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------------ Article in the Epoch Times - translated from the original Hebrew ------------
MEPEACE - Palestinians and Israelis Commemorate the 11th of September
On Friday, September 11th, Peacemakers on mepeace.org met for an Interfaith Iftar and Shabbat Dinner to jointly remember the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center.
By Aviva-Marlene Grunpeter,The Epoch Times
This year the 11th of September fell on a Friday, Sabbath eve, during the month of Ramadan. Exactly on this day in 2001 two passenger jets hijacked by terrorists hit the "Twin Towers" in Manhattan, one after the other. The buildings collapsed; the death toll exceeded 3,000.
This was the date chosen by Eyal Raviv to bring together Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals to bless the Iftar (breaking the fast of the Ramadan) and the Sabbath Challah (Jewish bread). Peacemakers and friends of mepeace.org - the web platform and community created by Eyal Raviv - began to arrive in the evening's early hours at the Christian-Lutheran school for girls in Beit Jalla - not far from Jerusalem. These are citizens who have not despaired of the official peace process which is slow to get off the ground.
Sitting together - brotherly love
Unlike other dinners this meal began immediately for the benefit of the Muslim guests who fasted all day - the speeches were left for later. The Talitha Kumi school (the name appears in the New Testament and means "little woman, rise") in Beit Jalla was chosen as a singular location accessible both to Israelis and Palestinians. The girls' school is a beautiful stone structure on a hill with a flowering garden and spacious views towards Beit Jalla.
Around the table were Israelis from all across Israel, many Palestinians, and friends from Argentina, Minnesota in the US and even South Africa. Palestinians arrived from places like Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, Jericho and some need a special permit from the IDF to arrive in Beit Jalla. The Talitha Kumi kitchen rose to the occasion, serving the surprising number of participants, quickly adding tables and chairs. According to the organizers, more than 130 guests took part in the festive event.
There was an atmosphere of tolerance and calm. Perfect strangers approached one another with the confident they would be answered with a smile. Perhaps since the fact they share a community online gave all the feeling of familiarity. The language for communication is English.
Gadi Kenny is a founder of the "People's Peace Fund" and an organizer of meetings of Israelis and Palestinians wounded in conflict. "The image of the Israelis in the eyes of the Palestinians absent inter-cultural dialogue - is informed solely by media", says Kenny. He explains that if we want to prevent a clash of civilizations we must do such meetings more and more.
Bassam Ghazal of Nablus, a computer technician by trade, has many Israeli friends and he is happy at the event: "For me peace is to meet my Israeli friend and to see him wherever I want and whenever I want." Ghazal explains that peace starts for each person on the inside and reaches his environment and the world.
Hiba Hamzeh, a young Palestinian woman from Hebron with her hair in tradition head-cover, is active in MEPEACE as an organizer of 'Peace Cafés’: "If we work hard for it and believe in it, peace is achievable!" she says. Hamzeh believes we should leave the taboos created by societies as our role is to change the rules. She invites Israelis and Palestinians to discuss in a positive atmosphere the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and life in general.
Chaya Singer is a student from South Africa very excited by the event: "This is the first time I have had the opportunity to meet with a Palestinian my age, Muhammad, who is 26, and to hear about things that I hear every day on the news, Hamas and Fatah, how it affects his daily life and family.”
Why on the 11th of September?
When the meal finished, Raviv and his Palestinian partner Anas rose on a makeshift stage of two chairs to welcome the guests and lead discussion of the traditions of Shabbat and essence of the Ramadan. Raviv turned to all those present and said: "On this day, September 11th, which is a difficult day in history, we are sharing a message of peace." Raviv explains that the message communicated is that Israelis and Palestinians want to sit together, talk to one another, and share a festive meal. Raviv later tells that the 11th of September has special meaning for him as he was in New York that day. He remembers people running with fright, recalls the noise and burnt smell in the air. Raviv tells of his twin brother who also survived that day in New York and of several people who did not escape in time.
A platform for people who believe in peace
The MEPEACE organization enables networking between "Peacemakers" - people who believe and want to actualize peace in the Middle East. The mepeace.org web platform enables online meetings all year long. The site resembles the social network Facebook, you sign up for free and invite friends. Registered peacemakers might invite you to be their friend and you can accept or deny the request, of course. A dialogue develops as members share thoughts, articles, photos, videos and everything else that can be shared online. Over 3,000 members are signed up on mepeace.org.
Peacemakers also meet face-to-face at 'Peace Cafés' in Beit Jalla, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere. Even in the midst of the war in Gaza in January, MEPEACE brought together Palestinians and Israelis to share a more hopeful vision for peace. The organization participates in international peace conferences and creates its own, such as the 'Making Things Possible' conference in Amman, Jordan.
A personal story
On mepeace.org, I read the story of Faisal Al-Khatib, who was also at the dinner with his wife and four children. He writes: "I am a Palestinian Arab from the village of Hizma, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. When I was 15 I fought the Israeli occupation during the first Intifada. I was arrested in 1987 and imprisoned for 12 years. While I was in prison I matured and I started to read books on politics, prose, and stories of the world. The Peace Conference in Madrid gave me hope and will to live in peace and dignity. I understood that violence would bring more violence and peace is the only solution for a future that is beautiful and honorable between the nations. We live on the same land, we are neighbors that drink the same water and pray to one God, so we should live in peace.”
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