I used to make myself ill with rage. I didn’t and still don’t agree with the establishment of a Jewish state and I especially object to Israelis claiming to speak in my name. By focussing on stories of injustice, inhumanity and violence, I became irritable, tormented and self-righteous. In 2004, after years of outraged activism, I was in danger of slipping into apathy and powerlessness as anger overwhelmed me.
My salvation came from a Compassionate Listening delegation to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This organisation provides an opportunity for Americans to hear the stories of people from a range of perspectives and experiences while learning the skills of non-judgemental listening. For me, it was a wild ride on the roller coaster of emotions, as we made heart to heart connections with our hosts, the other delegates and ourselves. It was a powerful experience, transporting me to a state of grace I hadn’t expected.
I came home eager to share what I’d gained with people in my community and I have been blessed with opportunities to do this. My two main activities are Radio Salaam Shalom and my novel.
The novel is called Checkpoint. Set in 2002 at a checkpoint, the novel starts with the death of two teenagers, a soldier and a suicide bomber. It shows how their families suffer and their two communities remain divided, that is, until the two mothers refuse to be enemies. Writing this novel helped me understand people’s motivations and to develop empathy for all sides. Checkpoint is about the possibility of redemption, about a common humanity, the illusion of being on opposite sides and the need to stop the cycle of fear and violence. I believe that a just peace is possible for all in the Middle East. The message is one of hope and I’d like it to reach a wide audience.
My rabbi introduced me to Radio Salaam Shalom, an internet radio station set up to promote positive relations and advance co-operation and understanding between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Bristol, UK. For the last year, I have hosted a weekly program, interviewing activists and community leaders dedicated to dialogue and reconciliation. For me, it is fascinating to meet inspiring people and to support them to make their voices heard.
Today, I’m just as active but I’m coming from a place of acceptance and positivity where there’s no danger of burn-out.
Causes Lisa Saffron Supports
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Jewish Voice for Peace
Compassionate Listening Project