Tag Archives: peace

Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony 2020

With great sadness, I fear Israel’s grand experiment in the Gaza Strip may have achieved its desired goal.

We won’t find this goal spelled out in any government planning documents, but what bizarre purpose do the Israeli leaders have in deliberately and methodically isolating two million people from the rest of the world for more than a decade?

Ostensibly they had hoped to squeeze the Palestinians tight enough that they would rise up against their leaders (Hamas) and topple them from power, despite the fact that there’s universal agreement that Hamas won the election in 2006 fair and square. After a year or two, Israeli leaders should have gotten the message; they couldn’t compel Palestinians in the streets to do their dirty work for them.

Another likely goal was to punish and humiliate the entire population of the Gaza Strip into submission, to accept their Zionist overlords and the occupation without protest. Battering and slaughtering men, women and children with three military campaigns in the past 10 years should have done the trick. Killing and wounding thousands of protesters at the fence every Friday failed too. Israeli leaders didn’t factor in the Palestinian SUMUD … strength, determination, resolve and dignity. Israel’s military campaigns violated international humanitarian laws and the law of occupation but their leaders have never been held accountable. They’ve never been able to declare “victory” either.

The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine has tried to convince the world that Hamas and the Gaza Strip enclave are a festering hotbed of radicalism threatening the State of Israel and, by extension, the entire world. In the early years, many in the international community might have been fooled by this campaign, but no longer. The Palestinian voices (teachers, doctors, engineers, merchants, journalists, students, mothers and fathers) have slashed through the Israeli propaganda.

Now, perhaps, the Israeli masterminds behind the 13-year blockade of the Gaza Strip have succeeded.

They’ve succeeded in convincing many in Gaza to voluntarily lock themselves behind a wall of silence. Alongside the checkpoints, sharpshooters and naval gunships threatening Palestinians who raise their voices for justice, are the Palestinians themselves who now punish their own for raising their voices for justice.

Rami Aman is a Palestinian man in Gaza who had the audacity to connect with Israelis over a Zoom meeting a few weeks ago. Hamas arrested him for the crime of engaging in “normalization” activities.

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I recall a public execution of several Palestinians convicted of being collaborators with the enemy. (I didn’t witness the execution.) As disturbing as those executions were for my Western brain to grasp, I understood the rationale for condemning and punishing people working with the Israelis against their own community.

Rami is not accused of being a collaborator, and he couldn’t be. His crime was engaging in speech with the “enemy” with the goal of fostering better understanding on both sides of that Zoom chat. As far as I know, Rami remains in prison.

I completely understand why many Palestinians in Gaza would refuse to engage with any Israeli, and no one should be compelled to do so.

But when a Palestinian has an interest in educating Israelis about the reality of the occupation and siege which most Israelis know absolutely nothing about, I will never understand the desire of those Palestinians who would shroud their brothers and sisters in silence and punish them. If Israel’s experiment was to create a society where the population is self-policing against free will and freedom of thought, apparently the experiment has succeeded.

While many Palestinians in Gaza remain locked up in their self-imposed confinement, the largest peace event ever jointly organized by Palestinians and Israelis in history is planned for Monday, April 27th, co-hosted by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle – Families Forum and co-sponsored by over sixty peace organizations and religious institutions around the world.

Monday, April 27

10:30am Pacific, 1:30pm Eastern
5:30pm UTC, 8:30pm in Israel & Palestine

Watch the Ceremony here: www.afcfp.org/watch-the-memorial 

Speakers will include Yaqub al-Rabi of the village of Bidya, whose wife, Aisha, was killed by a stone suspected to have been thrown by a settler at their vehicle in 2018; Tal Kfir of Jerusalem who lost her sister, Yael, in a terrorist attack at Tsrifin in September 2003; Yusra Mahfoud of the Al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron, whose 14-year-old son Alaa was shot and killed by soldiers in 2000; and Hagai Yoel of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, whose brother Eyal was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin in 2002.

For the first time last year, Rami Aman livestreamed the event in Gaza. It’s doubtful that anyone in Gaza will be able to watch or participate this year.

