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Issue: November Newsletter
The Movement Medicine Sponsorship Fund

By Rob Porteous
How do you claim your space to move and dance and be at the centre of your own circle in a context where there is inequality or injustice or violence or discrimination or war?

Read here about the Movement Medicine Sponsoship Fund, with an interview with Ben Yeger and Samar Qudha, working in Israel/Palestine, supported by the fund.

The Movement Medicine Sponsorship Fund exists to enable teachers and practitioners of Movement Medicine to take the medicine into areas where, for economic, social or cultural reasons people would not normally be able to access it.

Currently, the fund is active in supporting people in Israel/Palestine and in South Africa. To give you a flavour of this work, below is an interview I conducted with Ben Yeger and Samar Qudha at the community gathering at Rill in June this year.

The present trustees of the sponsorship fund are Rob Porteous and Jurek Skiba (co-chairs), Martin Arp (treasurer), Kate Lawrence, Petra Bongartz and Harm en Marieke.

And there is also a decision-making group on applications (consisting at the moment of Almut Ibler, Tamara Candiracci and Rob Porteous).

A number of the trustees would like to step down from their roles next year, and for that to happen new people need to take their places. In addition, most of our income comes from the sale of clothing and jewellery at the end of workshops. This is not sufficient to meet the requests for funding that we are receiving.

So we would like to encourage those of you who have ideas about fundraising, or about creating a lively, interactive website (which exists in outline at the moment, www.mm-sf.org), or who would like to be part of the decision-making group on applications to step forward. If you want to make a donation to the fund on a one-off or regular basis, please click on ‘support the fund’ on the website www.mm-sf.org and you will find some options there.

Please read what follows about our work, and consider whether you might be able to offer something to it. You can get in touch with me at robdancingcrow@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Interview with Ben and Samar June 2015.

Rob: The first thing I’d like to ask you, Ben, in terms of the peace work you’ve been doing in Israel/Palestine, what is the connection between that and Movement Medicine (MM)? In what ways is MM connected to that work?

Ben: In every way. The general work that I do in Palestine/Israel I would call MM facilitation. It’s the bedrock of everything I do, whether that’s direct action in the West Bank, or working for Combatants for Peace, or running workshops with Israelis and Palestinians, or leading direct movement workshops with Israelis or Palestinians or a mixture. So all of it is MM, and it comes in all those forms and it’s all informed by MM as a practice.

Rob: And for you, Samar?

Samar: I just started doing the work, I haven’t been doing it for a long time. For me it’s more of a vision that’s actually starting to manifest itself. It’s all new to me, bringing it and offering it to other people. I started dancing because I love dancing, I want to dance and connect. So that’s how it started with me. It was just me and my younger sister who met up with Susannah and Ya'Acov while they were still teaching Five Rhythms. We would attend these big workshops with everybody in the room Jewish Israeli. And by then it made me wonder, how can we bring this more to our community, and how much we need it as a community but also as individuals, and in our case as women. Because, culturally it’s very challenging for us to dance and express ourselves and express our bodies, not to mention our gender, of course.

Rob: And how would you see that work developing? How would you like it to develop?

Samar: I think it should develop in two parallel paths. One path would be for me to offer the movement, the medicine, to my community, which is the Palestinian community – whether inside Israel, or in Palestine/the West Bank. Because I feel that as people who are suffering, we need to do the healing ourselves, in our own community, as individuals – to know that this is a tool that can be reached out for, and use it first for my personal growth, first to connect with myself, and then (as second path) to widen the circle, to connect with brothers and sisters. Because you are very limited in your ways of freedom of speech and freedom of movement as a minority. So it’s very important to be able to own that small space, to be able to move and say ‘This is my space.’ It is important to know that I can express myself and I can dance and I can move and I am free to do that, and my community won’t judge me, my country won’t judge me.

I remember spending time with Ben in Bethlehem, which is in Palestine, the occupied territories, and he said simply: “This is your space, nobody can take it away from you.” This little sentence made me think, ‘Uh-uh, are they thinking this is really my space? Nobody can take it away from me? – And in a few minutes or a few hours there could be a siege or something could happen, and even this small room would not be my space and I would not be free to move in there.’

