Buddhist Alliance for Non-Violence ​and Human Rights in Israel-Palestine

International & multi-denominational:
Buddhist voices for a just peace in the Middle East

All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one would not kill nor cause another to kill.
                                                                                                   Dhammapada, verse 130

"Dhammapada: The Path of Dhamma", edited by Access to Insight. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/index.html


BANVAHR offers  information and resources  to deepen one's understanding of what is (and has been) happening in Israel-Palestine. It also examines the ways the Buddha's teachings offer an invaluable perspective regarding the conflict that can help end the cycle of suffering and violence.  As informed Buddhist practitioners we can take action in many different ways--as individuals; as sangha members; or with local, national and/or international peace and human rights groups. Even the smallest of acts is important. As American poet and Quaker William Stafford once wrote, "Justice will take us millions of intricate moves."  

As the BANVAHR website becomes more known and established, it will provide information on specific ways to become better informed and active, such as traveling to the region with organizations like  Eyewitness Palestine and  Joint Advocacy Initiative  (JAI)  and offering support to deserving campaigns like  End the Deadly Exchange. .  New blog postings will be added from a variety of sources:  newspapers, journals, books, human rights and peace organizations, Buddhist and other spiritual/religious organizations, and submissions from individuals who have written informed, wise and compassionate reflections.  

Because the land of Israel-Palestine is the home of all of the Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam-- it is considered by many followers of each of these religions as the "Holy Land," a sacred and holy place where prominent religious figures inspired by God (David, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammad, and many other prophets) lived and died, changing the course of world history.  It is the destination of thousands of people from all across the globe eager to visit identified "holy" sites to give homage to their God and to receive spiritual blessings and inspiration.  

This region also has grave geopolitical significance (particularly regarding military strategy and natural resources) for political powers such as the United States, Russia, and the European Union.  Political/military control (occupation) of the region has changed hands throughout history, often accompanied by violence towards and oppression of its occupants.   Since its establishment as a state 70 years ago as a refuge for Jewish people, who had for centuries experienced prejudice and persecution, and then endured the horrors of the Holocaust, Israel has had predominant control of the region, with the 4th most powerful military in the world and significant political, military, and financial support from its strongest ally, the United States.  Since its inception in 1948, however, Israel has pushed its designated boundaries by systematically and illegally, according to international law, moving its population into the Palestinian Territories, creating Israeli "settlements"  and claiming Palestinian land as its own.  

History has repeatedly shown us that power can be used for good and for harm.  If power is used unwisely in Israel-Palestine, not only are relations between peoples of the region adversely affected, but relations between and among other nations, ethnicities, cultures, and religions are affected. And rather than cultivating conditions for peace, conditions are created that foster despair, hatred and violence.  If power is used wisely, change can be directed towards the benefit of all, minimizing harm and creating conditions for the security and well-being of all.

As stated by Israeli Buddhist leader Stephen Fulder, "We need to expand the view. This war is a frenzy of violence that comes because of peaceful actions and directions not taken before. The current suffering and violence prepares the ground for the next war. It is a constant chain, and we can try to prevent suffering and violence at any link of the chain."
As Buddhists, we are devoted to the cultivation of wisdom and compassion through practices that allow deepening insight into the nature of suffering and the conditions allowing release from suffering--not just our own suffering, but the suffering of all beings.  Of key importance is seeing the truths of cause and effect (kamma); the illusion of separateness and identity (anatta); and the unwholesome effects of actions influenced by greed, hatred and ignorance.  As our understanding deepens we come to see more clearly that what happens to you affects what happens to me; what happens in this moment affects what happens in the next; what happens here affects what happens there.  We do not, that is, exist alone; we are inseparable from the greater whole.

The Buddha saw all of this clearly and provided a detailed framework, the Ennobling Eightfold Path*, as a way to end suffering.  He saw as the centerpiece of this path day-to-day living informed by moral/ethical qualities of heart (sila), and he  provided a guide for life practice.  Buddhism teaches us that how we speak, act and make our living and spend our time contributes to or lessens the experience of suffering.  Like most religious traditions and spiritual practices we are called to "do no harm"--  to speak and act in ways that are of benefit to all beings.  