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Powerful Women Call for End of the Occupation

Women in Black LondonNearly 100 women representing many countries (including U.K., Bosnia, France, Serbia, Croatia, Spain, Israel, Austria, Armenia and many more) convened in Leuven, Belgium (March 2-3, 2019) to stand in solidarity for peace, for the end of war, and for the end of the occupation.

Women in Black began in Jerusalem when the First Intifada broke out in December 1987. A handful of brave Israeli women wanted their neighbors and the government to understand that the occupation of Palestine was wrong, so they stood silently in black holding signs. They’ve been protesting the occupation every week for the past 31 years.  Today these Israeli women need support and solidarity from their international sisters because change is not going to happen from within.

They’re joined by women in many different countries. I’ve stood with Women in Black in Albuquerque, Baltimore and London. Thankfully, I could join the Leuven WiB when they stood in front of their beautiful city hall silently for an hour on Saturday.

The Grote Markt, one of the city’s busiest squares, was a great location with many pedestrians and cyclists flowing past, reading the signs, and sharing their support.

When the organist at Saint Peter’s Church across from City Hall played John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the tears and goosebumps mingled to make this the most special vigil for peace that I’ve ever joined.  (Thank you WiB Leuven!)  Next year the international gathering of Women in Black will be in Armenia. Look here for more details.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
###
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
###
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
###
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
###
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
###
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one 

Following the vigil, the women gathered inside City Hall in the beautiful legislative chambers for reports, songs and fellowship.

Leuven City Council Chambers

Ria Convents (Leuven) moderated and opened the meeting;  Yvonne Deutsch (Israël) shared the history of how WiB began; Maria Vandoren and Mieke Coremans read poems they had written for the occasion; and Lies Corneille (the new municipial officer for equal rights and global policy in Leuven) welcomed us and thanked Women in Black for being a strong and consistent voice for peace. She mentioned the importance of being a powerful role model for the next generation of women.

Stasa Zajovic from Belgrade spoke about the impact of nationalism and fascism in the world,  and Jadranka Milisevic from Sarajevo told us about her work with young women in post-war Bosnia-Hercegovina. Women from Belgrade and France shared the important role of feminist lesbians in the peace movement, and Armine Karapetyan welcomed us to Armenia next year.

WIB Nov. 24 - 5

Women in Black from Baltimore 

 

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BDS Movement shines

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, is receiving a lot of attention these days.

The stated goals of BDS are: the end of Israel’s occupation and settler colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promotion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu and Israel’s government want to kill the BDS Movement

On January 7, 2018 Israel published its list of NGOs that support BDS — with the intention of preventing leaders of those organizations from entering Israeli territory — and thus Palestinian territory.  A U.S. Quaker group that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 is on the list. Even Jews who support BDS are targets for Israel’s ire.

Israel, the homeland for the Jews, only wants Zionists apparently, not just any Jew.

A joint team from the Strategic Affairs and Interior ministries has already determined the parameters that will serve as a basis for barring activists from coming into the country. Those who hold senior or important positions in blacklisted organizations will be denied entry, as well as key activists, even if they hold no official position.

Mayors and establishment figures who actively and continually promote boycotts will also be prevented from entering, as will activists who arrive to Israel on behalf of or as part of a delegation initiated by one of blacklisted groups.  See the full article here.

The “Anti-BDS Law”, passed by the Knesset in March 2017, has already been used against Americans (including American Jews) traveling to Israel and against elected representatives of the French republic (MPs, MEPs, and mayors of major French cities) who wished to visit Israel and occupied Palestine, with a particular aim to meet their Palestinian counterparts. In response, the Israeli government invented a new offence: that of applying for permission to visit! (Check out this article in the Middle East Eye).

The list of organizations now banned by Israel includes:

AFPS (The Association France Palestine Solidarité)
BDS France
BDS Italy
ECCP (The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa)
IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
Norge (The Palestine Committee of Norway)
Palestinakomitee
PGS (Palestine Solidarity Association in Sweden)
Palestinagrupperna i Sverige
PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
War on Want
BDS Kampagne
AFSC (American Friends Service Committee)
AMP (American Muslims for Palestine)
Code Pink
JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace)
NSJP (National Students for Justice in Palestine)
USCPR (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights)
BDS Chile
BDS South Africa
BNC (BDS National Committee)

I was questioned for five hours by three different Israeli security officials in March 2016 when I was crossing into the West Bank from Jordan. And what did they want to know? Their chief concern was whether or not I supported BDS. One security official found photos I had posted on Facebook from my visit to Paris a few months earlier, including pictures of a BDS rally. She accused me of being the organizer of this BDS rally. I told her I support BDS because it’s a peaceful, nonviolent form of protest against the occupation but I was not the organizer of this BDS rally in Paris. She responded: “You’re a liar!”

