Neve Shalom Salutes Israeli, Palestinian Peace Builders

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Neve Shalom Salutes Israeli, Palestinian Peace Builders


NEVE SHALOM SALUTES ISRAELI, PALESTINIAN PEACE BUILDERS

One of the most controversial and unique ready-to-wear catalogues ever printed is the "Enemies" catalogue by United Colors of Benetton which was distributed this year to more than six million people by Newsweek magazine. Luciano Benetton came up with the idea of having Israeli Jews and Palestinians model his clothes in actual portrayals of their daily contact with each other.

Needless to say, the models are not Jewish settlers nor Hamas militants, but Israelis and Palestinians who have become friends and can envision a peaceful coexistence. Each photo page relates the name, age and profession of the Israelis and Palestinians pictured and how they came to know each other.

Two women seated together in a Benetton sportswear centerfold are Zahira Kamal, who was a leader of the intifada and now leads the Palestinian Democratic Party, and Prof. Naomi Chazan, deputy speaker of the Knesset from the Meretz Party.

The two politicians and Benetton were selected by the Southern California Chapter of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam as recipients of its third annual Peace Builder Awards ceremony Nov. 15 at the Skirball Cultural Center and Museum.

Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is a community of 35 Palestinian and Jewish families who live together and maintain a kindergarten and primary school where children of nearby villages can learn English, Arabic and Hebrew as well as each other's histories. A junior high school will soon be under construction.

Located midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the community also established the School for Peace in 1979. More than 1,800 people participate each year in intensive workshops to break down hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis.

In presenting the Peace Builder Award to Chazan, Palestinian-American leader Dr. Sabri El Farra noted: "In the bloody conflict of the past 50 years, Palestinians and Israelis have proven one thing: they can hurt each other. It is time now for sane people to say enough."

The Khan Yunis-born physician said it is time for Israelis to ride a bus and feel secure that they won't be blown up and for Palestinians to be safe from the fear their homes may be bulldozed before the night is over.

"After the historic handshake and signing at the White House, it seemed we had the right attitude toward peace," El Farra continued, "but in the past two years, the attitude has become `how much land can I get?' [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is so smart he may end up outsmarting himself," he concluded.

In accepting her award, Chazan quipped she hopes peace will come faster than a woman becoming mayor of Jerusalem, an allusion to her own unsuccessful mayoral campaign. Chazan said her mother was elected to the Knesset in 1969, but she disliked politics and urged her daughter to "do something serious."

Chazan recalls asking Golda Meir in 1971 why she didn't enter into negotiations about the occupied territories. The Israeli prime minister replied the territories were a bargaining chip.

During one such conversation the young Chazan stated: "Golda, Israel will never be free until we learn to liberate ourselves from being occupiers. Jewish history taught us we have the right to be free and individuals must have the right to make their own decisions. …

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