In ways different from other religious traditions and spiritual practices, the teachings of the Buddha guide us inwardly through meditation practices specific to the cultivation of qualities such as kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity; the development of concentration (samadhi); and the development of insight/wisdom (panna) to help us uproot the tenacious, harmful tendrils of unwholesome qualities of heart and patterns of behavior harmful to ourselves, to others and to the world as a whole.  The Ennobling Eightfold Path is an integrated path, each aspect of the path important and inseparable from the others.  When practiced as a whole, it is possible to stop and to prevent from developing the conditions necessary for the continuation of violence and suffering.

*1) right view,  2) right intention,  3) right action,  4) right speech,  5) right livelihood,  6) right effort,  7) right mindfulness,  8) right concentration
"right" meaning wholesome, appropriate, skillful.

قصيدة محمود درويش

فكّر بغيرك

وأنت تُعدُّ فطورك، فكر بغيركَ 
لا تَنْسَ قوتَ الحمام
وأنتَ تخوضُ حروبكَ، فكَر بغيركَ
لا تنس مَنْ يطلبون السلام

وأنتَ تسدد فاتورةَ الماء، فكَّر بغيركَ
مَنْ يرضَعُون الغمامٍ
وأنتَ تعودُ إلى البيت، بيتكَ، فكَّر بغيركَ
لا تنس شعب الخيامَ

وأنت تنام وتُحصي الكواكبَ، فكرِّ بغيركَ
ثمَّةَ مَنْ لم يجد حيّزاً للمنام
وأنت تحرّر نفسك بالاستعارات، فكَّر بغيركَ
مَنْ فقدوا حقَهم بالكلام

وأنت تفكر بالآخرين البعيدين، فكِّر بنفسكَ
قُل: ليتني شمعة في الظلام

Think of Others

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
       (do not forget the pigeon's food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
       (do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
      (those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
       (do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
       (those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
       (those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
       (say: “If only I were a candle in the dark").

- Mahmoud Darwish
(​translated by Mohammad Shaheen)



He returned to the deserted hill
thirty years after the destruction
of his village: "Here was the well...
here they came to draw water...here
the house, the grapevine, the fig tree..."
And I'm thinking of Ein Shemer
where I was born and grew up and where
my children were born.  I imagine
my son returning in thirty years
a refugee, an exile, murmuring:  "Here
the dining hall...hand in hand with Father
on the sidewalk...and here the big
lawn where we used to play until 
it got dark...Where has it all gone?
Where have they all gone to?"

Eli Alon
(translated by Barbara Goldberg)
from After the First Rain:  Israeli Poems on War and Peace


COME BY / lament for the summer of 2014

I’ll put the tea on but I should warn you I might wail.

Our son is suffering from a distracted driver turning into
his cycle’s commuting route without stopping at the sign,
his crushed and sheared shoulder and arm bones grafted,
plated, and screwed back together for as long as it will last,
his life’s work heaving stone done.

And our beloved boys, Ismail, Zakaria, Ahed, and Mohamed,
9, 10, and 11, buried in the sand where they were shot
playing ball on that ghetto shore by occupying boat gunners.

And you no doubt heard about whole schools of our girls
disappeared for being girls. And our innocent little ones
thrown into sexual exploitation, hard labor, begging, and war
around the world. Fresh rose geranium leaves or mint?

Ginger for the nausea. For the sickening hatred spewing
at the border for our thousands of children fleeing their
America, falling off train tops, dying in the desert.
Violated, terrorized. Fear beyond fear and unending shame
come by....

          But all I have to offer
          is my darkest-grained bread
          and this Olive Honey Spread
          from the Palestinian Fair Trade farmers.


          Come by. We’ll take tea to the wellhouse
          but beware – I might wail.

                                   – Patricia Ranzoni