Settler Yehuda Shimon has been able to prevent violence with border policemen by smiling, a tactic he learned from the American-based Dale Carnegie Course business program.
As he graduated from the course this week, he described for The Jerusalem Post an incident that happened six weeks ago, when he was halfway through the class.
One morning, Border Police officers arrived with a bulldozer on the outskirts of the Gilad Farm outpost in Samaria, where he lives.
Fearing their homes could be destroyed, he and other startled settlers raced to the scene, Shimon said.
In the past, he typically would have shouted. He would have crossed his arms or waved them in the air. All of these are gestures that he now understands alienate the other party.
As an attorney, he would have demanded to see their written authorization. It was a situation that could easily have gotten out of hand, he said.
But that morning, with the words of his Carnegie instructor still ringing in his ears, Shimon decided, “I’m going to try this tactic of smiling.”
The large man, with a black beard and skullcap, relaxed his body, tried to have an upbeat outlook, and beamed at the police.
To his surprise, it worked. The police relaxed a bit as they spoke to him. Soon it became clear they had simply come to the wrong place.
Shimon is one of 25 settlers from 15 communities in Samaria that on Monday finished a three-month, 13-session course taught by Dale Carnegie Training in Israel.
The pilot program to create an group of lay ambassadors in the settlements who can promote the importance of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, was the brainchild of David Ha’ivri, the New York-born executive director of the Shomron Liaison Office.
His office subsidized the program’s cost, so that participants paid only 25 percent.
“We wanted to empower activists in our communities” to be “qualified spokespeople,” said Ha’ivri.
He is now planning a similar program for youth leaders in Samaria.
Dale Carnegie Training began as an adult education class at the New York YMCA in 1912. It boasts more than 7 million graduates worldwide and is taught in 25 languages in 80 countries.
It is designed to boost people’s self-confidence and public speaking skills by helping people control their fears. In the past 20 years it has focused more on business professionals, to help improve marketing and presentation skills.
More than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies are its clients, according to Ron Bowman, the head of its Israeli branch.
About 10,000 people have graduated from its classes in Israel since its inception here in 1973, said Bowman, who immigrated 10 years ago at age 60 to operate a branch here, after having worked for the company in the US.
He has taught all over Israel, and occasionally teaches Palestinians in Beit Jala and Jericho. This weekend he will hold a class in Jericho for a Palestinian real estate firm.
The class he taught in Samaria, which had its closing ceremony at a cafe in the Ariel settlement on Monday night, marks the first time he has focused on settlers.
“I’m not political,” said Bowman. “I’m Jewish and Zionist. I came to make a contribution.”
The skills he taught the group had to do with improving the ability to deliver a message. The principles are the same, no matter what the message is, said Bowman.
“I don’t teach these people anything; I make them aware of what they know and how to use it,” he said.
In the first class, he said, there were people who barely had the courage to speak their name, but discovered they can be dynamic speakers.
He taught in English, and participants had to be able to understand him and to speak in English.
Those who came were both secular and religious. They ranged in age from senior citizens to a “hilltop youth,” Yedidya Slonim, 19, who has helped build and man the fledgling outpost of Shvut Ami.
Slonim’s father, Ze’ev, originally from Australia, took the class as well. He said he had wanted his son to improve his speaking skills so he could promote the cause of the outposts.
In the last session, participants presented projects they wanted to do for their communities, such as to create or improve Web sites.
“We want to be a lighthouse and a source of inspiration to as many people as we can,” by showing them how vitally important it is to “hold on to every inch of biblical Israel,” said Moshe Goldsmith, the head of the Itamar settlement, near Nablus.
Participants spoke of what they had learned and how they how they had already used it.
When Rachel Shore of Yakir first stood up to speak to the group, she hesitated.
“This is embarrassing,” she said.
A classmate coaxed her to continue. “Come on, we are friends already.”
“What’s the action you want to take, what is the benefit?” asked Bowman.
Shore said she had wanted to improve publicity for Samaria. Her husband, Josh, who came to the graduation ceremony, said he was impressed that she had created an entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia for Yakir as part of her work for the class.
Noam Or said that he had not wanted to come to the class, but that the settlement of Barkan, where he lives, did not have anyone else to send. Almost immediately, he said, he was swept up by Bowman’s enthusiasm.
Three or four weeks into the class, now that he was a “spokesman,” he was asked to help with a group of visiting Dutch Christians. But thanks to the class, he didn’t end the relationship there. He sent them enthusiastic letters with pictures of the bulbs they had donated now in bloom. The visitors responded with letters of their own.
Shimon told the Post
that in Gilad Farm they had changed the way they communicated with the media.
In they past, they would send photographs and press releases after there was violence. Now they send more positive photographs.
“We are not poor people to be pitied. We are growing and building,” he said.
Alex Berman of Ra’anana said he had just wanted to improve his
communication skills and had joined this class because the dates worked
for him. He was told that the class’s location in Samaria was “random”
and that it was a mixed group.
His classmates, all of whom were settlers, laughed at the description.
Shimon told Berman that now that he “had opened his heart to the Shomron,” he “could come and live on Gilad Farm.”