Yoga for peace in the Middle East
The URL has been copied
The URL has been copied
Yoga might seem an unusual tool to support a community of transformative leaders and to promote peaceful dialogue, but in the case of the conflict zones of Israel and Palestine, it is a powerful one.

6 American yoga instructors from the Olive Tree Yoga Foundation (OTYF) spent July and the beginning of August 2012 teaching free yoga classes and training yoga instructors in Israel and Palestine as part of OTYF’s vision to bolster a sustainable and empowering yoga community in partnership with the local yogis of Bethlehem and Beit Jala.  

Long-term sustainability
From a base studio projected to open Summer 2013 in Beit Jala (between Jerusalem and Bethlehem), OTYF will train local yoga teachers who will then spread out over Israel and especially Palestine. The teachers, being financially sponsored by collaborating studios in the US and Canada, will be able to continue teaching yoga for free, making yoga’s unifying and healing power accessible to all, whilst still making a living.

“Our goal is to train teachers who will then take over the training and mentoring throughout the area,” said Ruth Goldman, founder of OTYF. “It is ultimately up to the local women to create what their yoga community looks like once our trainings are over.”

Why yoga?
Yoga is a powerful tool for promoting peace as it is a holistic practice, focusing not just on physical fitness, but also mental, emotional and spiritual strength. Yoga builds not just self-awareness, but also teaches peaceful co-existence, respect and teamwork.

“Yoga can offer hope and possibility to women and men in an area of incredible stress and tension. Specifically in the areas in which we work, some women don’t have a space to relax,” Ruth Goldman told us. “We are working to create an oasis for women, and eventually men, to learn to teach, to be in a community of transformative leaders and teachers, and be able to make a living!”

Children 'playing' yoga
During 2 weeks in Aida Refugee Camp, children aged 3-12 were introduced to yoga both as play and as incorporated into maths, reading and English lessons, an alternative learning strategy that is planned to continue.

Yoga in Israel and Palestine
Yoga is very popular in Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where the yoga communities are huge. But in Palestine, despite there being a lot of interest, people are limited to exploring yoga because of their inability to leave occupied Palestine and the inability for Israeli teachers to enter and teach.