The future of mediation… and me.

October 26, 2009

Out of the blue I received an email yesterday seeking my knowledge of mediation as a career and process in Israel: How do you study? How long does it take? What requirements are there?

The answer I gave is a bit depressing, but I guess, for now, it’s how I see it:


I studied for a Masters at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan. They have a program there called Conflict Management and Negotiation, and a part of it is to take the official Gishur (mediation) course, which, when passed, certifies you to become a mediator. Along with that, if I’m remembering correctly, you need at least five years working for someone (lawyer, etc) related to mediation, a BA in psychology, sociology, law, or something related, and there may be other reqs I’m not recalling.

I didn’t end up doing the Gishur course (life got in the way). They offered by all different organizations, so you could actually be a lawyer and take it, etc. It’s a matter of being officially recognized. But it takes more work than just the course, as I outlined.

Mediation as a private practice is not very popular here – yet. The court system uses mediation in family and small claims cases many times, and that is the main way to break into it. It’s not easy to break into though as there are limited positions. As one of my professors said, if you want to get into gishur here in Israel, don’t make it your main job.

It’s unfortunate, of course. This is a country where many folks are very interested in alternative resolution to many other problems – health, stress, physical wellbeing especially. But culturally, it’s a place where people often have trouble listening to authority. Let alone volunteering to be counseled by it.

Sorry if that sounds depressing! At the same time that I was studying for the MA I was working in hi tech and ended up finding that I could actually make a living in hi tech, and didn’t have time for both. So the mediation is on hold for me now.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

I might be wrong; it might be more optimistic if you ask someone else. I hope it is. This is where I am right now, and I don’t know what will be for me or the future of mediation in Israel in general. There is a lot to be gained here by accepting the process.


On building a lifelong relationship.

May 31, 2008

I thought I would republish some words I wrote to a friend on the subject of lifelong relationship, i.e., marriage. I took out the personal bits and reworded a bit, but you’ll get the drift:

So many people go into these things (marriages) completely careless, and a lot of the time loveless, and if you have both care and love, you create so important a combination… And I’m confident that couples with those skills, over time, find that every day they feel stronger, after every fight or argument or event, after they’ve worked it out, it’s added a new brick to the relationship-building. I know I have that now, for the first time in my life… After I learned (and still learn) to let go of my own shit, to be a part of a ‘we’ and to be constantly focused on the building and investment, I really do love my partner more every day (and most fights make me realize how dumb I am at that moment). It’s still early on but I just hope we will be like this always, even as life gets more complicated and crazy…

You know your partner is right for you when s/he can serve as your mirror, and vice versa… I know if I’m being selfish or romantic or mean or clever by the way it shows in my partner’s face… and I’m pretty sure vice versa… S/he loves you, so you can trust that s/he is serving as a healthy mirror who reflects you… Sometimes, I hear myself in my partner and sometimes I hear elements of my partner coming out of my mouth… It’s such an intense thing to realize you are literally joining with another person…

It’s all a big learning experience; the trick is to love the person you’re along for the ride with – enough to lose yourself in him, let him lose yourself in you, not too much so that you don’t recognize your soul but enough that you’ve created something new between the two of you.

That’s how I see it anyway.

Turning drug addicts into people, one story at a time.

April 1, 2008

I joined a class field trip to a drug addict recovery center in south Tel Aviv today. We had a discussion with one of the administrators, young woman who was very passionate about her job, and then we heard from about eight recovering addicts about the conflicts and issues their drug abuse had caused their families, as well as what kinds of family trauma led to their drug use.

As you may have realized, I’m a huge fan of contact theory and I viewed today as a chance to spend face time with a demographic I really don’t know much about aside from stereotypes. This group were in the process of becoming clean or were already somewhat clean for months. You could see the struggle in their eyes, along with the love, pain, fear, laughter. They were married at some point, or on the verge of getting so; they had kids or the desire to create them; they had jokes to tell and empathy to share.

There were a few big points that I got the feeling these men and women wanted us to walk away with:

First, the matter of turning to drugs was not an issue of life getting bad and not knowing how to handle the pain. It was a matter of – due to family trauma as youngsters – never learning how to deal with life, good or bad. Whether it was losing a job, struggling through a marriage, a newborn baby, or making money, these folks did not have the emotional tools to handle life and needed an escape or a way to numb it all. Heroin (in most cases) was that tool.

