Dear AWB members and friends,

This is an update about Acupuncturists Without Borders' trauma healing program in Israel and the West Bank.

Your support has helped make this happen!

In 2013, AWB began working with several Israeli acupuncturists to form AWB-Israel; train Israeli practitioners to provide stress reduction treatments; and create mobile community clinics for trauma healing.  Since 2013, AWB Israel has provided treatments to hundreds of people in "healing circles" throughout Israel and parts of the West Bank.    

AWB (USA) made its second journey to the region in April, 2015 to train 35 additional practitioners with AWB-Israel, and to collaborate with other organizations including Physicians for Human Rights and Creativity for Peace. The AWB (USA) training team included Carla Cassler, Diana Fried, Carol Kessler, and Yael Merav.

The trip was very successful and very challenging! "Successful" because we worked closely with our Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, both new and familiar, to deepen our collective trauma healing skills and enhance all the practitioners' capability to create sustainable projects in diverse communities. "Challenging" because the Nepal earthquake happened while we were there!

AWB has supported a trauma healing program in Nepal since 2009, and because the people of Nepal needed help immediately, we began to coordinate a relief effort on the spot.  Our colleagues in Israel understood the suffering in Nepal implicitly. They feel connected to what is happening in Nepal because of what is happening in the Middle East. 

AWB is strongly committed to continuing our work with AWB-Israel, just as we are committed to continuing support for the people of Nepal. We continue to collaborate closely with Creativity for Peace and other community organizations to bring trauma healing to this complicated place. With the recent escalation of violence in Israel and the West Bank, AWB's work is even more important.
Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this program - you are making it possible!

Here are highlights from the AWB training and service trip in 2015.

Kibbutz Nir Am near the Gaza border  Photo: Carla Cassler
Healing Community Trauma Training at Kibbutz Nir Am Near the Gaza Border Healing

We spent 3 days with 35 Israeli acupuncturists, naturopaths and Shiatsu practitioners learning about post-traumatic stress and how to heal it with acupuncture, qi gong, meditation and other therapies. We talked at length about the importance of understanding our own traumatic wounds and working with them compassionately - for personal healing and working more effectively with others. The group went very "deep." People were open, vulnerable, and able to share their fear, pain, hopes, and dreams. This is hard to do in any group, and was particularly powerful given the "tough" survival mechanisms that many people in this region use to cope with stress, conflict and trauma. 

I feel I have come home to the place I've been looking for for years. It was amazing and it was brutal. I have no words. I feel full of inspiration and, wow, this is work that can really change things...I came here broken. I feel whole now and I am full now and I can really give.  I came here sick but I listened to my heart... I see so many possibilities for collaboration. I laughed and I cried and all the emotions went through me...this is the place of healing from the heart...There are things that are beyond time and place - when the heart is in the right place it continues. Brave enough to address a bleeding country and we are all courageous to touch into this when it is so fragile. It is not trivial.  It's magic ... - 
Keren A. after the training

Photo: Diana Fried
Power that emerges from the group from the start. This is a traumatized region and you can feel it right away with many people you meet and certainly in this training circle.  When people come together to express the reality of trauma and to bring a healing presence, treatment, and to know they are not alone but there is a community of support and colleagues who want to do this together...there is an incredible sense of peace and actually I believe, some larger unity that en velops everyone. It feels like coming home to people but I t hink it is actually some type of coming back to source. I feel when I sit in this circle that I have done my work and my heart is open and released and I can take in the sacredness of what we are doing...
-AWB Founder and Trainer Diana Fried 

 Photo: Diana Fried
Israel is a beautiful, abundant, creative country. And it is a land of divi sions and conflict where trauma is shared by all. Last summer's war between Israel and Hamas  had a  devastating impact on the people of Gaza, as well as on people in Israel, especially in the southern part of the country. An acupuncturist from Sderot, next to the border with Gaza, provided weekly acupunc ture to residents throughout the war, and continues to treat traumatic stress in her community. She reported that ear acupuncture offered at the local mental health center was the only community service that was never cancelled during the war, and that it was the only thing that enabled many residents to sleep and get through their days. Another acupuncturist from Haifa, spoke painfully about how difficult it was to be an Arab Israeli during the war, and how she felt powerless to help her friends who were in Gaza. 

