פרויקט האימאגו הישראלי-פלשתינאי נולד בביתנו ב – 2002, על בסיס דברים המיוחסים לדלאי למה, משנות ה -80 , כי שלום צריך ראשית כול להתחיל בבית. הרעיון היה להביא יחד זוגות ישראלים וזוגות פלשתינאים, ולהעביר להם יחד סדנת זוגות של האימאגו. מיד לאחר מכן, להשתמש בביטחון הנוצר בסדנת הזוגות, על מנת להמשיך בקומיונולוג על היחסים בין העמים. בכתבה ראיון שערכו עמי דונלד גיבון ומריריטה ויינרס, במסגרת ארגון האימאגו הבינלאומי.
THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN IMAGO PROJECT
Based on interviews of Orli Wahrman by Maryrita Wieners and Donald Gibbon
Summarized by Donald Gibbon – Summer 2007
“Start from your own home” – Dalai Lama
(Saying quoted by Orli Wahrman as being especially inspirational in her work)
From your first sight of her, you know Orli Wahrman is not cut from every-day cloth. In fact, she’s usually in multi-colored bright clothes – from head to toe. Orli announces by her appearance that she has a very personal agenda and that she is not at all reluctant to have you know that. Initially actually restrained and quiet in conversation, when she gets a sense of the lay of the land, Orli, true to her name, begins to speak her truth (“Wahr-man” means “truth person” in German).
Orli has conceived and headed the Israeli-Palestinian Imago Project for some seven years. But the germ of the project began long before that when Orli was a child, growing up in a family who was surrounded by books, interested in the neighbors, and longing for peace, and continued when she studied the Arabic language and literature and Mid- East studies at the Hebrew University. With that intensive beginning she began working with girls in distress, at that early stage with no therapy background. From there she moved to a child’s clinic, studying therapy along the way, including Family Therapy, working with families and couples. She was always plagued by the question: Why do people who get divorced and re-marry end up with the same issues?
Then 14 years ago Hedy and Yumi Schleifer came to Israel. A friend told her she had to attend their workshop and that Gideon Avni, her husband, had to go with her. She would be a better therapist for it, she was told. And as have many others who have become Imago Therapists, the couple ended up taking the clinical training together.
Orli had long been looking for some effective way to dialogue with Palestinians. She is careful to explain the political realities of the Middle East and Israel in this regard. She points out that there are two distinct sub-groups: Palestinians who live outside of Israel and Israeli Arabs (who are predominantly Muslims and Christians – Palestinians who live inside the country of Israel) who live inside Israel. The reality is that Palestinians are so hemmed in by regulations that in recent times working to develop dialogical relations with them has been all but impossible. It is still very difficult, but more feasible to work with Israeli Arabs.
Hedy Schleifer has often expressed her dream of taking Imago work to the United Nations, ultimately to the people in the streets of the world. So when Orli talked to her of her interests, Hedy urged her to pursue her own version of the dream. Then at the Imago Conference a few short weeks after 9/11/01, when the Imago Peace Project was born on Alan Schiffer”s clipboard, inviting participation in some as-yet-undefined Imago group response to this latest manifestation of our cultural madness, Orli immediately signed on.
She attended the first Imago Summit in New Mexico and received further encouragement to develop some kind of inter-group dialogical process in Israel. To make sure to attend to cultural sensitivities of which she might not be fully aware, she put the word out that she was looking for a Palestinian counterpart. The perfect person emerged in the person of a professor of Public Health at Alqudbs University (identified only as M for privacy reasons). When his wife, initially somewhat skeptical, was persuaded that the effort was worthwhile, the joint project was born. Two more vital steps remained in getting started. First, they needed an institutional home. This appeared in the form of the Israel Trauma Institute. Would they participate? To decide this, Orli and her Palestinian counterpart held a small private demonstration workshop for them at Orli’s clinic with two Israeli and two Palestinian couples. It was a success and the project was now only one vital step from being launched. What remained was funding. A start-up grant of $50K was received from private sources. While funding would always remain a prominent concern, at this point the project was on its way. They had all the ingredients to begin.
In the meantime, the Peace Project, with Orli’s active participation, had been in the process of developing a new formalization of group communication called “Communologue.” The Peace project had about 25 participants, not all active at the same time, but with 8 or 10 core regular members. Communologue has as its key goal the provision of a means for “safe sharing” of personal viewpoints on what might in other situations be impossible to discuss without fireworks. The process is always actively guided by a trained facilitator. It is only begun after all the participants have agreed to remain in process for the duration of the session (See Norms and Guidelines for Communologue).
