As the sun set behind the rolling hills of the Orlicke Mountains in northern Bohemia, the group of Israelis and Palestinians, gathered for the 4th annual Connecting the Hub, was given its first task: build a Mongolian yurt. The task required leaders and followers, a little bit of engineering know-how and some magic. At first the task went smoothly. The floor boards were set quickly, the fence wall stretched around the circle, the door fit into its place, the two central pillars mounted in the middle. Then the group ran into trouble. Everyone was tired from their journeys travelling to the Czech Republic from the Middle East and the excitement of being in a new country with new people. They were hungry for dinner. And it was cold. So the group gave up for the night and the half built yurt sat abandoned – looking like an accusation or even a warning of how hard the task in front of us really was.
The next morning a small group began to work on the yurt again. They made a plan, they assigned leaders, they considered how to communicate, and they got to work. Seventy-two long beams had to be tied to the fence walls and fit into a circular piece on top of the two central pillars. The group counted, measured and heaved, but each time the poles would start popping out of place. It was frustrating and infuriating. Tempers began to shorten and people began to snap at each other. Then a suggestion was made: we have tried the mathematical approach and its not working; let’s try the intuitive approach. The group relaxed, laughed and began yet again. And then the magic started. I watched and participated in the entire process, and I still cannot tell you what, exactly happened, but somehow the poles began to fit, the balanced shifted and everything fell into place. The yurt was up! With a unified yelp of joy signifying a challenge overcome, the group rushed to put on the finishing touches. The yurt was transformed into a warm safe place for group meetings and activities. Over the next 5 days it was used for morning yoga, a body percussion workshop, exchanges on the meaning of community, a group rendition of American Pie and intense late night conversations. It became the place that provided not just shelter, but held the group together. And when the time together was over, the group took it down in 32 minutes – the fastest time on record. The group even had a song to celebrate the yurt: Halleluyurt!
by Ana Patel, Executive Director, Outward Bound Peacebuilding
Connecting the Hub is an annual gathering for alumni of the Palestinian – Israeli Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), an initiative of Outward Bound Peacebuilding in partnership with Search for Common Ground Jerusalem. The 2013 Connecting the Hub brought together 25 alums including members of the new Religious and Women Leaders cadres. The purpose of these gatherings is to provide an annual opportunity to further strengthen relationships within cadres and throughout the network, advance leadership skills through experiential outdoor activities and skills building workshops, and provide opportunities for Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) participants to contribute and give feedback to Search for Common Ground and Outward Bound Peacebuilding on new programs and network facilitation. Commemorating the 5th year of ELP, participants from all five years of cadres – Social Entrepreneurs, Political, Business, Religious and Women Leaders, met, argued, ate, smoked, laughed and hiked together for the 2013 Connecting the Hub.