Report on the August 2010 visit to Israel

“Making a Way Out of No Way – Two Days to Creating a Breakthrough in What You Can Accomplish” was held at Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The seven members of the local School for Leadership group who call themselves Aldiwan enrolled 30 participants from across Israel and the West Bank. Having participants from the West Bank is no small thing, as each person needs to get permission in advance to enter Israel and arrange for transportation. While we have had one or two participants from the West Bank in previous programs, having five West Bank residents in this program was a significant increase and an indication of the commitment to expand our reach in the area.

The participants themselves represented almost every aspect of life in the region. They were secular and observant Jews, Muslims, Christians; educators, therapists, counselors, social workers, managers and professionals. They worked at every level of society with Bedouins, Ethiopians, women, the elderly and the young dealing with conflict resolution, civil rights, social issues, reconciliation, relationship building, peace, and the environment. It was the most diverse program we have had in Israel.

In addition to delivering a transformational program in two days, the team of US leaders faced two other challenges. The first was that we were in the middle of the month-long observance of Ramadan. Observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, so our meal breaks need to account for this and we also needed to work in a long afternoon break so those fasting could rest until dinner time. The second challenge was how to accommodate the different languages in the room. While many Palestinians speak Hebrew, not everyone did, and even those who did preferred to hear the workshop in their own language.

So for the first day of the workshop, everything was delivered in English and then translated into Hebrew and Arabic by two members of Aldiwan. By the end of the day, this process had exhausted everyone. So the following day, those who wanted Hebrew translation sat together with the Hebrew translator and those who wanted Arabic translation sat with the Arabic translator. Occasionally, the program leaders would pause for translation or repeat something, but things moved much faster and more smoothly for everyone.

The course itself focused on listening, presence, the distinction between what happened and the story about what happened, creating possibility, enrollment, and completion. While the idea of standing for a possibility with no evidence at first seemed daunting and far-fetched to the participants (and why shouldn’t it?), their declarations on the second day were both moving and amazing.

By the end of the workshop, there was a palpable hunger and enthusiasm for what the Mastery Foundation has to offer and the way we teach. Many of the participants requested we return and work with them and with their organizations or communities. Another significant result was the network of connections and relationships that emerged over the two days. At the end of the workshop, one participant, who lives on a kibbutz, said “We all are working on the same thing, the same vision, but we never work on it together. It is extraordinary to all be in a room together. We must find a way to continue this.” Indeed, since August about half of them are still emailing each other and have met once to reconnect.

The next day found us in Haifa to lead a day of “Conversations that Make a Difference” for the staff and teachers of the Leo Baeck Primary School. One day before they began work on the fall term, they had set aside this day to talk about what aspects of the school mattered most to them and what areas they wanted to take on and work on together. While they worked in small groups, Jens made impromptu drawings of the major distinctions they were learning – the landscape of conversation, what’s so, what’s possible, and what’s next. We left the drawings behind to hang in the faculty lounge as visual reminders of the work we had done together.

After our previous two days with participants whose work encompassed the larger community, it was a real shift for us to hear the teachers and staff discuss issues calling for their collective attention. Yet it was a good reminder that having a school that works for everyone can be just as challenging and can also benefit from new possibilities.

A big thanks to the members of Aldiwan who took on creating, enrolling, and managing the two-day program; to our friends at Leo Baeck who keep inviting us back to work with them; to the faculty on this trip – Ann Overton, Allan Cohen, Michael Johnston, and Jens Brasch; and to Michael Moran and Nancy Juda for all their support. Mastery Foundation trips like this one are open to our sponsors. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, email us at