This is a letter from Eliyahu McLean,Sulha Peace Project, interfaith coordinator
I share this here so that we can send loving energy to support this Peace Project.
Hello friends and supporters,
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 Palestinans 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.
Daily activities included:
- listening circles that brought Israelis and Palestinians together to share with and listen to each others stories.
- the Bereaved Families Forum, with bereaved Israelis and Palestinians sharing their stories and leading discussions
- a children's tent for Israeli and Palestinian children to play and make art together
- workshops in culture and music
- special events each day, such as the men's and women's dialogue circles
- a traditional Bedouin tent, set up to be a space where Arab and Jewish musicians could jam and make music together
- the inter-religious prayer tent with religious Jews praying dialy prayers, followed by religious Muslims praying in same tent
- the Sulhita program, Sulha youth movement worked together where Israeli and Palestinian teenagerson the final evening performance.
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 postcast about the present war in Gaza and south Israel:
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, reconciiation, 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 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.
View this link to see great pictures from the 'On the Way to Sulha' gathering last August, and from the Acco peace tent:
The Sulha Peace Project is in a deep financial crisis. With the global recession, donations have stopped almost completely. We need your support to continue this important work. Please make a donation small or large to the Sulha Peace Project.
For details about how you can offer a donation, please visit this link:
Sulha Peace Project, interfaith coordinator
Jerusalem Peacemakers, co-director
Gabriel Meyer, co-founding director, and Ihab Balha, Muslim co-director of the Sulha Peace Project