You have given us some hope at this training, in this land where we so often feel so hopeless. I am coming to understand my own trauma and the trauma in our community that I didn't see before. There is something so powerful about this method, this model, and this community that you have brought here...I feel that I can do my own healing in addition to helping and this is not what I usually experience at trainings. This is very special...
-Nawal, Arab-Israeli acupuncturist from Haifa

Healing Community Trauma in Israel - 2015 training participants 

The group used active listening, speaking from the heart, and support from a psychologist-facilitator to create a safe space for all to express their feelings about difficult issues. Many participants came to the training with deep feelings of anxiety, frustration, loneliness, sadness, and departed after three days with renewed hope and inspiration to work together to bring healing to their communities.

Because of this AWB training I felt some hope that I haven't felt in a very long time. Usually I feel there is nothing I can do about this terrible situation here and that nothing will help. Now I have something I can do to bring to communities and my heart has opened a little. I don't have to talk and get into any issues. I can just show up and offer care. Also you have helped me to see my own trauma that I haven't been able to see and to give me tools and remembering my own healing...  -Anonymous training participant

An AWB Israel Training Participant's Reflections...
How AWB training affected Shanit

AWB Israel will continue to help training participants "plug in" to already existent healing circles, and will mentor new ones. These projects include providing acupuncture at mobile clinics in the West Bank in collaboration with Physicians for Human Rights, working with displaced workers from Sudan who have walked across Egypt to Israel, providing services in Arab villages inside Israel, treating veterans and soldiers, supporting survivors of sexual violence, the Ethiopian immigrant communities, and other groups of people affected by high levels of stress. 

It has been 'only' 3 days retreat, but the grounding and healing
I got from it, feels more like 3 months...
  I am at Peace, surrounded by Chaos.   
I am Happy, as much as I am Sad. 
I am my resource, as I am a part of Nature. 
Nature is my Healing.
  -Almog, training participant

AWB and Creativity for Peace Staff 
and Young Leaders

Creativity For Peace Peace

AWB (USA) had the honor of working with staff members and young leaders from Creativity for Peace (CFP), an organization that brings young women from Israel and the West Bank together to camp - "neutral" ground - in Santa Fe, New Mexico every summer.  When they return from camp, they participate in activities in Israel and the West Bank during the school year. Staff members include Jewish and Arab Israelis, as well as Palestinians from the West Bank, who work as a team with each group. CFP's mission is to nurture direct human contact over time between young women who often see one another as enemies, creating new attitudes among young leaders to work together for peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. This work is very hard under current political and social conditions, which makes it all the more important. 

In camp (in Santa Fe during the summer) I realize I am not living a normal life here in Palestine. Not everyone has checkpoints. We don't have to live this life.  Driving from  Albuquerque to camp - all these hours without checkpoints. We hold a lot of trauma inside us and we don't know it. We keep everything inside - Palestinians. We can't do anything about it. You have been through so much you just keep it all in and keep going. We have to figure out it's not ok to have this kind of life.  - Ameera, CFP Young Leader/Staff

AWB facilitated a day-long retreat for CFP staff and young leaders focused on self-care when working with so much trauma and conflict. Again, participants went to a deep heart-felt place to talk about their pain, fears, hopes and dreams for peace. The power of hearing one another's narratives as Palestinians and Israelis, listening with respect despite anger and pain, was almost overwhelming. Doing qi gong together and receiving ear treatments helped shift the energy from despair to greater hope and willingness to move forward together despite huge challenges.

Ameera talks about acupuncture and trauma...
Ameera talks about trauma healing

Janette from the West Bank
and Yasmin from Israel
After acupuncture treatment:
Yonit: I feel very, very calm. Completely different than before. How much it is possible to do it differently. If I could start everything in my life with this way of being...it's a change of life. Those of us doing [change] work in the world we don't take care of ourselves. I need to understand more of this so I can do it better.
Yasmin:  I feel like a different person like I know I had this in me. I know it but I forget.

Ameera:  I realized how I can take my time differently and use time better to take care of myself.

Janette:  I thought about all the good things I have in my life. I felt carefree like I feel with family and friends. It was very good. I never had this before.

