Inclusivity, wise speech and communication, systems change, and taking good care

A recent interaction with an NGO in Bethlehem motivated me to articulate and formalize the beliefs and vision underpinning my work in Palestine.

This set of beliefs will provide a framework for decision-making and clarify my interactions with partner NGOs in Palestine and Israel moving forward.


  1. Systemic change towards a more equitable and peaceful world requires collective healing -- in people on both sides of the line. I aspire to be inclusive in my efforts to build resiliency and peace within populations.
  2. I will respect the right of Palestinian organizations to refuse participation in any project that includes Israeli participants, as part of their opposition to perceived normalization. In my interactions with Palestinian organizations:
    • I will ask about their policy regarding projects including Israeli participants.
    • I will remain open to partnering with organizations that oppose projects with Palestinian and Israeli participants. If they state an “anti-normalization” policy, I will explicitly affirm that I will not bring Israelis into our joint work.
    • I will be completely transparent about my collaboration with Israelis in other areas of work.
    • If asked, I will not hide my dual residence in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Wise Speech and Clear Communication

  1. I will not denounce Israeli friends or habits in order to gain Palestinian favor. I sincerely regret if I have consciously or unconsciously done this in the past.
  2. I aspire to be honest and upfront about who I am and how I operate. There is freedom and respect in honesty. Freedom exists in not having to hide who I am or fear “discovery” of my identity or behavior. Respect exists in giving the other person or organization the information they need to make an educated choice about what is best for them. I may not agree about the best choice but I will respect their right to choose. I accept that their conditions inform their belief system, just as my conditions inform mine.
  3. I commit to taking responsibility when my actions cause harm, apologizing to those I have harmed promptly and with humility. I vow to practice compassion for and non-blaming of myself, knowing that it is far too easy to wound or render myself immobile for fear of shame. I will resolve all conflicts, big or small, after looking deeply for understanding.

Systems-Level Thinking

  1. I will integrate systems level thinking into my brainstorming and planning. I am not looking to churn water, and to leave this region discouraged and tired. I aspire to create long-term, sustainable projects with the following characteristics:
    • Gives economic and social power to local individuals;
    • Exists and thrives without my physical presence;
    • Delivers shared economic value, which enables sustainability without my financial investment or constant fundraising
  2. I will employ local talent as I can afford in my projects, shining the light on individual gifts of those I meet. I will strive to pay fair wages and create opportunities for employment that exist after I am gone.
  3. I will balance projects of immediate and long-term benefit. I can begin work that alleviates suffering in the present moment -- even if this work does not create lasting systemic change. And I commit to investing in large-scale social change towards well-being for all.
  4. I will not apologize for my idealism. In fact, I will nourish my commitment to lofty ideals, allowing them to guide wise action. My ideals are grounded in my spiritual practice. I believe in the following:
    • All of us share common humanity. We have a common need for a roof over our heads, warm clothes, enough water and food, for community and contribution. Knowing this, I can develop compassion and love for others who are suffering from lack of basic needs.
    • Our lives are interconnected; as Thầy says, we inter-are. If we are aware of this relationship, we must commit to an ideal where we can all touch wellbeing and happiness. Because our happiness is intertwined.
  5. I accept that I am only one person and my work is limited by my energy and time. I will strive to create lasting partnerships with others that share my ideals and values.

Taking Good Care of Myself

  1. I will take care of my own mental health and emotional wellbeing, even when (especially when) that means taking a break or slowing down. I am included in “wellbeing for all”.
  2. I will not hide from my longing for nourishing community and long-term partnership. I will not sacrifice those needs to stay in Palestine. Sustainable work must be met by sustainable personal life. I will include myself when making decisions, and act to optimize my own happiness. I will not shame myself for desiring my own happiness.
  3. I will be clear about my economic needs for the present moment and for the future. I will not dwell in guilt or shame for making a good salary as a software consultant, or for saving the money that will allow me to feel secure about my economic future.
  4. I am fortunate to have grown up with economic and situational privilege. I will acknowledge this privileges and express my gratitude for the wealth of opportunities I had by striving to pass them along to others. I will not shame myself or hide from my own background.
  5. I know that I am imperfect and will not always say or do the right thing. My body may not feel well or have energy. My mind may be caught in distress. At these times, I vow to rest, and to meet myself in my sorrow with tender care and compassion.
Step into the labyrinth and trust in the path (overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge home in San Francisco)