King Hussein bridge

I’m allowed into the West Bank after 5 hours of questioning 

I was eventually allowed to enter, thanks (I believe) to the support I received from my Jewish Israeli friend who invited me to visit her kibbutz. The Israeli security officials had called her twice that afternoon — her responses must have been my ticket in.

But what is the government of Israel afraid of when it appears to be waging a global war against the BDS movement? Most undergraduate Psych majors would interpret Israel’s public relations campaign against BDS as a sign of Israel’s fear of the movement’s growing success.

If the BDS movement achieves its goal, Israel as a Jewish-majority homeland for the Jews will cease to exist, and the occupation will also end. It worked in South Africa; it realistically has every chance of working in Israel-Palestine.  THAT’S what Israel is afraid of — the end of the status quo.

Now it’s incumbent on BDS activists to share a narrative of what life in Israel-Palestine will look like for both Israelis and Palestinians after the occupation ends. Even though Israel is by far stronger than Palestine today, it is far weaker in spirit and imagination.  And fear among Israelis obscures their vision of a world beyond occupation.  Palestinians and international supporters of BDS must provide this alternative vision to replace their fear.

Norwegian lawmaker wants to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on BDS

A few days ago, a Norwegian lawmaker nominated the BDS Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize.  He said:

“This nomination reflects the growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, dignity and freedom from the Israeli occupation.”

“If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.”

“My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step towards bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region.”

Nobel_Prize

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Women at the Table

Many things in the world seem to be broken.

Our relationship to the natural world is critically misaligned. Our unquestioning reverence for capitalism is pure folly. And our inability to eschew weapons and all forms of violence is at the heart of the madness we see today in the Middle East and in our own backyards.

Would the world change for the better if women had a seat at the table?

Alaa Murabit, a young Canadian who returned to her parents’ country of Libya to study medicine, gave a TedTalk earlier this year – already viewed more than a million times – where she asked “Why if we are equal in the eyes of God are we not equal in the eyes of men?”  She argues that many of the world’s problems can only be changed by bringing women to the table.  The list of her accomplishments is already very impressive. Imagine what she’ll accomplish in another 10 years.

She has maintained that peace is achievable through communities, “The only real solution, the only way to get that grenade or gun put down safely is the very spirit of this Forum. It is by filling his hands and head with something else. A pencil, a pay check, a diploma, a dream – by building up people, by creating institutions we break down wars. By strengthening local peace builders we give them the tools to change their communities from within.”

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We are ONE! (an amazing performance)

I originally saw this performance on Upworthy, check it out here.

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Taking sides for Peace and Justice

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Google “Peace and Justice Center” and you will find hundreds, maybe thousands, of these centers in the United States.  There’s one in my city too.

The folks at the Albuquerque P&J Center are currently wrestling with the Israeli-Palestinian “issue”. What position should the Center take? Which side should the Center support?

The majority want to stand firmly on the side of the Palestinians. A few want to remain neutral. When I heard that, I was stumped. What does neutrality mean in this context?  And what does it mean to take a side?

NEUTRAL: “Not helping or supporting either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartial.  Having no strongly marked or positive characteristics or features.”

I suspect those well-meaning souls who want to remain neutral are either:

  • flummoxed by this long-term occupation, witnessing the atrocities that both sides have committed, and believe neither side is morally justified or without blame; or
  • fear that “taking sides” with the Palestinians means opposing Israel, which is an impossible conundrum for many Americans.

I suspect that those thoughtful individuals who want to stand on the side of the Palestinians believe:

  • they are standing on the side of justice because they have a firm grasp of the history of the occupation and the role of Israel as the occupier and the righteousness of resistance; or
  • they see the imbalance of power between the State of Israel and the stateless Palestinians and want to stand with the weak and oppressed.

