Then there is the village Oasis of Peace which is the English translation of the name of Neve Shalom (Hebrew) / Wahat al-Salam (Arabic). This is a community where Jewish and Palestinian Arab Israeli citizens have lived together in peace for the past 40 years and together have a unique way of educating their children, teaching them in both languages about each other’s cultures, religions and traditions. These are not isolated initiatives but, in a paraphrase of someone working for the Emek Medical Centre, are shining examples of sanity in a world going mad -- literally a beacon of light and hope for anybody who cares to focus on something sane.
And there is the film " Within the Eye of the Storm" which I was privileged to see yesterday. This is the story of
Bassam and Rami, a Palestinian and Israeli, who both lost daughters in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. The film tells in a very moving way how each of them coped with the pain of bereavement by committing themselves to the work for peace. They were determined to break the cycle of violence by dialoguing with the other side, sharing their story, working for justice, and refusing to let violence have the last word. As friends they are honest about their pain but together a witness to the strength and transforming effect of friendship. They have a radio programme ( in a radio station now closed) in which they converse about their life and concerns and their humour and affection for one another is both moving and inspiring. Their conversations contain much wisdom which is powerful because it comes out of pain and suffering. Bassam admits that he had never met a Palestinian even though he lived in Israel all his life and Rami had not understand the pain of the Jewish people. But in listening to one another's story they come to realise that "people are people" and "there is more than one truth." Together they are committed to justice and to breaking "down the wall with the power of their pain which is also the power of love. This is an inspiring film which has now been shown throughout the world as a contribution to understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Larry Rich, the Director of Development & International Public Relations for the Emek Medical Centre, has written, “people have a choice: to focus on real-life positive examples of Jewish / Arab relationships and coexistence, OR they have the choice to focus on media-generated divisiveness, hate and violence. People will perpetuate what they focus upon … either the positive or the negative (we create our own reality). Bombs are louder than the handshakes and the hugs I am talking about. But if we pay attention to those handshakes and hugs, we have an opportunity to change the entire perspective of this conflict.”
Is not this a challenge to all of us?.