Today is Erev Yom Kippur, and today - 20th September, 2007 - is also celebrated world-wide as International Peace Day. For the Muslims, it is also the 10th day of the month of Ramadan - the month in which Muslims fast throughout the daylight hours.
In Israel it was decided to hold the special Peace Day meetings on Thursday meetings one day earlier - because Sept. 21 is the eve of Yom Hakippurim -and yesterday the members of Families' Forum for Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace gathered at Talitha Kumi on the outskirts of Beit Jallah (near Bethlehem) to mark the day. The venue (see also * attachment) was chosen because it is within the Palestine Authority Territory and access is therefore easier for our Palestinian colleagues, members of the Forum.
When the main body of Israeli members of the Forum arrived at 3.30 at the beautiful site- on a hilltop, overlooking parts of Western Jerusalem, just over the border - many of our Palestinian members had already arrived and we gathered in around tables in a spacious conference room. The program began with a Bach Cello solo, followed by a welcoming speech from Haled Abu Awad, director of the Palestinian Forum. Boaz Kitain, the director of The Israeli Forum, followed with an address and a minute of silence in memory of our fallen on both sides.
the highlight of this impressive and memorable day was the Award of the "Ot Hapiuss" - Reconciliation Medal. Two medals were awarded ; The Israeli Forum chose as recipient Ahmed Muhammad Zacarne an officer in the Palestinian Authority Police Force, stationed in Jenin, who came to the rescue of Israeli Army Officer, who had lost his way and whose life was threatened by an angry crowd in Jenin. Ahmed and his men took the Israeli Officer in their jeep to an IF checkpoint, where they were able to hand him over to the Israeli Army. The Israeli officer who had no business to be in Jenin on that day, has since been reprimanded.
The Israelis who won the prize are a group called "The Vilage Group". This group volunteer to help Palestinian vilages around Salem each and every week, helping them in agricultural and humanitarian issues.
Other speakers included an Imam, a Christian clergyman from nearby Bethlehem, and a Druze shaikh, as well as veteran fighter for understanding and peace Prof. Alice Shalvi, who spoke on Abraham's. As night fell, the Ramadan fast for that day came to an end, and we all shared dates and water, which are the traditional signs of breaking the fast, and this was followed by a meal, provided by the kitchens of Talitha Kumi.
For us yesterday's meeting was the culmination of a week of activity related to the Forum and its message.
Now we look forward to a meaningful Yom Kippur as a preparation for a New and Better Year, with the message of the Shofar resounding in our ears.
Gmar Hatima Tovah