In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Leor Roseman and Antwan Saca join to discuss their recently published paper: Relational Processes in Ayahuasca Groups of Palestinians and Israelis. Leor is a postdoc at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, where he also received his PhD and masters under the supervision of Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris. Leor has diverse research interests related to psychedelics, ranging from the neuroscientific and therapeutic, to the phenomenological and psychosocial. Antwan is a graduate of the Arab American University of Jenin with a BA in public law and has extensive experience working for justice in Palestine. He has served as the director of programs at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and as a program coordinator for Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Antwan has also worked as a research assistant for urbanization and geopolitical monitoring at the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem.
In this episode, Leor and Antwan discuss the details of the recent paper they co-authored which deals with impacts of ayahuasca on interpersonal peace building in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The study consists of 31 in-depth interviews with Israelis and Palestinians who’ve participated in joint ayahuasca ceremonies and looks to investigate the impact of this psychedelic experience along three relational themes: unity-based connection, recognition and difference-based connection, and conflict-related revelations. Through open-ended interviews, Leor and Antwan were able to collect qualitative data from participants which allowed research conclusions to arise organically.
In the interviews, participants disclosed experiences of profound political revelations, connection with the land, and empathy for the other. Leor and Antwan stress that the initial motivations of the participants typically had little to do with notions of political peace-building and instead they were most often participating in these psychedelic ceremonies for reasons related to personal growth, so these outcomes arose naturally as a result of the intense interpersonal connections spurred by the psychedelic experience.
Though these ayahuasca ceremonies had significant positive impacts for both the Israelis and the Palestinian participants, Antwan notes the disparity of access to psychedelic healing for Palestinians and emphasizes that the “love for the other” the Palestinian participants experienced through the ayahuasca ceremonies is complicated due to the pervasive political supression and percarity experienced by Palestinians in their day-to-day lives. The study, however, demonstrates that profound experiences of connection through the use of psychedelic medicines are possible even in the context of a deep and traumatic geopolitical conflict. This opens the door for further study of the potential of psychedelics to facilitate conflict resolution and peace-building.
In this episode:
How Leor and Antwan developed the idea for this study based on their personal backgrounds Different themes which came up in interviews with the Israelis and Palestinians in the study The moving story of a former Israeli military officer and how he experienced the pain of the Palestinian people during an ayahuasca ceremony How music and prayer in the ceremonies helped to encourage empathy and cultural connection among participants
“It’s not questionnaires, it’s not about measuring things, it’s about listening to stories and making meaning out of them.” [13:24]
“Because the rituals were participatory and music and prayers were shared, a lot of times these opened up for people the strong connection to the other culture or the other people and that was very meaningful for many people.” [21:34]
“A lot of us Palestinians end up in the interviews telling you ‘this is all amazing’ and yet there is the reality, yet we live under this kind of suppression.” [29:11]