Together Beyond Words
Women on a Quest for Peace in the Middle East
by Nitsan Joy Gordon
The Israeli-Palestinian region, a Holy Land to many, has been enmeshed in one of the world’s most intractable conflicts for over a century, characterized by cycles of prejudice, failed peace talks and violence. This book is the inspirational story of one woman working with her colleagues to break that cycle. Nitsan Joy Gordon’s life experiences — growing up in an Israeli border kibbutz fraught with danger and violent skirmishes, facing hatred in the American South as the only Jew in her junior high school, and finding dance as a way to work through her trauma — set her on a 30-year quest to empower women as peacebuilders and transform prejudices between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians.
She co-founded Together Beyond Words, a peacebuilding organization that brings Muslim, Jewish, Bedouin, Druse and Christian women together in a dynamic process to heal ancient wounds, recover hidden strengths, and promote emotional understanding. Using Dance/Movement Therapy, Listening Partnerships, Healing Touch, Radical Aliveness (RA), Playback Theater and Internal Family Systems (IFS), this groundbreaking approach teaches women to harness conflict and intense emotions as a way to achieve empathy and deep connection with perceived enemies. The women then take these transformative practices into their communities, tribes, organizations, to spread the healing.
Says Gordon: “Our power as women together is no longer dormant and as we liberate ourselves from various degrees of bondage and unite around the world in a call for change, we can also become allies to men in their own liberation of the heart.”
Cover Illustration: Drawings from Hülya Özdemir
Dimensions / Pages: 6,06 x 9,17 in / 320 pages
Category: Peace | Personal Growth | Psychotherapy | Health
From: £19.90 UK / $22.90 USA / $30.90 CAN / ₪ 79.90 ISR
Available since Feb. 2023:
Amazon, Bookstores, Retailers, Apple Books
ISBN PAPERBACK: 978-2-493605-04-7 — ISBN HARDCOVER: 978-2-493605-05-4
ISBN EBOOK: 978-2-493605-06-1
Nitsan Joy Gordon
Nitsan Joy Gordon (MA Dance Therapy) is the co-founder and director of the non-profit organization Together Beyond Words (TBW).
Nitsan, who was born on a border kibbutz in Israel, spent a part of her childhood in Southern USA where she experienced prejudice against her because she is Jewish. After returning to Israel, serving in the military and completing a BA in psychology at Haifa University, she graduated from Goucher College with a Masters degree in dance/movement therapy including a reseach thesis on prejudice.
These and other experiences led her to found Together Beyond Words with her Arab and Jewish colleagues and work together to empower and train women and more recently men as peace builders so they can promote the understanding and healing of prejudice in Israel. Nitsan has expertise in dance/movement therapy, multi-level listening techniques, research, healing touch and deep emotional work.
She has led workshops and taught courses in Israel and the US for over 20 years. Nitsan lives in Israel and is the mother of two children.
On the Web:
“This book and the incredible story it brings to us is so much more than a simple telling; it’s an offering of light and hope. Nitsan joy Gordon’s work is visionary, wise and important. It’s a call for all of us to do the deep healing that must precede a lasting peace. She asks us to live beyond our stories into the heart of love. This is a message for the world.”
Writer, retreat leader, conference and seminar speaker.
“In this powerful book, Nitsan Gordon takes us with her on her amazing journey toward bringing healing and peace to the chronic pain and conflict that plague relations among Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians in Israel. Having co-led several Together Beyond Words workshops with her, I can testify to the power of having traditional enemies express their most painful truths and feel witnessed by one another—particularly for Palestinians to feel heard by Jews and watch Jews work on the legacy burdens that drive their racist and oppressive behaviors. Through dance, movement, and psychodramatic techniques, Nitsan creates exceptionally safe spaces for these encounters that are building an important grassroots movement for cross-conflict connection and change. Reading this beautifully written, engaging book, is moving, enlightening, and left me with even more admiration for Nitsan’s courage and persistence.”
Ph.D., developer of the Internal Family Systems model (IFS).
“I love this book. It tells the story of a girl, and all the life experiences that led her to become a brave and powerful woman; A woman who was touched by injustice, pain, and bigotry. A woman who could have led a privileged life, a woman who could have not listened to the calling. But a woman who most certainly did. Read this delightful book. Let yourself be inspired. There is so much we can do with this one precious life. Nitsan is a testament to that.”
