March 2011 Israel Trip Report
by Nancy Juda

Photo: A View of Nazareth

As we prepared for and began our spring 2011 trip to Israel, Ann and I had most of our attention on the Aldiwan Three Day Clinic. Aldiwan is the name that the School for Leadership participants from the region chose for their learning community. The literal meaning of the word is divan or sofa in Arabic and it is used to signify a place of meeting and conversation. The Three Day Clinic is a faculty lead program conducted in each of the three regions served by Mastery. At the Three Day Leadership Clinic, participants and faculty work together on the challenges that come up when the distinctions and practices taught in the School are applied in the field.

This clinic would be the last residential program with Aldiwan. Though this first cohort of the School for Leadership is not complete until the fall of 2011, there was a bit of nostalgia mingled into the anticipation and possibility that is always present when there is a Mastery Foundation program about to happen. And yet, this trip turned out to be all about the future.

The Three Day Clinic this year was held in a hotel in Tel Aviv. All the rooms are suites, with a small kitchen area, so we were able to both work and relax in one place with my living room as the meeting room.

A back injury meant that one member of the group, Mahmud, would not be able to attend the Three Day and would have to make up the work he missed. While Mahmud was greatly missed, his absence gave us the opportunity to have a deeper conversation about the impact of one individual’s presence or absence on a community.

Another important conversation was about the requirements to graduate from the School for Leadership. Since the foundation of the school is ontological (concerned with being) rather than epistemological (concerned with knowledge), the board has said that the participants in the school must be able to declare for themselves and to demonstrate to others that they have fulfilled the promises of the school.

At the request of Aldiwan, we also had scheduled a dinner after the Three Day for possible supporters of the next group that will enroll in the School for Leadership. So we used some of the time during the Three Day to plan the evening. The design was built around not only giving their guests information, but sharing experiences of participating in the school in a way that was both moving and inspiring. Click here to listen to Jamal share about an unexpected encounter on a train and how what he has learned shaped his reaction and his conversation. (The dinner was a great success, with 14 guests plus eight of us from Mastery.)

We also spent time on this trip and during the Three Day preparing for the first developmental Intensive to be held in Nazareth in July. For the past 13 years we have held an Intensive each year that brings together grassroots community and religious leaders in Northern Ireland to confront the issues that still divide their communities and what it will take to create a shared future. Over that time, we have frequently invited and included similar leaders from Israel, but it has always been clear to us that the situations are so different that we could not simply offer the same program in both places.

So in July, we will begin the process of developing an intensive program for those who live in Israel and Palestine and are actively working at the grassroots level on

This intensive also serves as a prerequisite for those in the region who want to apply to the next cohort of the School for Leadership which begins in November. And it is an opportunity for the seven members of Aldiwan to continue their development in producing and leading programs.

During our remaining time in Israel, Ann and I went to Haifa and met with old and new friends there, and we visited the site of the July Intensive in Nazareth. We also had planned to explore that city and have lunch before returning to Haifa. As it turned out, however, the Arab population was on strike in this mostly Arab city. The strike was held to commemorate a strike first held in 1976 in response to the Israeli government expropriating a large quantity of Arab land.

Over the years the visibility and importance of this commemoration has waxed and waned. But this year, with people throughout the Middle East finding their voice and rising up, the strike was observed all over Israel. Almost all the shops and restaurants in Nazareth were closed and the streets were empty of traffic. We only encountered a few Christian tourists walking through the historic town center. Nazareth was quiet that day, but the silence rang in our ears, and we were struck by how fitting it seems to hold our conversations for new possibilities in this ancient place.