Palestinians, Jews unite at
Sunday, 14 October 2007
"There can be no dark where there is light.
Too often we spend our time and energy worrying about how to dispel darkness.
We focus on difficult situations wondering how we can get rid of them.
When I aim to bring light to these situations, the darkness is automatically dispelled.
Today let me remember to bring light rather than fight darkness."
"Don't spend your energy trying to kill the dinosaur. Instead, invent the gazelle."
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
October 5-9, 2007, 150 Muslims,
Jews and Christians gathered in
It was the 5th Oseh Shalom ~ Sanea al-Salaam Palestinian-Jewish Peacemakers Camp.
Included were 45 women and men from 32 towns in
Determined to become the change they wish to see.
"All I can say is Thank You for what you do for both peoples," e-mailed a Palestinian participant.
"I think that I have made lifelong friends," wrote a Jewish woman.
"My life in
"I met the most amazing people and felt I was in the presence of great, future leaders," reflected a Palestinian woman.
"Finally, I now feel like there is hope of peace in the
"What did I take from this experience?
"I have a more appreciation and pride of my own heritage and also have a greater love of all humanity. . .especially for my cousins -- the Jewish people."
VIEW SHORT VIDEO at http://bayareanewsgroup.com/multimedia/iba/2007/player/?f=1014peace .
SEE PHOTOS and MORE on the Web at:
At the big, end-of-week San Francisco public report-out, a Jewish attendee was "impressed with the futuristic, action-packed" plans and intentions of the Peacemaker participants for the coming year.
That night, almost all the Middle East participants and supporters spontaneously found their way to a
Until 2 a.m., the Jews and Palestinians dwelled together at a long table of 60 -- with 20 more in the patio -- celebrating their new community and planning their future together.
Not a bit interested in ever letting go of their new relationships.
Inventing the gazelle.
Being the change they wished to see in the world.
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Published in the San Mateo County Times -- Sunday, 14 October 2007
Palestinians, Jews unite at Yosemite camp
By Christine Morente, Staff Writer
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
CROUCHED at the edge of the Tuolumne River, Nick DeGroot scooped his hands into the cold, clear water and washed another man's hands.
It was a moment of spiritual awakening and their opportunity to let the negativity and pain of their collective pasts wash away.
The quiet emotional moment capped a unique four-day retreat held last weekend in this natural cathedral known as the Palestinian-Jewish Peacemakers Camp.
As each person walked to the river to take part in the cleansing, they sang in Arabic and Hebrew:
Eeshee hilu k'tir, lama neekun mabad
Henei ma tov uma nayim shevet achim gam yachad
(Translation: How good it is to be together.)
DeGroot, a student at the
He washed 54-year-old Jonathan Silverman's hands.
"It was an opportunity to come together with a person I never met before and found we have the same heart and same mind on the issue," the 25-year-old said. "We were able to pray for peace."
DeGroot said he will go home full of pride.
"Oh, my goodness, I have a newfound love for these other nations," he said beaming. "
But the powerful moment at the edge of the river might not have happened if the campers hadn't committed to begin the hard work of learning about each other often the first but difficult steps in the process of reconciliation.
Standing upon a small boulder on
Alone, she smiled and tipped her face up to feel the warmth from the early morning sun's rays.
Naanish, after all, is working toward peace.
For 21/2 years, the 35-year-old Palestinian woman was an inmate in an Israeli prison after her brother was killed during a missile attack fired from Israeli gunships on his wedding day in 2001.
Naanish was arrested and jailed for convincing her husband to join the Kataab Shuhada al-Aqsa, the military wing of the Fatah organization and terrorist group.
She wanted to avenge her brother's death. Her husband was soon on the Israeli Army's wanted list and was a fugitive for two years.
"They tried to assassinate him three different times," said Naanish in Arabic as Mira Almubaied translated. "Every time, he got bullets in different parts of his body. On the fourth attempt, they succeeded. He got 77 bullets."
More than a month after her husband was slain, the Israeli Army broke into her home and took her away while she was breastfeeding her 1-year-old son.
She did not want to describe in detail what happened to her while in prison.
"We were beaten on a regular basis," she said.
She now lives in a refugee camp at Tulkarem in
To attend the Peacemakers Camp, Naanish left her children again this time for the greater good.