AWB has continued to work with Creativity for Peace this summer at camp in Santa Fe. Diana Fried, Terrie Harris, and Val Tolento provided a day-long stress reduction workshop and ear acupuncture treatments to campers in July. We look forward to future collaboration with CFP in New Mexico, Israel and the West Bank to further trauma healing, peace, and co-existence in the Middle East.

Mobile Clinics in the West Bank 
with Physicians for Human Rights

Every Saturday, Physicians for Human Rights takes health care teams from Israel to villages in the West Bank to provide basic primary health care services. Many villagers suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, and medical care is poor. We traveled with doctors, nurses, translators, an occupational therapist, and several acupuncturists from AWB Israel to Abuwein, a very beautiful village in the middle of the West Bank. Once a month, services are provided to women only-which was the case on the day of our participation. AWB Israel members had been to Abuwein in March so women from the village were waiting for us with smiles and excitement. 

Este Pardo is an Israeli acupuncturist who was trained by AWB in 2014. She and her colleagues go to the West Bank to offer acupuncture on Saturdays under the auspices of Physicians for Human Rights. Este is currently volunteering on the AWB Nepal earthquake relief trip.

Why Este serves...

Women are usually the last to take care of themselves and receive care in villages such as Abuwein. This is changing due to an amazing woman named Yasmeen Sehweil who is the coordinator of the Abuwien Women's Center. Yasmeen asked Physicians for Human Rights to do a woman-only mobile clinic once a month, and has organized a fledgling craft enterprise for women in the village to improve their economic status. 

Women's lives are about their husbands and children. They don't think of themselves. She (Yasmeen) is trying to empower them and get them some sources of income. With funding from Sweden and France she has created a candy making, soap, embroidery project...she saw the women had no medicine so she found Physicians for Human Rights and asked them to come and treat just women.

Yasmeen Sehweil  
Photo: Diana Fried
Her husband supported her and she started working alone. She took courses in Ramallah. She wanted to start a project and the government told her to do it under her husband's name and she said no. Later she got support to do it.  The community is very resistant because they say she is breaking tradition. These women are not empowered or educated. She is trying g to do pr ojects without the help of the men...She is trying to have her young children work with her to feel empowerment. For the women the acupuncture is unlike anything they've ever had or done - because doing 
something just  for themselves is not ever a part of their lives.  - from an interview in Arabic  with Yasmeen Sehweil

Women gathering at the mobile clinic in Abuwein
 Photo: Diana Fried

We offered three healing circles over the course of the day in a 200 year old stone building. Aya Basheer, a graduate of CFP's Young Leaders Program who attended the AWB Healing Community Trauma training in 2014, led the groups in Arabic and guided them in deep breathing before the treatments. Every woman left the healing circle with a smile and words of gratitude.

A newly married woman's henna

AWB founder Diana Fried with women in Abuwein

Children from Abuwein and AWB volunteers

Health workers from the Palestinian Medical Aid Society at the Abuwein mobile clinic

Above: Aya and Oshrat, AWB Israel training 2014
Below: Mariam, Bedouin herbalist
Photos: Diana Fried
Now and Into the Future...  Future

The healing impact of acupuncture is tremendous, especially in a land formed in part by the traumatic experiences and narratives of its peoples. Every day of this trip we were astounded by the positive power of this "medicine of peace."

AWB will continue to work with a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians who are replacing despair with hope, action, and transformation. Our goal is to provide training and support for sustainable programs that empower people to do trauma healing work in their own communities. In this project, whenever
possible, we try to bring acupuncturists and other health professionals from Jewish, Israeli Arab, and Palestinian communities together to receive training, and then support them  to provide trauma healing treatments together. This is a very powerful model and one that is all too scarce in a fractured land where people live in separated communities. AWB will return to provide more training and technical support to local practitioners in Spring-Summer, 2016. 

In 2017, AWB (USA) is hoping to lead a World Healing Exchange trip to Israel, the West Bank, and possibly Jordan, with a focus on learning about traditional healing practices, as well as peace and coexistence projects. We will also have a chance to meet and work with our AWB Israel colleagues in the "healing circles" that they have created. Stay tuned for more news about this exciting WHE trip.



Acupuncturists Without Borders 
3538 Anderson SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

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