"The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war."
-- Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990)
The distinguished Indian diplomat lives on and shines in this time when statesmanship and diplomacy have given way to bullying and violent means, and we wonder: "Where are the ambassadors?"
Pandit reminds us that building a Middle East and world beyond war requires dedicated lives like any supremely important objective.
It cannot be just a hobby or passing fancy. We cannot simply "want" it and go about out daily lives uninvested.
Listen to a successful investor:
"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get."
-- Ray Kroc (1902-1984), founder of McDonalds:
Here is an investor for you.
Father Bruno Hassar (1911-1996), in the midst of Holy Land separation and violence, envisioned Muslims, Jews, and Christians living together in an Oasis of Peace.
In the 1970s he did something about it. He invested his life.
He fashioned a place to live on a rugged hilltop loaned to him long-term by a Christian monastery, and was soon joined by young Jewish and Palestinian married couples.
Today, in 2005, his realized dream is Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam -- http://nswas.com/ -- the successful village of 50 families where Christians, Muslim, and Jews live in peace, each one true to his own faith and traditions, while respecting those of others. Each finds in this diversity a source of personal enrichment.
Two books most recently dedicated to this brave, exemplary village between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are:
Oasis of Dreams by Grace Feuerverger (GFeuerverger@oise.utoronto.ca)
No One Can Ever Steal Your Rainbow by Barbara Meislin (PurpleLadyByTheBay@earthlink.net)
Palestinian Muslim Laila Najjar, 20, and Jewish Adi Frish, 21, are "children" of Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam, born there in the early 1980s.
These young women are part of an increasing, new breed of young citizen leaders who refuse to be enemies.
Their shared story is re-told on the Web site of Beyond War, where we are reminded that "the means are the ends in the making."
“To truly have peace, both sides have to learn to relate to each other," says Laila.
“We all are human beings. We have to know the other side better. We need to communicate and listen,” adds Adi.
Laila: “Everyone has dreams and we have accomplished our dream of living in peace. It is important to spread the idea of the village to as many people as possible.”
Do spread the idea for Adi and Laila. They have invested their lives, so we can see and live a way that works.
Re-published by Beyond War, with photos on the Web at http://beyondwar.org/territory.php?story=0
The Territory Beyond War
MIDDLE EAST HEROES: Laila Najjar and Adi Frish
It is a typical scene. Two friends in their early twenties are sitting at a coffee shop, drinking beverages while talking and laughing over inside jokes and events from the previous night. No bystander would have the slightest notion that Laila Najjar, a Palestinian Muslim, and Adi Frish, an Israeli Jew, should be mortal enemies. As they effortlessly speak to each other in both Arabic and Hebrew, one would think that the two girls are oblivious to the fact that their two people groups are involved in one of the most deep-rooted and complicated conflicts in our world’s history.
Most Israelis see Palestinians not as friends but rather potential human bombs preparing to kill innocent civilians. This certainly is not the case based on Adi’s behavior towards Laila. And despite the Palestinian sentiment that their people are victims of oppression inflicted by Israelis, Laila shows no signs of animosity towards Adi. As the pictures of hatred and violence fill media news time slots around the world on a daily basis and as politicians spend countless hours and money seeking solutions to the crisis, these two young girls offer an image and an example representing hope and peace.
"We have a very special friendship,” Laila says. “We are like sisters. I know everything about Adi and she knows everything about me.”
"Our friendship does not depend on politics, but rather on mutual respect for each other,” explains Adi.
One of the driving forces behind this friendship is the Oasis of Peace (Neve Shalom in Hebrew, Wahat al-Salam in Arabic), a small village situated midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Oasis of Peace was jointly established by Palestinians and Israelis, including the two girls’ parents, in the 1970s as a place where the two groups could live, work and raise their children together. Over 50 families reside in the village, which has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“We are one of a kind,” explains Adi. “We are not segregated. We live and cooperate with each other. We treat everyone as an equal.”
Laila and Adi were among the first children born in the community and developed a close friendship when they started kindergarten at the integrated primary school. It is the only bilingual and bicultural school recognized by Israel’s Ministry of Education.
“We learn about each others histories, cultures and languages,” states Adi. “We understand each others identities.”
The best example of this can be seen in the way that holidays are celebrated. Although fundamentally and devoutly different in beliefs, Adi’s family invites Laila over for Jewish holidays and Laila’s family will in turn reciprocate for Arabic holidays.
As the political conflict has intensified, the friendship between Laila and Adi has grown closer, partly due to the encounter workshops that are offered as part of the educational system at the Oasis of Peace. Students, both Israeli and Palestinian, are encouraged by trained facilitators to examine each other’s opinions and emotions and thus develop tools to manage conflict.
" Of course we have disagreements,” says Laila. “ But the best way to deal with problems is to speak about them not with aggression but with openness and respect.”
For Laila, the way to peace is best exemplified in the village by living, learning and dealing with problems together.
“To truly have peace, both sides have to learn to relate to each other,” she says.
“We all are human beings,” Adi states. “We have to know the other side better. We need to communicate and listen.”
Adi currently works at a fitness club and has plans of attending university in the near future. Her choice of study would be communication between people, a subject that would be useful for many in the region.
Laila studies jewelry design in Jerusalem and hopes to return back to the Oasis of Peace to raise a family while also promoting the ideals of the village.
“Everyone has dreams and we have accomplished our dream of living in peace,” Laila says. “It is important to spread the idea of the village to as many people as possible.”
One can only imagine what the situation would be like if Laila’s wish is fulfilled and the ideals of the Oasis of Peace are prevalent throughout the entire region. If this message is communicated, how many other young Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims could be laughing together over a drink instead of resting in graves?
Treaties and political negotiations have produced little results since the outset of the conflict. With the recent failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the collapse of the 2000 Camp David Summit and the stalling of the current roadmap to peace designed by the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia, perhaps it is the ideas of two young girls who have not yet completed their university studies that truly offer us the framework to peaceful coexistence.