We know that in the coming days or weeks the current tragedy in Gaza will come to a halt. We equally know - surely as night follows day - it will be only a matter of months before tensions are heightened and in due course the fighting will flare up again – perhaps in Gaza may be somewhere else. I am grateful to my friend Veronica in Ireland for sending me this letter from the Sulha Peace Project. I have had to shorten it but have included the link for those wishing to learn more. In these dark days let us grasp and encourage every small glimmer of hope! Shalom. Salaam.
“We are mourning the loss of lives and are praying for the safety of our friends who are in danger in both Gaza and southern Israel. We pray that both peoples come to true compassion and forgiveness toward the other.
With the only news coming from the from the Holy Land being about the war, we send some news of another picture from the Holy Land. Though we Palestinians and Israelis who work together for peace are being tested more than ever, the relationships we have built stay strong. The Sulha Peace Project continues to aspire to create a new reality and prepare the people in the region for a life of mutual respect and trust.
Not long ago, over three days last August 26-28, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians met for the seventh annual 'On the Way to Sulha' gathering on the grounds of the Latrun monastery between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Sulha Peace Project worked in full partnership with the Palestinian organization, Al-Tariq, to plan the event. Israelis and Palestinians came from all over the Holy Land, and including 200 Palestinians from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. Our partners in Gaza who have been with us at previous events sent messages of blessing and support from the people of Gaza.
The Kitchen, made fully kosher brought Israeli and Palestinian volunteers together to chop vegetables and cook side by side to feed hundreds of peace each meal.
Our special guest was Rabbi Marc Gopin, director of the Center for World's Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. Rabbi Gopin spoke about his work in Syria for building bridges of dialogue. We had a special corner set up at the Sulha gathering for children and adults to write messages of peace that were then delivered by Gopin to the people of Syria. As Marc Gopin is now in the Holy Land, visit his website for his insightful commentary and post cast about the present war in Gaza and south Israel: http://www.marcgopin.com/
In the prayer tent, we held inter-religious study sessions, with panels on the themes of 'Forgiveness' and 'Religion and Ecology'. In addition to Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders and scholars from the Holy Land, joining us were Geshe-la Thebten Phelgye a Tibetan lama and member of the Tibetan Parliament, Sheikha Khadija, teacher of Sufism from New York and Rabbi Marc Gopin. On the main stage the final day religious leaders spoke about Sulha, reconciliation, in our religious texts and traditions.
Each evening there were highlights. Sheikh Abu Falastin from Sakhnin led hundreds of us in a Sufi 'zikr' ceremony together, after which Rabbi Menachem Froman led us to chant in unison, calling out Allahu Akbar in Arabic and HaShalom Yinatzeach (Peace will Prevail) in Hebrew.
Later, there was a magical performance by "Acharit Hayamim"- an Israeli religious Jewish reggae band, who performed with an ensemble of refugees from the Darfur region in Sudan. On the final evening, Sheikh Abdul Qarim al-Zorba, Imam of the Dome of the Rock chanted songs from the Islamic tradition.
The 'Sulha Family', Israelis and Palestinians continue to meet, planning events to heal the wounds and re-build trust between our peoples. After the riots in Acco between Arabs and Jews last Yom Kippur, we organized a peace tent there, with two days of bridge building activities. The 'Sulha Family' met recently, gathering for Shabbat in Jerusalem to support each other during this time. Israeli 'Sulha Family' members are meeting with friends from Palestinian partner organization Al-Tariq. The Sulha Peace Project is joining Middle Way for a peace walk in Jaffa January 9th and setting up a dialogue tent in Jaffa.
Please send a prayer of healing for the children of a Gazan peacemaker who has brought his family to several of our Sulhita youth gatherings. His son and daughter have been seriously wounded in the violence in Gaza."