It was fascinating that these people had varying backgrounds – Russian, Arab or Arab Jew – and they all had family trauma in common, whether it was an abusive father, drug dealer parents, absent parents.

In addition, it is not often the case that these people were bored and turned to drugs and got caught up in a serious and deadly cycle. At this recovery center, most of the addicts or former addicts experienced serious traumas in their childhoods caused by screwed up family relations or abuse. The drugs were the result of such a situation. These people stopped experiencing normal emotions at a young age, and, coming out of that daze now they are picking up where they left off – at age 9, 13, 18, etc.

For instance, one man in his 50s was telling us about his father who made him, at age 13, his secret-barer and assistant in doing drugs and drinking. The boy would have to hide this from his mother and help his father set up his pipes.

A mother of two described growing up in a home where her father was the dominant and her mother the submissive. To escape it, she ended up getting married – to her father all over again. Without any control in her life, she started on drugs, with the added bonus that her verbally abusive husband was strictly anti-drugs.

Another point was that it becomes a disease where the drug addict cannot make informed decisions any longer; the substance plays the master while the human mind becomes a slave. Once this relationship exists, it takes a lot of struggle to break free of those chains and every. single. day. is a battle to be waged and won by the human mind and physical condition.

A young father of three explained that the on-and-off periods of drug abuse and keeping ‘clean’ are not to be taken lightly. A person who has kept clean for thirty years can fall as low as a current addict with just one hit.

I am glad I got to participate in the discussion. It became clear how much these people hurt their families and themselves, but also how much they have been hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of those faces.

The human tradition of mediation.

December 24, 2007

We’ve been surrounded by mediators since we were young:

When we fought with our siblings, are parents were the judges. 

When the other kids at school didn’t play fair, our teachers were the arbitrators.

When our relationships fall apart, our friends are the advisers. 

Where there is society, there is conflict, and where there is conflict, there have always been mediators, in one way or another.

It’s an age-old practice that’s existed as long as human beings have been communicating and as long as there has been communication, there has been misunderstanding. 

Today I was invited by my department to sit in on a real mediation session. I learned a lot from watching it all spread out in front of me, live:

  • It’s better for mediators to sit across from all disputants as opposed to at the head of the table.
  • Explain the process to participants and they will take the process on themselves.
  • Partner with a mediator of the opposite sex for family cases.
  • It’s important to know when to take a break and when to let the momentum roll.
  • Take culture into account, but don’t assume; just be open to culture being present.
  • Never underestimate the power of women around a negotiation table.

What I learned, more than anything today, is that it would be an honor to serve society as a mediator and continue this human tradition.  

Internet Media panel: results and reviews.

December 4, 2007

Thought I would follow up with more results of yesterday’s session.

Here are Ray Hanania’s views on his NAAJA site. It was a very constructive discussion where I came to explain Mideast Youth but I also learned a lot about Israeli journalists, Palestinian journalists and the people behind the papers.

I also got to meet Ray for the first time – also my first time meeting another Mideast Youth correspondent: 

Ray and me

Here’s an excerpt of what I spoke about:

“We are from the Middle East. There are countries I will never be able to visit. And there are people who will never be able to come to Israel. So has brought people together who might not have other opportunities to come together and share their experiences, thoughts and experiences…”

“It’s a great example of how the Internet can bring people together and promote understanding and tolerance, where we can debate, discuss and not cut each other’s throats…”

“There is a lot of emotion. We are all touched by events around us. We are able to talk together. It’s something to have an Arab ask me about Israeli and Jewish culture. There are things you can get upset about … but we are happy that people are having the conversation… You have to have a sense of humor in order to participate on a site like this and not go crazy from the emotion and the emotional exchanges.” (NAAJA)

Hey, I sound pretty good… And that really does sum up what I think about Mideast Youth and Internet media in general. I’m glad I got a chance to talk about it in a public forum with a diverse audience… Thanks, Ray! 

A win for contact, for panels, for communication.

December 3, 2007

The panel discussion today on Internet media went really well (I think). It really gave a bunch of random people with similar interests a chance to chat about the importance of Internet, blogging and journalism with regards to all of our respective cultures and societies.

It was amazing – as it usually is – to meet people in person who I’ve had online relationships with, or a general online awareness of. People are constantly bagging each other online without meeting each other, and often what is considered hate speech is not really meant to be. How can you judge a person whose eyes you’ve never looked into?

I included my agenda below; that is how I broke down Mideast Youth for the panel.

Internet media: Strategies and Challenges Facing Internet News, Web and Blog Sites.

internet media panel

What is Mideast Youth?

  • Media Center:
    • Alternative news voice:
      • Realistic: news, culture and youth perspective represented. Youth + technology + the need for self-expression = amazing potential.
    • Multi media: There are more than one way to express yourself on the Internet. Mideast Youth includes –
      • Blogging
      • Podcasts
      • Video
      • Photo
      • Forums
  • Activism:
    • Petitions
    • Affiliate sites
    • The site itself serves as an example for tolerant conversation and the possibility for open-minded communication.
  • Conversation:
    • Often, the comments are more interesting than the posts themselves…
    • Challenge: Emotions are real and these are everyday topics for us.
    • Challenge: There’s a tendency for people to assume they need to be political all the time; this can be destructive in large doses.
  • Contact:
    • Contact theory/dialogue takes charge here. Arabs, Israelis, Iranians, Southeast Asians and more come together, for better or worse, to a public contribute to a conversation and make contact with various “Others”.
    • Exposure to people from all over:
      • Personally, I’ve read blogs I never would have come across. I chat with other members on i.m. and share and communicate one-on-one.
    • Challenge: Internet media is inherently not face-to-face, so there is still a level of distance.

A conversation about… conversations.

December 1, 2007

Ray Hanania is a syndicated columnist, comedian and Palestinian American who tours in my neighborhood. He’s currently in Israel for a comedy tour and on Monday, I’m participating on a panel he organized to discuss Internet Media: Strategies and Challenges facing Internet News Web and Blog sites. 

I’ll be representing Mideast Youth and discussing the importance of communication between members of Mideast youth via the internet: Communication, contact, conversations. Worthy cause, right?

Here are the details if you happen to be nearby and want to join the conversation:

SPJ-Arab Journalists

Monday, Dec. 3, 2007
Ambassador Hotel, Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem
1st Floor Conference Room

Sponsored by NAAJA, SPJ-Arab Journalists

PANEL 1: Internet Media: Strategies and Challenges facing Internet News Web and Blog sites
Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, 12-2:30

– Moderator, Charley Warady, co-host, Israelisms, an online weekly audio blog of life in Israel (Confirmed)
– Alan Abbey, Former editor,, one of the most popular English language news sites from Israel (Confirmed)
– Khaled Abou-Aker, Editor,, a center for Palestinian, Israeli and Middle East opinion (Confirmed)
– [Me], one of the highest ranked Middle East news blogs on the Internet (Confirmed)
– Fadi Abu Sada, Director Palestine News Network, an online news agency (Confirmed – or a representative if he is not allowed to cross from Bethlehem)
– Sherif Hedayat, standup comedian, online video producer

PANEL 2: Traditional Media: Strategies and Challenges facing coverage of the Palestine-Israel Conflict
Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, 2:45-5:30

– Moderator: Ray Hanania, syndicated columnist, SPJ-Arab Journalists coordinator, and Arab Writers Group Syndicate manager. (Confirmed)
– Steve Linde, managing editor, The Jerusalem Post, editor at Israel Radio. Linde has worked at the Jerusalem Post for the past 10 years and 18 years at Israel Radio. (Confirmed)
– Lisa Zilberpriver, reporter Haaretz Newspaper. (Confirmed)
– Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers Jerusalem Bureau (Confirmed)
– Joel Greenberg, Middle East correspondent for the Chicago Tribune (Confirmed)
– Zaki Abu Al-Halaweh, correspondent for al-Quds Newspaper (Confirmed)
– Issa Sharbati, correspondent for al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper (Confirmed)

The event is open to the public. We encourage you to have lunch at the Ambassador Hotel prior to the conference.