Category Archives: Inner Peace

Finding Peace in Palestine, by Pamela Olson

Doves Take Flight, by Artist-in-Residence, Paula Lietz

Finding Peace in Palestine

by Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson, Writing for Peace AdviserI stumbled into Palestine at age 23, young, impressionable, and naïve about the ways of the world.  What I saw absolutely shocked me.  The way Palestinians were treated was traumatizing to witness.  It violated everything my heart had ever believed about fairness.  The brutality of it—against the people, against the land, against common sense and decency—was breathtaking.  And yet it was happening, and the people who were doing it were just people, not so different from myself.  They just happened to be in a political and social situation where such brutality was acceptable.

What people in the US hear about is mostly the brutality of Palestinians—their rocks, their bombs, their angry demonstrations.  Yet everyone I tour-guided in the West Bank (including Israelis and Americans) said the same thing once the situation began to become clear in their minds: “I can’t believe Palestinians aren’t more violent!”

This speaks of two things.  One is the tendency of Israelis and Americans to project their own attitudes onto others.  As regional and global hegemons, violence has often been ‘necessary’ to maintain Israel’s and America’s edges of power.  So violence has become normalized in those societies.  It has to, or they could not convince their citizens to perform and support such violence.

The second is the incredible ability of Palestinians to sublimate their anger and frustration and channel it into productive actions such as helping the less fortunate, engaging in non-violent resistance, or simply doing what they have to do to survive on land they have inhabited for centuries.  This is a story rarely told outside of Palestine, yet it is seen constantly within Palestine.

I brought my American sensibilities with me to Palestine, and at first I had a hard time controlling my outrage.  It was maddening to simply accept the conditions imposed on my friends without doing something, but in my angered state I couldn’t think clearly about what.

It was the Palestinians who convinced me, through their example, to calm myself as best I could rather than lashing out, at least at the beginning, and to keep learning and doing what I could day to day to improve things a bit (such as visiting injured Palestinians in hospitals) and try to educate my fellow countrymen about a situation about which most Americans are sadly ignorant, despite the fact that our government bankrolls an unjust occupation with billions of our tax dollars.

I started out working as a volunteer, then a journalist, but after a while I became frustrated.  The statistics and anecdotes in my 800-word reports could never capture the full gestalt of the situation for people who didn’t already have a good understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the region.  Most Americans in particular have a one-sided framework in their heads that distorts any attempt to explain a given situation.

I finally realized that if I wanted to reach people in a meaningful way, I would have to write a book that could take them through all the steps I went through, first to become intrigued about the state of affairs, then charmed by the region, then horrified about the situation, and finally confident enough to engage fully and fruitfully, with a kind of holistic understanding backed by years of research and soul-searching, always open to new information and analyses.

I tried to get that all across in 300 short pages targeted to American audiences (plus a sequel I’m working on that focuses more on the “special relationship” between the US and Israel and the intolerable situation in Gaza).  I hope it can make some kind of contribution toward real peace—sustainable peace that includes enough justice and understanding to serve as a stable foundation for what comes after peace is made.  I hope it can serve as a wake-up call to many Americans who believe the conflict is primarily about “terror” and “security,” who are comfortable with this framework, and who know nothing of Palestinian history, culture, or humanity.

It’s a small contribution in the grand scheme of this decades-long conflict, and it’s difficult to know if it will do any good.  As Palestinian superstar singer and UN youth ambassador Mohammed Assaf said, “There are many ways to make a difference in life, but my way is as an artist.”

If you do what you love, with an intention of peace—maybe it’s the best we can all do.

I won’t lie.  Sometimes it’s still very difficult to control my anger when another mother’s son or daughter is brutally taken from this world, or another piece of beautiful land is stolen and bulldozed into prefabricated settlements, and the killers and thieves escape any kind of justice.

But then I think of examples like the Palestinian family whose son was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a Muslim holiday, who grieved as much as any family who loses a son, searched their souls, and donated the boy’s organs to Israelis in need.

And I feel deeply humbled, and like there are better emotions than anger to motivate a human being.

What were the experiences that shaped Pamela Olson’s understanding of Palestine? Read an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Fast Times in Palestine, showing her first taste of both the wonder and oppression of Palestine.

About Pamela Olson

Fast Times in Palestine, by Pamela OlsonPamela Olson grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and studied physics and political science at Stanford University. She lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign.

Pamela wrote an award-winning book about those experiences called Fast Times in Palestine.

Learn more about Pamela Olson’s work here. And check out Pamela’s website here.

About PD Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-ResidenceThe art for this piece was contributed by Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Pd Lietz.

Pd Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Learn more about Pd Lietz here. View works by Pd Lietz here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Young Advisers’ Panel

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of extraordinary young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.


DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Peace. Peace, Brother. Peace Be Unto You. by Phyllis Barber

Peace.  Peace, Brother.  Peace Be Unto You.

by Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber, Writing for Peace AdviserThere’s been talk about peace from time immemorial, yet there are times in all centuries and definitely in today’s world when peace seems a foreign, alien concept. Try reading an account of turbulent history—beheadings, joustings, uprisings, duels, war upon war. Read the news of yet another murder or massacre in print or on-line. Watch television and stream the heat of another crime wave into the privacy of your living room. It seems as though mankind (and I choose that traditional noun with some thought) is wired to and fascinated with contention: borders, territory, possessions, rights, religious claims (when religions are supposed to mend humankind rather than tear it apart because one religion thinks differently than another about which god prevails).

