From Discord to Unity in Israel-Palestine

In the week of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement (forgiveness and repentance), eight women representing the WPPS, including Caroline, visited Palestine-Israel to offer encouragement to those working for peace.

This land, essential to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has suffered millennia of conflict.

“We visited Jerusalem, it was strange knowing that Jesus Christ was here 2000 years ago, and there is still the same problem: people still aren’t listening.”

 The Western Wall, Jerusalem

The Western Wall, Jerusalem

Despite underlying tensions, people continue with their lives. They may be manipulated to fear the ‘other’, but, as we discovered, community-by-community, ordinary people are doing their bit to promote peaceful relations.

At the Tur’an Elementary School “D”, 7km north of Nazareth, the teachers are integrating education with the local community. Not only are they celebrating their Arab cultural roots, but, through an art project, are collaborating with the nearby Jewish and Christian schools. Striving for coexistence, multicultural discourse and universal values.

“It was a good learning environment, the kids looked happy, and, for me, it was a chance to be with beautiful Arab women, powerful women.”

The children joined in our Flag Ceremony. Each took a flag and, continent-by-continent, they came to the centre of the circle and we appealed for peace in each country of the world, ending with the Middle East.

“All the children ran to be in the photograph with the Palestinian and Israeli flags – peace in their land is really important to them.”

 Tur’an Elementary School Teacher with her Mandala

Tur’an Elementary School Teacher with her Mandala

At the Ein Shemer Kibbutz, 6km northeast of Hadera, we met “Seeds of Peace”, motivated and influential Israelis, educators and community activists, working for conflict resolution, not just in Israel-Palestine, but also around the world.

“We had a one-hour Soul of WoMen (SoWM) workshop. We talked about the Fuji Declaration and the need for balance in our societies. That we don’t know what the outcomes should be, but SoWM offers a ‘think tank’, and we’re developing ‘tools’ for people to use everyday.”

How were these Israelis inspired by Soul of WoMen? Some of their thoughts were: Mother Earth. Giving hands. Soul. Harmony. Accept each other. Love. Hope. Communities. Smile. Acknowledge the other. Empathy. Peace.

“Together we planted a Peace Pole, and, in support of the peace march: “Women Wage Peace”, happening in Israel whilst we were there, we sang “We Shall Overcome” at the end.”

 Peace Pole planting at Ein Shemer Kibbutz with Seeds of Peace

Peace Pole planting at Ein Shemer Kibbutz with Seeds of Peace

Our last visit was to Kafr Qasim, 20km east of Tel Aviv, a village that suffered a huge massacre of civilians, including children, in 1956. With Sheikh Raed Badir (Executive Director of the Adam Centre for Interreligious Dialogue) and Eran Dubovi (expert on Middle Eastern issues and the Arab-Israeli conflict), we held a Symphony of Peace Prayers, sharing prayers from each religious community. At the following Flag Ceremony, Eran Dubovi held the Palestinian flag, and Sheikh Raed, the Israeli flag.

 Flag Ceremony in Kafr Qasim

Flag Ceremony in Kafr Qasim

“In the head space conflict can never be resolved, it has to come from the heart. St. Francis was a heart person. When he was alive there was a lot of conflict in Italy.”

Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace
Where there is hatred …. let me sow love.
Where there is injury …. pardon.
Where there is discord …. unity.
— Prayer of St. Francis

Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary progress towards permanent peace.

 

May Peace Prevail on Earth

Liz Mackley