Could Psychedelics Help Build Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians?

Research reveals that ayahuasca could be key in erasing conflict between Israel and Palestine

Evan Lewis-Healey

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A wall at Netiv HaAsara facing the Gaza border reads the words “Path to Peace” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

New research from Imperial College London has investigated whether the psychedelic ayahuasca could be used in peacebuilding between conflict regions such as Israel and Palestine.

The study, published in Frontiers of Pharmacology, examines the relational processes between Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Palestinians when drinking ayahuasca together in a group setting. This timely piece of research may pave the way for illuminating the most important aspects that can foster better relations between conflicting groups.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew used in shamanistic rituals in South America. It combines two plants found in the Amazonian basin: Psychotria viridis, which contains the psychoactive substance DMT, and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, which allows the DMT to become orally active.

The DMT-containing plant medicine induces a particularly intense psychedelic experience; strong hallucinations and visions are common, while vomiting and elimination” purging” are also hallmarks of an ayahuasca session.

Artwork by Sydtomcat

Contemporary psychedelic research has often taken an individualistic approach to the journey- psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in the West is most often an intense and personal experience, with an individual taking a psychedelic in the presence of therapists.

However, ayahuasca is traditionally taken in group settings. As people travel around the world to journey with ayahuasca, sometimes groups of Israelis and Palestinians take the psychedelic plunge together. This provided a window of opportunity for the team of researchers to investigate whether taking ayahuasca together could affect the way that Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Palestinians could relate to each other, thus potentially identifying a catalyst for peace.

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Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD candidate at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness.