"'More person-to-person contact" answered "without hesitation" Ambassador Dennis Ross, veteran U.S. Department State negotiator, when asked what he would have done differently over the many years he worked on the Middle East peace process.
     Thus reports Helena K. Finn, senior American diplomat, in "The Case for Cultural Diplomacy" in the 2003 November-December issue of the prestigious journal, FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
     "Cultural diplomacy is one of the most potent weapons. . . yet its importance has been consistently downplayed in favor of dramatic displays of military might," the diplomat reminds all of us.

      While governments alone continue to be unwilling or inept to move beyond war and taking sides -- dependable failures -- the citizen-driven "public peace process" continues creative breakthroughs and exemplary creativity while tradition-burdened "old thinkers" continue to resist and "object."
     2003 in North America saw the first-ever Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp --Oseh Shalom~Sanea al-Salam. 
     Joint youth summer camps continued: Building Bridges for Peace; Face-to-Face/Faith-to-Faith; Seeds of Peace; Seattle's Middle East Peace Camp for Children; New Mexico's Creativity for Peace Camp; the Sunday, July 20th First Day of Global Arab Jewish Dialogue initiated by a Washington, DC Arab businessman; an all-time high exceeding 60 known Dialogue groups, plus 22 more on university campuses.
     2003 in the Middle East saw activity continue despite violence and severely closed borders: Givat Haviva Center for Peace; Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace) model village; Hand-in-Hand Arab-Jewish schools; Peace Child Israel; Israeli Palestinian Peoples Peace Campaign; Ta'ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership; the Palestinian-based Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation; the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East, in Beit Jallah, West Bank, and many more.
     Creative political solutions flowered in the Beilin-Abed Rabbo Geneva Accord, the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Statement of Principles -- both congruent with the Roadmap -- as well as the unfolding endeavor of OneVoice to involve more and more citizens in determining their destinies.
     There was the first cooperative Israeli-Palestinian biology experiment aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, and the premier TV broadcasts of Sesame Stories to model cooperative inter-cultural programming between Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian broadcasters. 
     Finally, remember the first,  Arab-initiated pilgrimage of 260 Israeli Palestinians and Jews, equally, to Auschwitz, demonstrating it's possible to transform from the "spoilers to each other's dreams" to co-creators of a shared future.
     According to the title of Arab author Mohammed Mossad's 2003 award-winning short essay:  "They only have each other!"

     Beginning January 1st, 2004, look for something new between Palestinian and Israeli citizens -- "Breaking the Ice.
     Four Israelis and four Palestinians -- two women and six men -- will set sail from Chile on a sea and land expedition to the distant reaches of Antarctica.
     Their goal: to summit and name a previously unclimbed mountain.
     The Arabs and Jews will journey together in a spirit of adventure with a quest for understanding.
     It will force people separated by deep political and religious differences to cooperate in pursuit of a shared goal.
     In order to succeed -- and survive -- these erstwhile enemies will have to work together as a team, sharing hardships and challenges that none of them could surmount as individuals.
     On their way, they will confront both physical and mental obstacles.
     In order to transcend those obstacles they will have to find the way to work as a team.
     Their vision is this:

A remote mountain on a distant continent,

With four Israelis and four Palestinians standing on its summit:

This is the dream we carry with us.

This is the dream that carries us forward.

At its peak we will raise our voices, making a joyful noise.

May our two people hear and heed our call:

To end the hatred and madness

And climb the next mountain together.

     For those interested in more depth of reporting, we will close with several news stories about the Palestinian-Israeli team the will be "Breaking The Ice."
In this last message of 2003, we urge all Jews and Palestinians -- all humans on Earth -- to move toward one another with a new quality of listening to one another and to the whole, exquisite, interconnected living system on Earth.

                     With love,   Libby and Len

Published 13 July 2003  --  70South.com, the No.1 source for Antarcticles

Israelis and Palestinians in joint expedition
Four Israelis and four Palestinians are to make a joint assault on a previously unclimbed mountain in the Antarctic Peninsula, Bangkok Post reports. The group of three women and five men are calling their peace mission a "quest for understanding". The 1,000 km sea voyage to the Antarctic is due to commence in late December when the team sets out from Ushuaia in Argentina. Once on the frozen continent they planned to set up camp and begin a 10-day trek over the ice cap towards the base of an "unclimbed and unnamed" mountain. If they successfully scale its 2,000-metre high peak, a brief ceremony will be staged and transmitted live worldwide via satellite, and a name given to the mountain. A TV crew, several reporters and photographers are to accompany the expedition to provide daily coverage.

Published Monday, 22 September, 2003 --   BBC News -- World Edition

Antarctic setting for Mid-East peace bid
     A group of Israelis and Palestinians aim to prove that the two communities can work together -- by staging a joint expedition to Antarctica.
     The project - called "Breaking The Ice" -- will take the eight-member team from Patagonia in southern Chile to the top of an unnamed peak.
     The man behind the idea, 41-year-old Heskel Nathaniel, wants to show that people can work together as individuals, despite their troubled recent history.
    "In the Antarctic, there is no way to turn back," Mr. Nathaniel told the BBC. "We're either going to win as a team, or fail together. We have to learn to understand each other, and to co-operate," he says.
     The 35-day expedition will be heavily publicized during the run-up to its departure and followed by people throughout the world via daily Internet and Videophone dispatches. The story of 'Breaking the Ice' will be brought to television in a feature-length documentary film for international distribution.
     The eight will set sail from Chile on New Year's Day, and pass through the Drake Passage before making landfall in Antarctica.
     They will then climb a previously unscaled mountain, and name it.
     As for choosing a name, "we have about 20 days to discuss that en route", says Mr. Nathaniel.
     The expedition is the first organised by Extreme Peace Missions.  More information is on the Web at:


Published 8 December 2003 -- Search for Common Ground News Service
14 December 2003 -- Arabic Media Internet Network (AMIN)
Palestinians and Israelis Choose the Extreme to Break the Ice
By: Walid Batrawi
Palestinians and Israelis Choose the Extreme
to Break the Ice
By WALID BATRAWI, award-winning free-lance journalist based in Ramallah

(Excerpt -- be sure to read the full text of Walid's excellent article)

     The fever of political meetings between Palestinians and Israelis, whether official or unofficial, may end up with a political solution to the conflict between the two nations but is yet far from breaking the ice among citizens on both sides who have suffered during the past three years.
     Away from politics, not in Jerusalem, London nor Geneva but in Antarctica four Palestinians and four Israelis chose to break the ice in their own way.
     This expedition that was officially announced in Berlin last July is initiated by Extreme Peace Missions, a non-profit organization which believes that sports can bring people together.

Published Friday, December 27, 2003 -- The Jerusalem Post

Israeli-Palestinian expedition to scale unclimbed mountain
     An atypical delegation of Israelis and Palestinians, tired of failed peace talks and treaties, has decided to tackle a new kind of summit.
     On Saturday, the team of eight shipped-off for a 35-day expedition that will land them in Antarctica, to scale and name a previously unclimbed peak.
     After flying to Madrid and then Chile, they will board a yacht on January 1, and sail to the world's iciest continent. There they will spend 7-10 days walking on glaciers, driving sleds, and finally ascending a virgin peak, to plant Israeli and Palestinian flags.
     Expecting to face heavy snowstorms and winds of over 100 kilometers an hour while in Antarctica, the unlikely teammates will spend all waking hours on the last leg of their trek roped to one another.
     The Palestinians on the expedition, all Muslims, are soccer coach Nasser Quos, 35, who spent three years in an Israeli prison for throwing a firebomb in the first intifada and later was bodyguard to PLO Jerusalem representative Faisal Husseini; Fatah member Suleiman Jamal Hatib, 32, who spent ages 14-25 in prison for his activities for the group; lawyer Ziad Darwish, 53, whose brother was killed in an IDF raid in 1982; and gymnastics teacher Olfat Hyder, in her time the only Palestinian on the Israeli women's national volleyball team.
     Jewish Israeli expedition members are professional climber Doron Erel, 44, and lawyer Avihu Shoshani, 44, who were in elite commando units; real-estate developer Hezkel Nethaniel, 40, and Yarden Fanta, 33, a PhD candidate, who trekked from Ethiopia via Sudan to Israel, illiterate, at 14.
     "When they first told me [about the expedition] I laughed to myself, it's a crazy idea," said Darwish. "But it took me only one day to decide okay, I'm willing. The world is fed up of these peace treaties. Peace is like a pyramid and you have to have a good base for a pyramid understanding between the two peoples.
     "We can prove that we Israelis and Palestinians are going as one group, not two, and together we will overcome obstacles and dangers. An Israeli will give me a hand and I'll give my hand to an Israeli it's very symbolic."
     Except for team leader Erel and friend Nathaniel, none has previously participated in extreme sports. Erel, one of Israel's top climbers, has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent, and is the only Israeli to summit Mt. Everest.
     "Hezi and I have been climbing for the last five years. When you climb in the Himalayas or trek in Alaska, you come from the peace of nature back to this crazy area and it's so difficult. You think, 'what can I do?' And this is what I do," said Erel. "I'm not naive, I don't think we'll change the world or bring peace. But what I saw [in training] was that the political things that separate us disappeared in the mountains. We were just humans fighting for what we want and we even had a great time together."
     Besides cooperating on survival, the group must agree on a name for the symbolic summit.
     "We will have 35 days on the way to discuss many political issues. But on the social, human side, nothing will prevent us from being friends or members of the same family, the 'Breaking the Ice' family," said Darwish, using the official name of the expedition."
     The project is the first of a new extreme sports coexistence organization, Extreme Peace Missions. The expedition has purportedly received the blessings of such world dignitaries as the Dalai Lama.
     Darwish went to see Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to get his blessings, he said. "He told me, 'you know Ziad, you have to go to the end of the world to show that Palestinians are looking to settle a peace.'"
     Erel said it was difficult to recruit Palestinians in the West Bank, not because of lack of interest, but because of travel permits. "I didn't ask about people's political views, we don't have to agree or sign a treaty, we just have to climb a mountain."
     In a show of support, Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman donated a painting for the main sail.
     The first Arab to summit Mt. Everest, climber Zeddy al-Rafai of Kuwait, sent a letter of endorsement, saying he was jealous that he is not participating and wishing the climbers that their "spirit may rise higher than mountains. [Prove] to the world that you can live in harmony even at the worse circumstances."
     As most of the expedition members are not professional climbers, they will be accompanied by a second team, including two mountain guides and a doctor. German Telecom, a cosponsor, will join the second team, to broadcast two-three minutes daily, and two additional cameramen, one French and one Israeli, will be making a documentary