CPRA, founder and director of the Radical Aliveness Institute.
Faculty member at Esalen educational institute.
“This inspiring book not only tells the story of one woman’s brave journey from a border kibbutz to a lifelong dedication to peace building; more than that, it gives us a heartening example of what can happen when two visionary change makers – Esalen Institute and Together Beyond Words – combine their creativity in the service of our highest human values.”
NANCY LUNNEY WHEELER
MA, pioneering leader in education for personal and social transformation.
Senior advisor at Esalen educational institute.
“The importance of this book, in my humble opinion, lies in the ability of the author/healer and her colleagues to reach across the boundaries of religious beliefs, ethnicity, skin color and nationality to the essence of our existence as human beings that yearn to live in harmony and peace with one another.”
DR. MARIAM MAR’I
Director of the Akko Arab Women’s Pedagogical Center
“All over the world, nations and communities and cultures are experiencing the pain and destruction that happens when one group demonizes another, when people lose the ability to see the human in each other. But all over the world, people are also transforming trauma and pain into healing and peace. It takes hard work–brave and patient work–to do this, and the Israeli Peace Activist, Nitsan Joy Gordon, has been doing this kind of work for many years. Her new book, Together Beyond Words: Women on a Quest for Peace in the Middle East, is a roadmap for all of us who want to be part of the solution.”
Cofounder of Omega Institute, New York Times
bestselling author of Broken Open, Cassandra Speaks, and other books.
By Marianne Williamson
American bestselling author, political activist,
spiritual thought leader, US Presidential Candidate 2024
No one can authentically encounter the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without agony. The hatred, fear and suffering in this drama are so real and seemingly intractable, it’s like a horror story that never ends. Nothing seems less helpful than those who would presume that there are easy answers.
“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there,” wrote the poet Rumi. The problem is not that people don’t believe this field exists; the problem is how hard it can be to get there. In Israel and Palestine – and elsewhere in the world- there is so much pain, and there are so many layers of often unprocessed trauma that stand in our way as we seek to reach it. How blessed are those who do the work of trying to pave the way.
God knows, some brilliant minds have tried. But perhaps that is the point: the mind alone can’t do it. As Einstein reminded us that the problems of the world will not be solved with the level of thinking at which they were created, our species stands perched in a mysterious limbo: will we perpetuate the madness of humanity’s collision course with itself, or will we consider the possibility that there might be another away? There is a new kind of peacebuilding rising among us, going way beyond the purview of diplomat or soldier. For peace is not the absence of war; war is the absence of peace. True, fundamental peace is not an artificial comfort; it is a return to our essential nature. It is raw. It is emotional. It is real. At times it is harrowing. It stems from facing the internal wars that are reflected in our external violence. Peacemakers aren’t softies. They’re the bravest of the brave.
It’s difficult to read this book by Nitsan Joy Gordon without awe at her emotionally bravery, and the bravery of the women who have joined with her – both Arab and Jew – to pave a path to peace for themselves and others. That path is not a path of avoiding their pain, but of allowing themselves to feel their pain; not a path of explaining themselves, but of listening to others; not a path of always saying yes, but of sometimes saying no. The courage to remain awake, not only to one’s own pain but to the pain of the other, is the work of the modern peacemaker. The women in this book are extraordinary examples of what that looks like and where it can lead.
In A Course in Miracles it is said that the “holiest spot on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Whenever I have read that line, and I have read it often, I have thought of Israel and Palestine. The Holy Land, the place where several major religions find their portal to God, is a place on the planet where the peace of God seems sometimes hardest to attain. Whether looked at from a political or a spiritual perspective, this cannot be an accident. There – in that holy yet tortured place – lay both the problem and the Answer, humanity’s greatest division and greatest opportunity for peace. It is a land of an ancient hatred longing for a present love.
Reading this book, you feel such a present love is possible, even if only expressed in fleeting moments of resolution. Nitsan Gordon was only five years old when her father first told her to seek resolution. It wasn’t to be just with her little brother, as she might have thought then; the search for resolution was to be her life’s calling. In order to claim that calling, however, she would have to enter the darkest regions of her own pain, acknowledge the pain of others and invite them to dwell in those regions with her. Her work, and the work of the other women whose stories are told in this book, is truly the Great Work.
And they do it so well. What a blessing on Israel and Palestine, and a gift to the entire world.
Healing, Transforming, Peacebuilding
and Never Stopping
By Leymah R. Gbowee
Nobel Peace Laureate
peace activist, social worker and women’s rights advocate. Founder and
President of the Gbowee Peace FoundationAfrica,based in Monrovia.
Be bold. Step out. And never walk on tiptoes,
because anyone who walks on tiptoes can never
leave footprints for people to walk in.
Leymah R. Gbowee
Throughout my years of working for healing, reconciliation and peace I have seen in intimate ways, both large and small, how women and children bear the brunt of wars and mass atrocities. In my country, I have met and worked with women who were raped and tortured, vulnerable children who became soldiers, and even children who, while on drugs, raped and killed innocent victims. I have seen homes that were burned, destroyed and looted. I have experienced the physical and emotional tolls of war firsthand: I have held children in my arms who were hungry, and cradled women who lost their children to violence. Amidst the despair around me and even stretches of intimate violence in my own home, I struggled to survive and raise a family and knew I wanted to do something to change structures and systems of violence.
I often wondered why women who bore the brunt of war were expected to remain quiet while men debated how to make peace. From firsthand experience I realized that peace-building isn’t just ending a fight by standing between two opposing forces. As Nitsan Joy Gordon so effectively demonstrates in her book, it is also those moments of holding and healing those victimized by war. It is supporting them in becoming strong again, and bringing them back to the people they once were, where glimpses of peace shine through. It is helping the perpetrator rediscover their humanity and dignity so they once again become productive members of their communities.
Women have such an important role in healing and in creating a culture of peace, a culture where people learn to see beyond the walls of stereotypes, those walls that obstruct our ability to get to know one another and see each other’s humanity.
When I visited Israel in 2016, at the invitation of Women Wage Peace, I wondered why the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has lasted for so many years, why it can feel intractable. Through my conversations there, it was clear that a majority on both sides want to live in peace and security. It was also clear how both sides experience pain and worry for their families, how they see themselves as victims. I wondered why some of the parties try to convince people on both sides that there is no partner for peace. I realized that like in Liberia and other parts of the world the answer lies in both individual and collective traumas. Our experiences of violence and war program us to view the reality around us from a place of fear, suspicion and hostility.
When I read Together Beyond Words: Women on a Quest for Peace in the Middle East, I learned about similar and different strategies towards peace as compared to the ones we used in the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET). But a common thread across both is the desire to work through traumas and towards collective healing.
The approaches I read in Nitsan’s book can be used as great tools in conflict areas to help survivors work through their individual and collective traumas and strengthen their role as peace builders. Women can become peacemakers when they have safe places to release the pain that keeps them from feeling their own strength.
We are now in unprecedented times, our communities, countries and Earth are in grave danger. The world is calling for us to listen, and to change. We are each being asked to do our part to heal and resolve our conflicts.
I call on all who read this book to join the courageous women and men who continue working for peace, in the collective making of a better world. And I want to express my gratitude to all peacemakers in Palestine, Israel, South Sudan, Congo DRC, Central Africa Republic, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and around the world. May God continue to guide and sustain you.
Photo: Courtesy Michael Angelo’s Wonderland
Some videos of interest about Together Beyond Words
“Together Beyond Words” by Nitsan Joy Gordon,
Women on a Quest for Peace in the Middle East.
Women talking about the work at TBW Workshops
The Heart of Our Stories Playback Theater Project.
A 27 years story יחד מעבר למילים معاً ما وراء الكلمات : Together Beyond Words has been creating safe places where Arab Palestinians and Jews can share painful emotions related to the conflict and transform them to understanding and empathy towards one another. The process is the basis for creating a Culture of Peace.
Office: 8 Deerfield Lane, Natick, MA 01760 – USA
Nitsan Joy Gordon
The Together Beyond Words Organization
Jean-Rémi Deléage & Nathalie Vandebeulque
Les Éditions du Ā
Tel: +33 6 08 76 95 96
Website: leseditionsdunona.com (english)
Office: Fontainebleau – France