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Achieving peace through therapy

by Archives October 29, 2003

He may not have solved the Middle-East problem in three hours, but he certainly renewed hope that it can someday be resolved. Renowned drama therapist Armand Volkas held a public workshop on Sunday afternoon in an attempt to heal the wounds between the Palestinian and Israeli communities at Concordia.

Drama therapy involves acting out a troubling emotion or one that is causing psychological distress. In this exchange, the patient and therapist try to work through the issue and heal the psychological harm. Five students of Concordia’s drama therapy program worked with Volkas to interpret people’s feelings. Volkas faced a full crowd at Oscar Peterson’s Concert Hall on the Loyola Campus. The audience included Concordia students, alumni, and curious onlookers.

“I thought that the topic is very interesting,” said Pardis Zarnegar. She came to see her friend perform with the drama troupe. “This is another way of exploring this issue and I’m curious to see how they’re gonna do it.”

It was a fully interactive therapy session for everyone in the room. At the start of the afternoon, Volkas asked the crowd to shout out words that represented their feelings towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The words that were shouted included pain, anger, hate, death, greed, injustice, and revenge.

The show featured two Israeli and Palestinian women who shared stories about how they were affected by events in the Middle East.

Audience members were also invited up to the stage to tell their own stories of discrimination and injustice. The actors then acted out the story and emotional aftershocks. As one woman put it, “The actors felt what I was not able to say.”

Audience members were encouraged not only to interact with Volkas, but also with each other, creating a feeling of solidarity for the need of a resolution. “How many lives have to be lost?” one woman asked her neighbour.

Near the end of his talk, Volkas again asked that words about the conflict be shouted out. This time, the words were much more promising. hope, forgiveness, mercy, respect, possibility, and communication were all called out.

Mira Rosenberg, a grad student in the drama therapy program, has been to Israel numerous times. She said that Volkas’s talk was effective.

“His method of listening to peoples’ stories and then viewing the embodiment of their stories is an affective way to humanize the situation and just to show something other than what is on the news.”

A man who asked that his name not be used stated, “I want peace in the world. And this is where it’s gonna happen. If we can get peace in the Middle East, I think we can get peace all over the world.” An Israeli participant in the workshop, Joe (Chaim) Ronn, said his earliest memory is of being carried down to the basement at age one when the Arab states attacked Israel in 1948. He took part in Volkas’ therapy workshop in an attempt to come to terms with his experiences and said that a lot has been achieved.

“I think that there are some very agonizing issues that many of us want to address. Either Palestinian background or Israeli background, we feel that we’re frustrated because we don’t seem to be reaching the other side […] I don’t think we’re necessarily changed each other’s opinions politically but I think that certainly we’ve approached each other’s humanity.

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