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This is a guest post by Jon Hall, one the participants in our current Learning Lab which is now in our third month of study in our Understanding Phase and moving toward our Exposure Phase on the ground in Israel/Palestine next month. The photo above is from his neighborhood, Golden Hill.

“As a kid looking out the bathroom window, having Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Bob Marley whispering words of dissent and encouragement in my ear… what I got from them was the simple idea that the world outside my window was not fixed, and that it was more malleable than everyone else was telling (me). ‘We’re telling you that the world can be changed, and that you must change too.’”
—Bono, when asked how music and his activistic life came about, in his interview with Charlie Rose.

As I write this, I’m deep in the Understanding Phase of The Global Immersion Project. And by this time next month, my fellow participants and I will be in the second of three phases of The Global Immersion Project’s process, the Exposure Phase, where we’ll be immersing in one of the world’s most complex, intense conflicts, that of Israel and Palestine. In preparation for that, we’re reading insightful, provocative books, watching videos and listening to lectures that are opening my eyes, mind and heart to the complex realities of the Israel/Palestine conflict. We’re having conversations where leaders at The Global Immersion Project guide and inform, ask questions and illuminate texts and ideas. And in that, Bono’s words come rushing at me, whispering possibilities that things can indeed change, that I can change, that transformation (and peace) is possible.

Participating in The Global Immersion Project has not only illuminated for me the complexities of the global conflict we’ll be immersing in—Israel/Palestine—but it has also shed light on realities of conflict in everyday life, conflict that exists even in my own neighborhood, and how to approach it in a better way. In one of the books we’re reading by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Embracing Israel/Palestine, he states:

“As long as each community clings to its own story, unable to acknowledge what is plausible in the story of the other side, peace will remain a distant hope.”

This is true with the immensely complex and dangerous conflict in Israel/Palestine, and it’s equally true right here, in my own city. I live in an urban neighborhood of San Diego, who’s self-proclaimed motto is “America’s Finest City.” Unseen in tourist packages or vacation brochures, my neighborhood is one of many in San Diego that has a mix of diverse ethnic realities, gang activity, affluent progressives refurbishing old homes and long-time residents who’ve lived their whole lives here. Immigrant families live in small apartments, hipsters rent old victorians and tension often exists between haves and have-nots. The seventh largest city in the U.S., San Diego has the third highest homeless population in the country. The tension between groups, peoples and ideologies can be high, and like most urban settings, conflict is a daily reality.

So while I am immersed in Lerner’s historical and geo-political insights into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, transfixed by Lederach’s concept of conflict transformation, or Stassen’s insights on just peackemaking, I am seeing how conflict is both a local and global reality, one that requires both influential leaders and everyday people like me to take a new approach if we are to realize a humanity of peace. I’m thankful that Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart have, through The Global Immersion Project, chosen to dedicate much of their lives to helping others see what they’ve seen. May the fruit of their efforts, and those of us learning from their leading, pay dividends for us all.

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