A Regional History of Medicine in the Middle East

Revision of The Group’s Writing Retreat, 3-5 September 2019 from Sun, 04/19/2020 - 10:38

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Posted on April 19, 2020 by Anabella Esperanza

We gathered at Naveh Shalom/Wāḥat al-Salām, literally “oasis of peace” – a charming place that lives up to its name, nestling in the foothills leading to Jerusalem. Eleven members of our group came to spend three days at a writing retreat. The aim was to advance our research, whether we were writing articles, MA theses, or proposals, keeping in mind the very real need of each one of us to find time that could be spent in uninterrupted reading and writing, without any disturbances or outside activities. In short, a retreat from daily life – every researcher’s dream.

In order to write more efficiently, from time to time we made use of the Pomodoro method, in which 25 minutes of intensive writing – and only writing – is followed by a five-minute break. After three such sessions, we would take a slightly longer break. At the same some, some members of the group preferred to ignore the Pomodoros and write freely for longer periods of an hour and a half to three hours – it all depended on the task and on the person. Before and between writing sessions, we did stretches, breathing exercises and guided imaginings that lead to writings. As historians of medicine, we took the Hippocratic saying “a sound mind in a healthy body” seriously, and these exercises allowed us to begin writing while we were relaxed yet focused completely on our individual topics.  

The retreat was highly productive. By its end, we were able to submit one article (Liat), one PhD dissertation proposal (Anabella), four final versions of MA theses (Ahmad, Dan, Mayan and Neta), and a seminar paper (Ilan). Besides these specific items, the rest of the group also felt that they had made good progress in their research.

We wrote by day, but socialized by night! The first evening was devoted to games – we tested the board game Hajj and Cholera developed in our gamification project, and after supper, we played party games. The second evening was more serious, as we met with two residents of Naveh Shalom, who told us about the history and complex community life of a place where Jews and Arabs live together deliberately, and shared some of the dilemmas of coexistence. 

A sample day during the retreat:

Morning stroll or dawn writing session (optional)

8:00–8:45        Breakfast

9:00–13:00      Writing time

13:00–14:30    Lunch and rest

14:30–14:50    Waking up body and soul in preparation for writing 

15:00–16:30    Writing time

16:30–17:00    Yoga, stretching and breathing

17:15–19:15    Writing time

19:30–20:30    Supper

20:30–22:00    Evening time together