Her journey took her through eight Israeli checkpoints, then a 15-hour flight to
Naanish's story was just one of many that brought tears, anger, frustration and stunned silence to the campgoers who hailed from
"They refuse and insist not to be enemies," said Len Traubman of
Peacemakers is the only camp in the country that brings youth and adults together, Traubman said.
But there are 13 other diverse camp programs in North America supporting the
"Much of the world's eyes are on
The camp's dining hall, with its roaring fireplace, was a refuge for the 150 people who would otherwise have been soaked by pouring rain.
In contrast to others in their homeland, most of whom will never meet a Palestinian Israeli or a Jewish Israeli, they were there to understand each other.
"Listening has the power to transform and change a relationship," said Traubman who, along with wife, Libby, leads a monthly Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue group in
It took awhile to get to that point, though. First they had to go through icebreakers such as learning the meaning of each other's names. The next day, they got a course on listening with compassion and intent but it seemed much of the group already knew how to do that.
Participants such as Mohammed Atwa, originally from the Gaza Strip, worried they had traveled to the camp for nothing.
"I did not come here to tell people what my name means," said the 26-year-old, who now lives in
So in an impromptu discussion that lasted into the early morning hours Sunday, more than 30 people convinced the camp's planning committee to allow them to come up with an activity that let them talk about the deeper issues they felt were missing.
"I came here seeking," Atwa said. "We know we have a problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We know that in this four-day event, we are not going to solve this problem. But if I'm sitting next to an Israeli serving in the army or who might serve in the future. ... It's important for me to hear the other side and explain myself to the other side."
Rina Kedem is on the camp's planning team. The 26-year-old said young leadership is the key to change, and the people that were invited have a lot of power and potential of creating change in Israeli and Palestinian societies.
"A solution is not what you're going to find here, because it's not that easy," Kedem said. "I see this as a beginning. What really matters is what happens after this. People have a lot of high expectations, even though we clarify the goals. It just demonstrates the despair people are at."
The intense dialogue began on Sunday.
In one circle, 23-year-old Reut Tondovski of
A Palestinian asked if it is part of the Jewish mind-set to protect
Twenty-two-year-old Beth Peres of Oak Park, Ill., said that in her Hebrew school she was taught that if there was ever another Holocaust,
"That is what I was taught," she said. "That is what I believe."
"The main problem is occupation," said Ranin Boulos, 23, a Palestinian Christian who lives in
Citing security reasons in 2002, the Israeli government started building a 25-foot-tall barrier with watchtowers and firing posts mainly inside the West Bank and partly along the 1949 "Green Line" between
The structure, according to the Jerusalem Post, is expected to be three times as long as was the Berlin Wall. It is expected to be completed in 2010.
Atwa said the barrier destroyed many farms and villages on the Palestinian side, and thousands of families were separated. Special permission from the Israeli army is needed to visit a family member, and 99 percent of permits are rejected because of security concerns, he said.
Atwa doesn't have family in the
After Hamas a Palestinian Sunni Muslim militant organization won the Palestinian parliamentary election,
He hasn't seen his family since 2002.
"I call my family every single day, because I want to have that feeling that I'm still one of them," Atwa said. "Sometimes I'll call and tell them to keep the phone on and tell them just do whatever they want. I just want to be as if I'm sitting there. That's how much I miss that home."
Libby Traubman, Len's wife, said spending time with the younger generation gives her hope that there will be peace in the
"Every day, we hear really bad news, and it's easy to think that things aren't working," she said. "But when you meet all these people we know are very engaged in a very grassroots level, these are the things you don't hear in the news. I guess that is what sustains me."
Elad Vazana, an Israeli Jew who is the director of the Sulhita Youth Project, agreed.
"They are more modern, less religious and less conservative," said the 35-year-old, who lives in
Now, the real work for the young Palestinians and Israelis starts once they're home.
"We all need to work on ourselves and to be strong enough to deal with reality," said Boulos, the 23-year-old Palestinian. "What we did here is amazing, but it's not enough. We don't live here. The problem is not here. I don't want to let reality hit you and let what you learned here to go down."
Christine Morente can be reached at CMorente@sanmateocountytimes.com.