Zoughbi Zoughbi’s article, “Trauma and Resistance: Wi’am Center in Palestine”

Dear friends ,
Greetings from Bethlehem. I would like to share with you , which is published in The Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability – Trauma and Resistance Volume $ No.1, Spring 2024
You can see other articles by different writers too .
You can access the issue here: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/cjtmhd/index We would appreciate it if you could share the issue within your circles
Zoughbi Zoughbi
Wiam Center, Bethlehem, Palestine
+970 599433 988
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Kahlil Gibran
There is no nation, community, or individuals without passing through conflict, suffering, stress or trauma. Suffering is very essential for our growth because it is the driving force for change via resistance and vitality.
Our resistance is essential to change the situation … and no change without struggling, sacrificing and suffering. Change is not a mechanical or automatic process. It is a life story full of traumas, perseverance, struggle and resistance.
As Palestinians, we have four kinds of traumas at least: first, the collective trauma of 1948 NAKBA (Catastrophe) in which 600 villages were levelled and more than 750 thousand people were kicked out from their villages in historic Palestine. Most of those people moved forcefully to live in refugee camps inside the land and in the diaspora. Currently, there are 59 refugee camps around the world, precisely in the Middle East. The population of the Palestinian people is now almost 14 million; half of them are refugees who dream of returning to their homes. Collective trauma is now as a result in what is happening in Gaza as genocide, famine, and all human rights violation unfold. The trauma has been more painful and severe in the light of international states’ complicity.
The second type of trauma is intergenerational trauma that passes from one generation to another. I remember my mother, may God bless her heart, told me about the time under the Ottoman occupation in which people were living in terrible oppressive situations with famine taking its toll, unable to find food, except scavenging in the dung of the animals. This is the situation where our ancestors used to live in oppression and tyranny.
Thirdly, the family trauma has almost visited and resided in every home because of the Israel Occupation whether through imprisonment, assassination, land confiscation, house demolition and deportation among the long list of human rights violations.
The fourth type of trauma is the individual trauma in which many individuals because of the deteriorating, socioeconomic and political conditions live in traumas. Such individual trauma needs psychosocial counselling; to be more frank not all of the personal trauma related to the occupation, but could be as collateral damage. We need to deal with all of these kinds of trauma.
In fact, we are interested in trauma coping, since we do not have post-traumatic stress disorder. We live in an ongoing trauma or current trauma. Therefore, trauma healing is not part of that. We need to work hard to get rid of the trauma. Otherwise, it will be part of our psychological identity and social upbringing. As you know in the cycle of conflict, traumatized people can be perpetrators creating more people to suffer since we are not able to break the cycle of violence. The oppressed will be the oppressor, and the victims will be perpetrators, unless we break the cycle of violence by resisting oppression, struggling for justice, trauma coping and eventually reaching trauma healing.
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” – Wayne Dyer
Yes, I treat every problem as a gift and thus it becomes an opportunity for growth at the individual and community levels. All of the challenges, obstacles and difficulties that our staff and I are facing on a daily basis have transformed us and are deemed as opportunities and gifts that are utilized to help Wi’am grow, expand and prosper at the organizational level and personal level.
On the personal level, my wife, Sandra Elaine, is not allowed to come back to Bethlehem for many months or even years. Such a situation causes a lot of pain and trauma in the family coupled with anxiety and stress. My faith drives me to work hard for justice and have ample time to work for Wi’am mission to care for people, to invest in the peace garden, fundraise, reconcile between people, search, study, write and edit different articles, booklets and conduct a lot of training, workshops and convene conferences. Indeed, the blow that does not kill me, will empower me, enhance my strength, maximizes my power, and rejuvenate my energy.
Verily, my situation is as described in 2nd Corinthians: “8We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
However, on the community level, it is much more complicated and sophisticated. Collective Trauma has been accumulating over decades of injustices, oppression, tyranny and human rights violation. It was not easy for me when I heard from one person who was a holocaust survivor a few years ago who said that trauma healing and recovery will not happen, except after the seventh generations after the end of the conflict. As a Palestinian, if we talk about the seventh generation, it will be at least 140 to 210 years after the conflict ends, after the Israeli occupation leaves us. That means the struggle will continue and we should be prepared for longer years of struggle, suffering, and sacrifice so that in the end everyone can be free.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
Yes, the light enters where there are wounds. The light casts out fear and gives birth to love, brings along perseverance, baptizes resilience, and empowers the walk and the talk of all the wounded people.
Being wounded means you will be in solidarity with other wounded people, rejoice with their happiness, weep with their cries, feel, and live with them in the best and the worst conditions. Indeed, it is not enough to put yourselves in their shoes but to walk a few miles with them regardless if the road is easy or rough.
Comfort will be there if the wounded spirits meet and of course to join each other in the resistance and coping will be there and aftermath healing after all the signs of trauma start and thus helps to let the wounds disappear and begin to heal.
It takes courage to heal the wounds. Courage is in front of us and it entices us to resist and to struggle. Sometimes we cannot see it. Sometimes we cannot feel it. We need to dig for it a little bit to find courage. If we have courage, it is the only space for us to grow to be ourselves to resist oppression, to exercise our diversity, to celebrate our differences and to help us baptize our pluralism, where we will give and receive gorgeous values, creative ideas, practice openness, and grants forgiveness, enjoys dignity, enhances joy, radiates healing, and celebrate inclusion.
Healing is not a mechanic process or ten-minute oil change. It is a process of disintegration/separation/interruption of life and then challenging the trauma, fighting the oppression and then transforming into a process of return to life.
Verily, coping with trauma or healing may not be so much about getting better or improving health wise; It is about letting go of things that robs your personality or dignity; it is getting rid of all of the negative feelings and terrible expectations, to regain your sane personality and become who you are.
This is more on the personal level. The question, which poses itself nowadays persistently: Will it be as transformative on the community, national and cross-national levels?