Inspiring Peace

On the 31st March, Sheila Yeger and I held a Peace Fair in Bristol to celebrate grassroots peacemaking initiatives in the Middle East.  We wanted to be inspired and to inspire others with the possibilities of non-violent peaceful coexistence and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians.  We knew of many creative projects where people were working together but we rarely hear about these projects in the news. The media focusses on conflict and violence, giving a misleading impression.  We wanted to show another set of facts on the ground – another version of reality.  So, we selected 20 peacemaking groups and prepared information sheets about each of them.  The groups were:  Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, Sabeel, ICAHD, British Shalom Salaam Trust, Combatants for Peace, OneVoice, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam, Bustan, Parents Circle – Families Forum, Lend for Peace, Creativity for PeaceJerusalem Peacemakers, Just Vision, Arab– Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa, Health Project – Naomi Segev,  the McGill Middle East Programme for Civil Society and Peace Building, Seeds of Peace, Gate to Humanity, and the All Nations Cafe. To encourage people to learn about the groups, we made up a quiz which we handed out as they came in. There were questions like:

1. Is OneVoice a dialogue group?

2. What citizenship and national identities do the residents of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam have?

3. What did 4 young American men – an observant Jew, a Muslim Palestinian, an observant Cuban Jew and a Christian Palestinian create together?

There were ballot papers – the money raised at the Fair went to the group with the most votes. As it turned out, it was ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions that received the most votes.

In the background, we played the continuous Jewish-Muslim music mix from Radio Salaam Shalom (www.salaamshalom.org.uk).  We set up tables as in a cafe and served homemade food – fatayer (see the previous post for the recipe), baclava, k’mish breut, humus, pitta, salad, dates, nuts, fruit, olives and juice.

The Peace Fair didn’t attract as many people as we’d hope. I don’t know why. I wonder if good news isn’t as compelling as bad news. Maybe it doesn’t generate the sense of crisis and the desire to take action. For me, creating the Peace Fair was fun, informative and inspiring.  I certainly feel more optimistic and positive about the prospects for peace in the region knowing about these wonderful projects.

Answers: 1. No     2. Citizenship – Israeli, National identities – Jewish, Palestinian Arab     3. Lend for Peace (microfinance for Palestinian entrepreneurs)

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