures on both parties here to “meet in the middle” are increasing––the Arabs continuing to lose land confiscated for settlements (and unable to re­build Gaza from the latest war of rockets and bombs) ––and the Israelis reeling from the worldwide Boy­cott/Divest/Sanction (BDS) movement. 

And I am committed to returning every year (or when called) until peace is “at hand,” and the “king­dom/queendom” comes.  Arriba!

As the finale of the musical Les Misérables (adapted) sings:

Will you join in our campaign?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond-the grip of greed
, there lies a world 
Of generosity.
Do you hear the people sing
Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is harmony we bring
When tomorrow comes!

Richard MartinD.Min.
(Doctor of Ministry in Psychology)
179 Summer St. #4
Amherst, Mass.


www.drmartin -

Psychotherapist to individuals, couples, and families

Mediator of Disputes

[1] Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication––A Language of Compas-sion, 1999, Encinitas CA, Puddle Dancer Press.
[2] Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness––Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, 2002, New York, Free Press.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Doctor is IN

Value-Fulfillment and Me

“Here she is, world,”
sings Rosalind Russell (playing the mother of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee in the archival ‘62 musical, “Gypsy”) in her finale burlesque of introducing her daughter.

“Here he is, world…”
…I can almost hear part of me saying, as the rest of me launches anxiously into my first blog––an effort to share (and continue to learn) the tricks of “solving problems.”  Out of this has emerged my motto:

“The unsolvable is solvable!”
So––though feeling quite naked––I nevertheless respond to an inner calling with full commitment to:

(a) answer in an interactive way questions about life and death, relationships and spiritual growth, happiness/health/the universe, and 
(b) where it seems relevant, to drop in a series of “lecturettes” on how things work and why.  

My image of this is a kind of cross between Dear Abby (pen name for pen-named Abigail Van Buren––and now her daughter), ageless wisdom, and timely intuition.

Not being in possession of any questions as yet, I will begin by saying that I believe my own life is guided at this point (age 79) by values, rather than by the power of family traditions or social expectations.  My personal family of origin was somewhat riddled by death…of a self-inflicted sort.  My mother lost her first husband to suicide in the Great Depression, and her third daughter to suicide in the “race for excellence” resulting from my sister’s leap from public high school to Barnard College.  Somber.

But as revealed in the updated Cardinal Virtues (or “Values-Leading-to-Self-Esteem”) of Martin Seligman’s “Positive Psychology,” tightly-held values can lift a person up out of a sense of failure into happiness and fulfillment. Whenever someone asks me, “How are you?” I find myself instinctively saying, “Always serene.  I am always serene, and so I am today.”  That’s a good way to feel.

But it is not without hanging on tight to Four Cardinal Values, i.e. to be…

  1. As kind and loving as I can be;
  2. As honest and truthful as I can be (without causing unnecessary harm);
  3. As fearlessly brave as I can be;
  4. As eager-to-learn as I can be.

In short: Love, Honesty, Courage, & Curiosity.

These four “pylons” form the bobbin of my “spinning wheel” which gently gathers up my fuzzy lifestream to produce the kind of “good karma, good friends, and good clients” (for my work as a psychotherapist and mediator) which cause me to feel happy and fulfilled––serene.

To say a little more about each “pylon”:

Love: I have learned (I would say the “hard way”) the Law of Karma––“The measure you give will be the measure you receive,” as Jesus put it (Lk 6:38),  If I want friends, I have to show myself friendly; if I want help, I must offer help; if I want love, I have to give it.  A single lie can fill my world with liars; a single withheld hand can leave me out on a helpless limb; a single refusal to learn my lessons can leave me stuck in a terrible rut.  So, I am as kind and helpful as I can afford to be, and celebrate the reciprocal responses every day.

Honesty: my courage to speak the truth––my truth, at least––keeps me in touch with the real nitty-gritty of life. There are difficult moments in this Third Dimension, and I need to be spontaneous enough to acknowledge the downs as well as the ups, my weaknesses as well as my strengths, what I like and don’t like, what I know and what I don’t know.  What I don’t need is to hide.  There’s a respectful way to say anything, and to resolve conflicts peaceably.

In working with others through Talk Therapy, I find that everyone, down deep, is really doing the best 
that they know how, knowing what they do at the time.  The problem is that there’s still a lot of ignorance loose in the human race.  In our core essence, each of us is really an angel (or at least an immortal soul).  That’s the Real Truth.

Courage: How much pain can I stand?  How much more can I risk?  I find that whatever is un-comfortable, if I contain it and study it, turns into “wisdom”––i.e., knowing what to do (or not to do) so my grandchildren will benefit.    It requires more calm energy to “take a stand” and hold it, than to either fight or flee, but when I do “contain the pain,” the energy flows, and the results are a lot more to my liking.

Curiosity: My drive to understand and know “all there is to know” has carried me through the process of clearing up so many mysteries that I feel my arms are full of “gifts.”  From…  To…

From Plato to Akhnaten (the monotheistic pharaoh), from Abraham to Gautama, from Freud and Jung to Seligman and Rosenberg (of non-violent communication fame), from Kabbalah to Tarot, from prayer to meditation, from marriage to marriage, through degrees in philosophy, theology, and psychology.

Knowledge really is power, but not power-over; rather, power to empower––the greatest satisfaction of all.

But enough about me.
What about you?

Please send your questions about Life to
and we will wrestle with them together.
(don’t send money)
Or you are welcome to call me 
for an appointment at my home office: