history is being made, as you read this.
A LONG read -- 7 pages -- yet the best kind of hopeful human epic.
It's new and courageous -- Jews and Palestinians discovering a new place and one another.
As eight unlikely Holy Land partners -- women and men -- brave the next days and weeks together "Breaking The Ice" in Antarctica, we will shorten and send you excerpts from their Daily Log.
You can sail and trek with them, and make their shared adventure "yours."
If you want these stories on your neighbors' doorsteps, you can also point your local newspaper editors to the full Daily Log of "Breaking The Ice" at:
There are photos. And daily video clips are available for your television newcasters, too.
BREAKING THE ICE -- Daily Log
-- December 25th to January 4th
Thursday, 25 December 2003
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 (which they'll name).
The four Israelis and four Palestinians come from a variety of backgrounds.
Two of the Israelis are former members of elite commando unit of the Israeli army, and one of the Palestinians served three years in prison for firebombing Israeli troops.
"They're not all 'peaceful pigeons'," says Mr. Nathaniel (project initiator).
28 December 2003
On the road (Punta Arenas, Chile)
The expedition group has just arrived in Punto Arenas, Chile. . . in great spirits. . .relieved that they are almost complete now and that all the technical equipment needed is with them. They flew from Tel Aviv via Barcelona to Madrid, where they picked up satellite communications engineer Tony Robinson and production editor Mario Dieringer as well as mountain guide Denis Ducroz who joined from Berlin, London and Geneva respectively. Still missing is Nasser Quass, who had to fly from Jordan and will be meeting the group in the next few hours. Tomorrow, they will set up the satellite transmission equipment for a final test, transmitting video footage shot before and during the flight - which will already be available to broadcasters.
29 December 2003
The team is complete!
Palestinian expedition member Nasser Quass received a warm welcome when he arrived in Punta Arenas on Monday, a day after the others. Nasser was forced to delay his departure from the Middle East due to a last minute diplomatic mission assigned to him by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Before leaving for Chile, Nasser first set off for Cairo, where he joined a delegation of Palestinians sent to apologize to the Egyptian government for the rough reception its foreign minister had received the week before at the hands of Islamic extremists in Jerusalems Al Aksa mosque. There, they had thrown shoes at him in protest against Egypts efforts to help mediate a cease fire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
While awaiting his arrival, the other expedition members took a look around this city of 100.000, located along the Straights of Magellan, named after 16th century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who was the first to circumnavigate the globe. They had a last minute shopping list. . .their purchases included large quantities of motion sickness remedies, meant to ease the days ahead.
30 December, 2003
Leaving Punta Arenas
Today. . .packing up and getting ready to move. . .the team shuttled southward to Puerto Williams, the southernmost town on the face of the earth. It is there that theyll get their first look at the Pelagic Australis and the Pelagic, two small sailing yachts that will take them across the thousand kilometer wide Drake Passage. Separating South America from Antarctica, the Drake passage is known for its stormy weather, considered by sailors to be the roughest patch of sea on the planet.
Wednesday, the last day of the year 2003, the team will be busy with equipping the yachts. . .After months of excitement and preparation, it does get real pretty soon. Once once the yachts have left the harbour, there will be no way back.
31 December 2003 -- New Year's Eve
Ice Breakers Reach the Waters Edge
At the end of Patagonia and the beginning of their adventure, the eight Israelis and Palestinians of the Breaking the Ice peace expedition reached Puerto Williams at the southern tip of Chile, flying in on an aircraft so small that it had to make two round trips to accommodate the team and all its trekking equipment. One of the surprises of the flight came when they discovered that the man piloting the Twin Otter bush plane was Osman Assad, himself a third generation Palestinian immigrant to Chile.
At first glance Puerto Williams (pop. 2500) looks like a shantytown. This remote outpost anchors Chiles hold on the regions rich mineral deposits and forest lands against claims from neighboring Argentina that, in the past, have fueled conflict between the two nations.
After settling into two small guesthouses. . .the team members made their way down to Puerto Williams tiny yacht basin for their first encounter with Pelagic Australis and Pelagic, their two sailing vessels.
Another full day of preparations. . .before the team sets to sea on January 1. . .expected to play an active role in crewing the yachts. With virtually no sailing experience, theyll have to learn everything. . .weigh anchor. . .hoist sails. . .flush marine toilets. . .seasickness and how to deal with it.
On the morning after, with Palestinian Ziad Darwish cutting vegetables for salad and Israeli Avihu Shoshani scrambling eggs, they enjoyed one of the last meals theyre assured of being able to keep down before they sail onto the waves in pursuit of their objective -- Breaking the Ice.
Tonight. . .all their equipment stowed, these peacemakers will join the rest of the world in celebrating the beginning of 2004. Far from their families and friends, theyll usher in the New Year with wishes that it may be far better -- and far more peaceful -- than the one theyre leaving behind.
1 January 2004 -- New Year's Day
Set out on sea
At the first minute of the new year, the team raised their cups in celebration, trading hugs and kisses and best wishes for the year ahead. The New Year's party, held in a tiny Chilean Navy outpost at the southern tip of South America, brought together four Israelis and four Palestinians -- people far more accustomed to confrontation than expressions of affection. They traded toasts of "lechaim" and "sacha", wishing one another "life" and "health", and hoping aloud that 2004 will be better than 2003, 2002, 2001 and any number of other years before these.
Early the next morning, at an hour when most people around the world were contemplating a day of relaxation, the team was busy making final preparations on Pelagic Australis, the ocean-going yacht that will carry them to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Israeli expedition leader, Doron Erel, stowed mountaineering gear in the boats forward hold, helped by Palestinian team member Nasser Quass. The realization that Erel once served in an elite Israeli army combat unit -- and that Quass spent three years in an Israeli prison for throwing a Molotov cocktail at Israeli troops -- lent special poignancy to an otherwise prosaic moment.
The dream is for real (In the Beagle Channel, Chile)
Pelagic Australis skipper, Steven Willis, had good news: the weather forecasts for the unpredictable Drake Passage showed a window of opportunity. The preparations moved into high gear and the realization crept in that the dream of Israeli businessman Heskel Nathaniel was about to become a reality. It was about a year ago that he first conceived the idea of combining his love of extreme sport with his desire to do something to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. The result was what most of his friends told him was an absolutely crazy idea: taking a group of Israelis and Palestinians to Antarctica to see if they were capable of working together in order to do things most people never attempt.
"I knew that to make it across the Drake Passage, to trek 20 miles across Antarctic glaciers and to reach the peak of a mountain that no one had ever climbed before would demand real teamwork. And I knew that if we could succeed it would send an important message to both our peoples and the whole world. We have to prove that we can do the impossible. Thats the same challenge we face in making peace."
2 January 2004
Iceberg's tip surfacing (Drake passage)
Psychological challenges will play a major role. How will Israeli Special Forces veteran Avihu Shoshani be able to overcome his distaste for the actions of Suleiman al-Khatib, a Fatah Organization activist? As al-Khatib made a farewell phone call to Yasser Arafat, Shoshani stood on the side shaking his head. "Just like that old guy, Suleiman was also in jail for attacking Israelis. Now he says hes abandoned violence in favor of diplomacy. So whys he making a folk hero out of a guy who murdered Jews?"
Thats just one iceberg tip out of many that are bound to surface during the weeks ahead as the group makes its way further southward. As they begin to understand that the routine of round-the-clock on-deck watches, cold weather and seasickness is more than a one day "experience" these voyagers from the Middle East are likely to find their nerves fraying fast. Yet all of them know that their success and safety depend upon overcoming their differences and working together in a way that, should they succeed, will truly set a new precedent for their peoples.
Brief contact via Iridium. Another 36 hours to go. Bit of a rough sea, half the crew is seasick, the second boat is out of sight as the Pelagic Australis is much faster. Although cameraman Colin Rosin is not that chirpy himself, they will transmit some video footage in the next few hours. Broadcasters get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Drake
This is not a pleasure trip. . .seas are rough. . . accommodations are Spartan. Nobody sits back waiting to be served. Everybody is expected to pull his or her weight. In the middle of their way across the Drake Passage, between. . .Puerto Williams, Chile and. . .the Antarctic Peninsula. . . learning what it means to take part in an 'extreme adventure'. . .standing watch on the deck of Pelagic Australis. . .four hours on and four hours off. . .throughout the day and night, rain or shine, wearing thick, heavy storm suits and boots to help ward off the cold and wet. . .trussed in harnesses and clipped onto safety ropes to prevent falling into seas so cold they promise a speedy death to any who remain in them. . . learning enough seamanship to assist the watch leader in trimming, hoisting, furling and unfurling a complex arrangement of sails connected to an even more complex array of ropes, pulleys and winches -- all with names unfamiliar to Middle Eastern landlubbers. . .a wealth of nautical terms and concepts to digest.
Olfat Haider, the Arab-Israeli physical education teacher from Haifa, has become a standout sailor, spending long hours on deck adjusting the rigging and looking at the sea. Watching her watching the waves, I remembered how, two months ago, she told me that she'd love to take a break from the grind of Middle Eastern life and set off to experience the world.
In his or her own way each of the expedition team members is learning. . .Drake Passage and the challenges it presents to sailors. . .large ocean swells on the best of days. . .quickly moving storms on the worst. . .Even in these summer months (in the southern hemisphere), the Drake is grey, windy, misty and cold, with unpredictable weather that can put sailors at peril with little or no advance warning.
In a vessel like Pelagic Australis. . .smaller. . .the passengers feel every wave, every change in wind conditions and every rock and roll of the boat. For some. . .the experience has been more than extreme. Palestinian team member Suleiman el-Khatib survived a decade in Israeli prisons, but succumbed almost immediately to seasickness, spending most of his time between his berth and the nearest toilet. Video cameraman Colin Rosin shares that fate.
For those who still have their appetites, Palestinian journalist Ziad Darwish is putting on a star performance in Pelagic Australis' modest galley, whipping up one gourmet meal after another, seemingly undisturbed by the fact that everything is in constant motion. As the boat pitches and rolls, poured liquids veer to unexpected destinations. Plates slide from one place side to another. And anything not firmly held down seems to take on a life of its own.
As we look off into the waves. . .not a speck of land in sight. . .navigating perilous waters, known for their ability to surprise and punish. . .Yet, aboard Pelagic Australis all seems calm.
As the hours go by. . .one shift of the watch replaces the next. . .Every shift pairs Israelis and Palestinians. . .they carry out their duties. . .developing the relationships that will be essential to the success of the extreme adventure.
3 January 2004
Past the 50s (Among the South Shetland Islands)
The Pelagic Australis has just crossed 60 S, now truly being in Antarctic Waters. . .a book found on the boat describes what some of the crew (especially seasick Suleiman and cameraman Colin) really don't want to hear:
"You've noted the way cyclonic movements race across the Southern Ocean. . .shifts of winds. . .It's the same off the Horn, except the wind is madder there. . .seas higher, ice nearer. . .You get no sleep. . .You'll get so wet for so long that your skin will come off with your socks, if you get the time to take them off. But with luck you'll get past Cape Horn and by the grace of god, you won't kill anybody."
On Saturday afternoon, the serenity began slipping away. . .sea and air temperatures drop dramatically, affected by the ice mass of the still distant frozen continent. . .clear skies and endless vistas we'd enjoyed since leaving Chile gave way to a dismal, claustrophobic fog. . .the brisk breezes that had pushed us along began building, growing into gale force winds of up to 65 km/h. . .the world was about to turn on its side.
The storm hit us. . .a wild, dramatic clash of weather systems. . .After two days of smooth sailing. . .beginning to think that the horror stories. . .sailing across the Drake Passage from Chile to Antarctica. . .some were seasick and others drowsy from pills to prevent seasickness.
During watch shifts on deck. . .Yarden and Nasser had time to ponder the vast southern ocean, its emptiness punctuated only by the occasional appearance of a solitary Great Wandering Albatross or a duet of Cape Petrels. . .Both come out here in search of food, covering incredible distances. . .With no land in sight and no place to rest, it's difficult to imagine their existence.
Pelagic Australis was severely buffeted. . .tilted to a 45-degree angle. . .the expedition team wondering where to find the floor. . .on deck, waves crashed over the bow, showering the watch with icy spray. . .there was no distinction between experienced sailors and rank beginners. . .everyone was pitched to and fro as they tried to move about the interior of the boat. . .Climbing in and out of berths became an acrobatic challenge. . .Pouring a glass of water required guessing the correct angle -- and always getting it wrong. . .Using the head (toilet) became an indescribable experience that everyone, of course, felt absolutely compelled to describe. . .Their laughter showed that on this subject, at least, these Israelis and Palestinians seem to be in total agreement.
But the humor gave way to seriousness when Olfat Haider finished her trip to the head with a flying leap, back first, into a handrail. The expedition's physician, Arik Shechter, treated her for a severe bruise to the pelvis but told her she could expect a full recovery.
Sunday, 4 January 2004
By Sunday morning the worst was over. . .winds began to drop . . .seas were somewhat calmer. . .Those of us who poked our heads above deck discovered. . .the real saga had just begun. We had reached the land of the icebergs.
Most of us have encountered icebergs in the pages of nature magazines, school textbooks or television programs. Every Israeli and Palestinian schoolchild knows (or is supposed to) that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg, that at least three-quarters of its mass is hidden beneath the surface of the water. This theoretical knowledge spawns many comparisons, including those that liken the enormity and depth of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an iceberg: their genuine complexity and intractability have exceeded the ken of all erstwhile peacemakers to date.
This morning. . .Israelis and Palestinians of the Breaking the Ice expedition saw icebergs with their own eyes -- up close, from the deck of a small sailing yacht. . .dwarfed by massive, moving white mountains. . .icebergs tinted blue by the pure waters of their glacial birthplaces. . .as big as cities. . . icebergs whose real size we could only guess at. . .lapped by chilly Antarctic seas.
For a moment, at least, there were no Palestinians or Israelis aboard Pelagic Australis. There were only human beings, humbled and brought together by something far greater than themselves and stimulated, perhaps, to wonder when the ice that separates their two peoples will finally thaw.
And then it comes into view. A rocky island, surrounded by scattered icebergs -- seemingly no place to visit. . .as we sail along its shore a surprise awaits. . .an opening comes into view between two rocky protuberances. . .Beyond it lays a vast expanse of water surrounded by snow capped mountains. . .a volcanic crater where once British whalers made their camp. . .Deception Island -- the first destination on our Antarctic adventure.
Tomorrow we begin to explore.