So I just want to emphasise that it’s very important for us to reach out for this medicine and to do the work together, Israelis and Palestinians, in Israel and Palestine. And this should happen in parallel because of the whole issue of superior and inferior, and majority and minority. I think we should meet at a point where the medicine is available in the same measure. Because at this moment I feel (and I believe it’s true) that the medicine and the dance and the freedom of movement and the connection to your body autonomy is very accessible to the Jewish Israeli people, more than to the Palestinians. I feel it should be balanced before we do joint work, for the work actually to mean something. Of course we have already started doing joint work, but for it to bring about the change that we want it to bring, for the medicine to heal the bigger picture and the conflict, the deep conflict, I think we should start in a place where we are equal, at least in our movement. [Applause]

Rob: And both of you, to what extent would you say the Sponsorship Fund has enabled this work to happen?

Ben: I think it’s enabled it to a large degree. I think it’s good to break down the things that have happened over the last 4-5 years.

Three times I’ve been supported by the Sponsorship Fund. What Samar speaks about is a vision and I’m going to talk a bit more about the structure. In the last few years when Susannah and Ya'Acov came to Israel and I had been assisting, we decided to go to the West Bank. Samar wasn’t involved at that point. By all accounts it was the first time that dancing had happened in the West Bank. That was with Combatants for Peace, and it was the start of taking the work beyond the green line. After I qualified as a teacher, Ya'Acov and I ran a last session together in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, which was a really magical session.

When I started to do the work, I was very clear that I wanted to involve Samar as well. Because, we’re sitting here all friendly, yet we’re 'enemies' really. Her whole family was kicked out from her land because of my ancestors. We need to understand that. It’s not normal what we’re doing here. It’s not usual to talk about working together in this way because her ancestry was affected directly by my ancestry. So when she speaks about space, it’s a big thing. I know you all appreciate that.

We established a relationship with an organisation in Bethlehem that ended up with two dances, one very small one with five people and the next one with 30 young people. It was like walking into any city, but it was wonderful. Young people under the age of 25 coming and dancing.

Just to give a little anecdotal story: There were quite a lot of people standing by the wall, like in a disco, thinking ‘What’s this weird music?’ And Samar came to me and said, ‘What do we do?’ So I said, ‘Just dance.’ So she walked in and did what she does, and she was really worried that they were all going to copy her, but they went, ‘OK, so that’s what we do,’ and they all got up and danced. I put on some music with a bit more beat. We had two hours of really funky dance, and that was beautiful. Since then, we’ve been doing some workshops in Haifa that Samar has organised. The numbers have fluctuated but it’s been beautiful.

The work I do for Combatants for Peace is always joint work with Israelis and Palestinians. We did a workshop in Jericho that had the largest number of Palestinians of any workshop in Israel. But also the work was very specific. The subject was conflict, so it was framed in terms of the subject we were working with. We didn’t talk about the conflict, but we talked about conflict. So the Sponsorship Fund assisted me to go there, to plan this, and assisted me to think about the strategy within which to achieve the vision that Samar was speaking about and how we can do that together.

Rob: And Caroline has been working in South Africa.

Caroline: I think it’s fine just to know that the Sponsorship Fund is supporting young people there.

Rob: The Sponsorship Fund has given money to various projects that Ben has organised, helping people to do work they wouldn’t be able to afford to do if the Sponsorship Fund didn’t exist. And just recently we were able to help someone from a township in South Africa to attend a workshop that Caroline was running. So it has a very specific intention to enable people who come from disadvantaged communities, who would normally not be able to access MM, to come and experience this work.

The punch line of all of this is that the Sponsorship Fund is very much in need of energy from new people who would be willing to contribute something towards it, particularly fundraising, with ideas about where we can raise money, how we can get more donations from people towards this work. The need is to generate more energy. We need to raise about £3,000 a year in order to continue to support people in the way that we have been supporting them, and if there are people who feel they could contribute to that, I would be delighted.

Rob Porteous, October 2015

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www. schoolofmovementmedicine.com