"You who do not live in the heart of  the Middle East conflict have an advantage.  You can be more objective."
     These January, 2006, words are from an Israeli participant in Arab-Jewish Sustained Dialogue in California.
     They appeal for creative, perpetual help from the outside by citizens who can be want the best for both peoples equally.
     Yet citizens worldwide remain passive and sadly dependent on inept governments -- uncreative, succumbing to fear, lionizing the soldier.
     Not realizing that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

     In the early 1980s Jody Williams was not on track to win the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
     She was working for a temporary employment agency.
     Yesterday -- Monday, January 9, 2006 -- Jody told us through National Public Radio:

"For me, the difference between an 'ordinary' and an 'extraordinary' person is not the title that person might have, but what they do to make the world a better place for us all.

"I believe in both my right and my responsibility to work to create a world that doesn't glorify violence and war, but where we seek different solutions to our common problems. I believe that these days, daring to voice your opinion, daring to find out information from a variety of sources, can be an act of courage.

"I believe that worrying about the problems plaguing our planet without taking steps to confront them is absolutely irrelevant. The only thing that changes this world is taking action."

     Click on "Listen" for 5 minutes and be inspired by Jody Williams in streaming audio on the Internet by her toward activity and courage, at:


     For Jody, "its about trying to do the right thing even when nobody else is looking."

    The world may not yet be looking or noticing, but citizens in (1) Japan and (2) Hungary, seemingly far from the Middle East conflict, are "doing the right thing" -- pouring themselves and their creativity into healing the Palestinian-Israeli relationship.

===   Japan   ===

     It is Japanese student-invented, student-driven, student-organized, and student-sustained year around. . .for others half a world away.
     The 4th Japan-Israel-Palestine Joint Student Conference -- August 9-28, 2006 in Japan --  a summer program to create an opportunity for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinian students who cannot easily have close contact on daily basis, and to help them maintain their connections year-round.
     "Sustainable dialogue has meaning, I believe, so we try to connect students of both sides not only in the days of our conference but also before and after this," e-mailed conference coordinator Akane Hayashi ( s091071@yamata.icu.ac.jp ) from the Division of Social Science, International Christian University, Tokyo.
     As with North American residence camps -- http://traubman.igc.org/camps.htm -- students who live in areas of conflict are invited to Japan for several weeks to live together in a common, safe environment where authentic, effective communication can take place.
     They also hope people living in Japan will thus be more conscious of their own society where they live, create more connection between self and society, and be interested in the larger world and especially a more whole, humane view of the Middle East and its people.
     These socially responsible Japanese student say: "After the conference, if participants share the experiences with people around them, it could influence their communities. Something larger might be born from this. A small step but a step forward."
     "Creating Together" is the 2006 theme, with Israeli, Palestinian and Japanese students communicating and consulting heavily to create the content of their program.
     They receive e-mail at  info@jipsc.org .
     Photos and much more are at the students' Web site -- http://jipsc.org/en/

     This kind of action and relationship building is grounded in excellent Japanese student research of scholar Yuichi Ohta at the International Christian University, Tokyo.
    Ohta's 1993 thesis -- BRIDGING DIFFERENT TRUTHS: Creating Dialogue for Reconciliation and Healing -- is found at::


===   Hungary   ===

     Imagine "Romeo and Juliet in Jerusalem."
    In new, out-of-the-box, creative Budapest ballet theatre, Romeo is an Israeli Jew, Juliet a Palestinian.
     There's a new twist.  After drinking from the poisoned chalice, the two lovers eventually regain consciousness.
     Its a happy ending, as its my wish that finally the conflict ought to be solved, Marko said.
     Hungarian Jew Ivan Marko, a former dancer who directed and choreographed the ballet, wants audiences to see that love and humanism can overcome all enmities."
     Performed to fulll houses at the Hungarian National Dance Theatre -- tickets are sold out for months -- it has been invited next year to Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United States, Mexico,and hopefully the Israel Festival in Jerusalem.
     Take heart.
     See how creative individuals from outside a war zone can introduce unprecedented compassion and creativity for the good of all.
     Indeed, we need each another. 
     Every individual, every idea matters.
    "Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things."


In Mideast Romeo and Juliet,
love overcomes all obstacles
By: Agnes Bohm

     BUDAPEST, Dec. 28 (JTA) An adaptation of Romeo and Juliet to the Israeli-Palestinian context is proving to be a huge success in Budapest.
     Romeo and Juliet in Jerusalem Romeo is an Israeli Jew, Juliet a Palestinian is being performed to full houses at the Hungarian National Dance Theater and has been invited next year to Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United States and Mexico, among other places. It also may be performed at next years Israel Festival in Jerusalem.
     Ivan Marko, a former dancer who directed and choreographed the ballet, taught and worked at Israels Rubin Academy from 1991-1993.
     The conflict in my Romeo and Juliet ballet is not between two feuding families, but rather a clash between traditions, religions and cultures, he said.     We deal with two religions and cultures that are connected to each other in many ways, but still are enemies with hatred between the two peoples.
     He hopes to show the audience that love and humanism can overcome all enmities, Marko said. As a Jew, I wanted to show how I feel about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
     One of the changes in the show is that Romeo has no family, and a rabbi who replaces the Catholic priest of Shakespeares original play is Romeos symbolic father. The rabbi blesses the young lovers secret marriage.
     Theres also a happy twist to what has become an iconic tragedy: After drinking from the poisoned chalice, the two lovers eventually regain consciousness.
     Its a happy ending, as its my wish that finally the conflict ought to be solved, Marko said.
     Juliets face is covered during the show, except when she dances with Romeo. The music is Arabic when Juliets family is on stage, and changes to Eastern European Jewish sounds when its Romeos turn.
     Tickets for the performances are sold out for the next few months, and the show will move to a bigger theater next year.
     For us Israelis, its very interesting to know how much the Jewish issue interests the Hungarian people, Aya Admon Maysels, an artist and wife of David Admon, Israels ambassador to Hungary, told JTA.
     In the past, it wasnt usual in Hungary to freely express your Jewish identity, she said. Today no one has to hide who he or she is. Its very important that one can say freely, Im Jewish, and I feel free to express it, and in Markos ballet this is explicitly stated.