As formal peace talks hover at ground zero in the Middle East, the region’s women are joining hands in more personal ways. For instance, a group called Women Wage Peace aims to unite Arab women from Palestine with their Arab and Jewish counterparts in Israel. Their goal is to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the negotiating table.
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the group has organized several peace marches since 2014. Their last one attracted 10,000, including 2,000 Palestinian women from the West Bank.
Women like Ghadir Hani, an Arab woman who lives in Israel, have joined Women Wage Peace because they are frustrated with a deteriorating situation. “We tell each other shalom (peace), on the streets in greeting and in the prayers we recite, but we don’t feel any sense of shalom,” says Hani. “We speak of peace, but we want to feel peace.”
Meanwhile, another group of women have learned to contact the source of peace within themselves through the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. Extensive research shows that TM is the most effective means available today to reduce stress in the individual. This is true even in cases of PTSD or high anxiety.
Dorit Goldschmidt teaches the Transcendental Meditation technique to Arab and Jewish women in the Israeli town of Hararit. Dorit was born near the Sea of Galilee in a Kibbutz, which she defines as a collective community based on agriculture, usually located in beautiful places. “It’s a very secure way of life, but I had high levels of anxiety,” she says.
Recently I was able to interview her via Skype to ask her how she got started practicing meditation, and how TM can help create a more peaceful Mideast.
Meet Dorit Goldschmidt
Dorit says she “stumbled into TM” when she was 24 years old.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into, but from the very first meditation, I had a beautiful experience of deep, blissful silence, which was something I was not used to having,” says Dorit. “When I came out I had a big smile on my face and people asked, “Why are you smiling?” and I said, “I don’t know.”
Dorit started noticing results from her TM practice almost immediately. “At the time I had the problem of getting stuck when I was speaking,” she says. “I would start saying something, and then forget what I wanted to say.”
Even just three days after beginning meditation, she noticed that her concentration and focusing ability improved, and soon she was thinking and speaking fluently.
She also started noticing that she was happier, less anxious, less impulsive in her responses to people and situations.
“After a few weeks, my life-long anxiety started calming down, and I started seeing more light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “It took time, some years actually, but eventually the anxiety finished completely without any help or medication, just TM. This was the most significant thing, because the anxiety was so debilitating.”
Dorit says that her life got better and better. “It’s really a beautiful practice. It’s actually the best gift that I ever gave to myself in my life,” she says.
Looking back, Dorit feels that she is now a more peaceful person. “I would get angry and hurt quite easily and quickly. All of these things have improved dramatically. I’m more peaceful and calm and so I don’t respond in this way anymore. Sometimes, yes if it’s needed, and sometimes even if it’s not needed, but on a larger scale it’s wonderful to be free of this burden of anger.”
This non-violent way of communicating has spread to other people as well. “It’s nice because if you can be less impulsive and more tolerant, it comes back to you,” she explains. “You don’t create enemies for yourself, which anger does. So everything around you becomes more supportive, harmonious and enjoyable.”
Originally, Dorit earned a BA in agriculture and worked on the Kibbutz dairy farm. Later she left the Kibbutz, met her husband, and trained as a teacher of the TM technique. She and her husband now live in Hararit, where she teaches TM to both the Jewish and Arab communities. She feels that TM is important for women, especially in the Middle East, where so many mothers are losing children.
“There is so much stress here, and TM gives women the resilience we need. In Judaism the role of the mother is called akeret habayit, the mainstay of the home. If more and more women and mothers start meditating, it will affect their families because they are the center of their homes. So I think the effect on the community can be significant.”
“I think this could be the basis for peace on a larger scale, for the whole country. Or even for the whole region as in the Middle East, which is so needed because everything is so dramatic and impulsive and furious here, and the TM technique helps you to experience something exactly the opposite. It’s definitely needed here in our area.”
A Peace Solution Based in Research
You may be wondering how closing your eyes to practice TM for twenty minutes twice a day could possibly soften the age-old conflicts in the Mideast.
Dorit explains that today we don’t need everyone to meditate—we have advanced technologies for peace, where we only need a small group of people to practice the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program together.
“I was part of one peace-creating group in 1983, during the conflict between Lebanon and Israel,” she says. During that time, over 200 people joined together in Jerusalem to practice Transcendental Meditation and the advanced TM-Sidhi program together for two months in an attempt to stop the conflict.”
Like the others, Dorit was a volunteer. “It’s not something that happens every day, so I did not want to miss such a thing,” she says. “So I left my Kibbutz and joined them. It was a very peaceful feeling, to be with that group.”
During those two months, conflict, violence and even war fatalities went down significantly. Research published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution documents the remarkable effect of this group.
“It’s like a huge lamp or a projector that removes darkness from the surroundings,” says Dorit. “It’s an amazing technology that can create peace for each individual and on the collective level.”
Dorit explains further, “After all, we are all individuals but are connected to one another. So we each contribute to the collective consciousness. To use an analogy, in order for the forest to appear green, a number of the individual trees have to be green. So if we want the region to be peaceful, more people have to feel peaceful inside.”
Dorit points out that when we look at areas with a lot of fighting and conflict, these areas are called “tension areas.”
“And who is tense?” she asks. “It’s not the mountains that are tense; it’s not the trees that are tense. It’s the people who are tense. And so if we can reduce the stress and tension of the people of an area, then the conflicts will also subside.”
You can feel her passion for peace when Dorit says, “If enough people reduce their own stress—and reduce the stress of their close environment—by being peaceful inside and then behaving in a more peaceful and tolerant manner, then this will spread and we can have peace even in the Middle East.”
Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.