Orli and M came to the Toronto Annual Imago Conference and presented an well-received joint seminar. They were also in Toronto seeking additional funding. In that search there were major misunderstandings, what seemed like broken promises, deeply hurt feelings and nearly fatal disagreements. But eventually all was stabilized, new lines drawn and plans were made for the first major project workshop.
It was decided to hold it outside of Israel, in Istanbul, Turkey, to eliminate possible political distractions. Five Arab and five Israeli couples would gather for a 4-day experience. Al Turtle was invited to co-facilitate the experience with Orli, thinking that he would be seen by both sides as a neutral party. Gideon was invaluable helping with logistics. The program would start with a Getting the Love You Want workshop to ground everyone in the general Imago mindset, followed by a 2-day Communologue session. It was felt that Communologue could not handle the level of emotion expected without the Couples preparation. The participants were promised safety to touch on any subject at all, to test the process to the limit. The structure was formed and accepted by the participants.
In this process a place of equality was created where equality had not been recognized before. This equality exists now on several levels. Everyone learned that two entirely different cultures were represented here, a fact they learned in a far more profound way than they had known before. Orli said, “We Jews learned that the traditional Arab society is a men’s society. Socially the conversations are between men. Men hang around with men. Wives in Arab couples are not normally treated as equals. The dialogical approach to relationships was quite new for them and full of potential. A second and wider form of equality came as both sides learned about life stories. Once we got down to the painful issues behind our present quarrels, we found out how similar we really are.”
It was also learned that it is vital for the Communologue leaders to be flexible. For example, the GTLYW guided imagery uses metaphors that are totally inappropriate for this context and had to be radically changed. Orli said, “It was insensitive or inappropriate not for the cultural context but for the political one. For example, using the metaphor of crossing the bridge, reminded them of check points, while telling them to go to a safe place brought the reaction that for them there is no safe place. Recognizing these points at the last minute. we had to change our texts to make them more appropriate.” Another example was that while the Arab couples were quite willing to work hard during class from 9AM to 7PM, but then they also wanted to have fun, to enjoy the bazaar, the restaurants. In one of the project’s most memorable experiences, they all went out to dinner at a Turkish restaurant. On their large table the owners put American, Israeli and Turkish flags. Other Arab diners demanded of the Palestinians why they were sitting with Israelis. With great courage they answered, “They are our friends!!” So it was important to accede to the needs and desires of the group and adjust plans “on the fly,” so to speak.
All in all it was a grand success. After the Istanbul sessions, several other meetings of the group have been held. Learning continues, bonding deepens. One of these meetings was in Haifa, far from Jerusalem. The Arab participants stayed in the homes of the Israelis. This was a huge challenge for the Arabs, to sleep in the home of their traditional enemies. And yet by doing it, they learned that the soldiers who controlled their movements at the hated check points might be the children of their hosts, and their hearts softened, opened a bit. Relationships were permanently altered.
The most amazing meeting of all was held in May, 2007, when children and grandchildren of the couples were invited to come with the adults as a part of a family workshop. 48 people came. M and Orli led the program, with Dorsey Cartwright, Neil Mielli, and two additional facilitators, Palestinian and Israeli, who were invited to help integrate the younger participants into the program. The final Communologue session had the children in the center in a kind of fishbowl, adults around the outside. There was a wonderful bonding, with the children even more adept at the Imago principles than their parents.
The dream lives on and many new approaches are in the wings. Orli has suffered crushing losses during this period. Her 14 year old daughter died three years ago, and her deepest confidante and colleague on the project, Nilli Gur, died suddenly of a brain tumor. But Orli has continued with unshaken dedication. She says of the project with a justifiable note of pride in her voice, “We’ve kept our promise to them of safety no matter what. We’ve discovered a dialogue process for enemies or at least that our friends may have an enemy part in them. Couples and children are not a threat. We are able to talk to all of our people.”
Orli is a gifted, sensitive therapist with a deep commitment to dialogical principles. In the years of weekly phone calls between Peace Project members working to hone ? the Communologue process, Orli is the guardian of the principles, the one who insists on walking the talk rather than rushing for the finish line. She will not be swayed!
Another meeting is scheduled for November 5, 2007. New groups are envisioned. Dealing with the political realities, the regulations, the borders, is a constant impediment. But clearly this is a process which contributes to healing between peoples, and that, after all, was the purpose of the Peace Project.