Have you ever wondered why many people, even intelligent and religious ones who are supposed to have other solutions, think that the best way to solve a problem is to buy a gun or kill someone else who doesn’t agree with them or look like them or sing similar praises in similar language? It seems that, to many, there’s no solution without a Big Stick, without cannons, repeating rifles, or machine guns. These speak. Loudly. Assertively. Powerfully. Gentle, peaceful people don’t get the listening ear. Armies do. Armbands. Uniforms. Crisp pleats in one’s trousers. Is this penchant for war and supremacy part of our DNA, our skin and bones? Why is it such a prevalent solution? Is the world nothing more than a powder keg to be blown by the necessity of power over all and everything? Have we been hijacked by the fear that grabs us, shakes us by the lapels, and makes us want to act bigger than we really are? Use guns as an extension of our weakness? But those who think otherwise need to take their part—offer their opinions, their questions, and their propositions. Not sit idly by.

I admit that I don’t know answers—I only raise the questions that trouble me, but I’m thinking that the basic and most powerful peace is within one’s self, the place of stillness and calm where one is grateful for the good aspects of his or her life and free of demands on and expectations of self and others. This interior peace can be nurtured. When I’ve spent time on a high mountain trail and have felt the eternal peacefulness in those mountains that have endured so many harsh winters, been subjects to the refining bottom of massive glaciers, and have still provided home and protection to a myriad of animals, I’ve caught a glimpse of this inner peace that creates a desire for more. If people could sit or stand by the side of a still mountain lake and watch dragonflies dart forward, backward, and reverse course mid-air, maybe they could feel a new kind of stillness and harmony that doesn’t exist in most contemporary places. Maybe opposition and contention are part and parcel of the condition of being human, but when you’re in the mountains that have lasted for thousands of years while men and their wars come and go, you can feel a peace that calms and reassures. When you see that still lake slightly ruffled by a breeze and see a fish jump and leave a concentric ring that marks its hiding place, anxiety and fear leave your heart and mind. Your shoulders relax. You breathe deeply and have no desire to argue, to  protest your rights, to claim your sovereignty over anyone or anything. It is all so much larger than your small self—this abundance in the everlasting mountains. When you linger in stillness and a deer leaps gracefully through the nearby trees, you feel the embrace of something large and profoundly peaceful. And that helps you understand the true essence of this thing called peace. Maybe you can pick up a smooth pebble and carry it back home to remind yourself.

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber, Writing for Peace AdviserI joined Writing for Peace because I always believed that harmony between people is possible (maybe because I was the middle child who was always trying to balance the family dynamics). If only we can listen to what other people are saying and learn to receive them, rather than rebuffing them straightaway for some ridiculous reasons such as difference in education, economic level, religious affiliation, gender, color, shape of the face or the torso or feet, etc. I have found when I can open my awareness to another person and literally open up to who and what they are all about, a significant change happens between us—a connection at the level of spirit, that mysterious essence so much larger and wiser than we are.

~Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber  is the author of seven books (a novel about the building of the Hoover Dam, two books of short stories, two children’s books, and two memoirs, one of which, How I Got Cultured, won the Associated Writers and Writing Program Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1991). Her latest book, Gentle Fire: A Spiritual Odyssey is due out from Quest Books in May, 2014. It is a collection of essays based on her travels to a variety of spiritual practices, both traditional and non-traditional, in an attempt to find the Spirit that dwells in all people to one degree or another. Her desire is to help create harmony and understanding between people of seemingly opposing ideas and sensibilities. She has taught creative writing for the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program for 19 years, and is currently residing in Park City, Utah, where she writes, edits, and critiques manuscripts for other writers. Learn more about Phyllis Barber and her work here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Lorraine Currelley Joins Advisory Panel

Lorraine Currelley, Writing for Peace AdviserThe African proverb “I See You” and  the name Writing for Peace resonate with me. I’ve come to think of them as kindred spirits. Both embody the spirit of community and collaboration. An inter-generational worldwide community, working to create a world where peace is a reality. A community where each member sees each other through our connected humanity. In doing so, holding the key to connecting with all ecosystems.

Joining Writing for Peace is an opportunity to join with community to work for world  peace via writing. Our words are powerful tools. Tools having an extraordinary ability to act as a catalyst for positive change. A catalyst to promote understanding and connection between people. An opportunity to learn from each other and experience shared humanity. An opportunity to exercise our creative energies, talents and gifts; to unite our world community. Our words nurture, heal and empower. There are no inferiors nor superiors, we all bring something to the table equally important.

~Lorraine Currelley

Lorraine Currelley joins Writing for Peace as a poet, writer, educator, activist and Mental Health Counselor, as well as the founder of Poets Network & Exchange, a positive and supportive space for poets and writers of all levels, where she facilitates poetry and creative writing workshops and produces featured poetry readings, open mics and literary events. She holds a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and a Certificate in Thanatalogy (grief and bereavement.) When she’s not writing poetry and short stories, she writes for scientific and literary publications on social, mental health, and grief and bereavement issues.

Lorraine Currelley is the former first and only president of  The Harlem Arts Fund, and the recipient of numerous community service awards for her work with the homeless and community efforts. She’s also the founder and editor of The Currelley Literary Journal, a blog where she writes articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews. LC Information and Resource Center, a resource and information blog which addresses domestic and sexual violence, providing information and links to resources nationwide. As a poet Lorraine Currelley is widely anthologized in literary publications. Learn more about Lorraine Currelley and her work here.

Writing for Peace Young Writers' Contest2014 Young Writers Contest

The Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest is officially open! Deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Our 2013 contest reached students in 21 countries, we hope to double the number of entries in 2014. (Meet our 2013 winners here!) Help us spread the word to schools across the globe. Email to learn how your school can receive free bookmarks for participating students. Check out our complete guidelines here.

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Purchase a copy of our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.



Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.