This mini-crisis at the Albuquerque P&J Center mirrors the world’s stage in so many ways. If the individuals can work through their heartfelt differences to reach an amicable resolution, there is hope for the future.  If those holding the minority opinion feel unheard or dismissed, they will probably kiss the P&J Center goodbye and walk away. That would be a tragedy.

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In my humble opinion, we need to move beyond the notion of taking sides, of categorizing the right or wrong side, and we should also toss “neutrality” from our dictionary.

Since our brains are hard-wired to fit everything into boxes, and divide the world between the white hats and the black hats (“You’re either with us or against us!), I think it requires an evolutionary leap of faith that there is a world beyond what we imagine today where “sides” are an anachronism of the past.

The future I imagine is one where all people everywhere (Muslims, Jews, Christians, black, white, brown, young, old, rich and poor) are loved despite their flaws — for who is perfect?

The future I imagine is one where we can champion the needs of the weak and dispossessed while educating the occupier and the world beyond about the injustices that occur daily in Palestine. Everyone deserves a future free of fear and want. Everyone deserves dignity and respect.

Our minds must move beyond this zero sum mentality and the false idea that criticizing the actions of the occupier is somehow delegitimizing the State of Israel. Israel needs many more friends in the world willing to call a spade, a spade, and help it end the occupation.

There is no such thing as “neutrality” in this context. We might choose to be silent but our tax dollars will continue to flow to Israel to purchase weapons used to maintain the occupation. We might choose to take no action, thereby supporting the status quo. “Neutrality” is merely a code word for copping out of this intractable situation.

I choose the side of humanity with love and respect for every person regardless of which side of the Green Line they might live. I choose to be actively engaged, not an armchair pacifist. I choose to be an equal opportunity critic — of Hamas, Fatah, Netanyahu and Obama, and everyone else. I choose to think for myself and question everything, rather than a lap dog to Fox News and CNN.

If the folks at the Albuquerque P&J Center can’t find a common path to follow together with mutual respect, then I think they have all lost their way and should reexamine the notion of what “peace” and “justice” means for the future.

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Talk Nation Radio: Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Says Syrians Oppose Intervention

I find her comments very compelling.  Mairead Maguire links the events in Syria with Palestine.

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The Nakba – Part VI

The Catastrophe — or Nakba — occurred in 1948 when the British left Palestine and David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s “Independence.”  Most Americans don’t know about the Nakba.  See Part 1, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.  I confess I am only beginning to understand the magnitude of the atrocities that occurred, and continue to occur, in Palestine.

The forcible expulsion of the Indigenous population and the appropriation of their lands and property would be a fascinating journey through the legal machinations employed by the Zionists (yesterday and today) if it was not so tragic for so many people.

Amjad Alqasis, a legal researcher at BADIL Resource Center, has written an excellent review of some of the laws that Israel has used to confiscate the property of Palestinians, available here.

Wall mural in Gaza

Wall mural in Gaza

Although the Israeli government refuses to acknowledge the Nakba, recent polling suggests that Israeli citizens may be ahead of their leaders in this regard.  See this article.

Both sides will need to exorcise their demons regarding the other, not to gloss over the present but in order to unlock the door to the future. Here are the fundamental questions for the Israel side: first, can the Right’s frenzied efforts to stifle consciousness of the Nakba succeed? The results seem to say no. Activism recalling the Nakba has only heightened and the data here implies that the Israeli public is ahead of its leaders in acknowledging not only history, but the implications of history on conflict resolution.

Secondly, how can the large swath of the Israeli public that is prepared to reconcile with its past in the present be expanded and leveraged? How can this political maturity be brought to bear on future negotiation efforts or any other effort to resolve the situation? Surely, beating a guilt-fatigued population with more historic guilt will backfire (if it hasn’t already). Is there a less threatening way to address and redress history that does not undercut Jewish identity in this land? This is one of the vital challenges of the day, that the Nakba (and perhaps the “Jewish state” definition, for Palestinians) symbolizes for all parties in the conflict: can each side acknowledge the most sensitive and frightening aspects of the other party’s identity without losing its own, and then lashing out violently to protect it?

Now listen carefully . . . Secretary Kerry, President Obama, everyone . . . here’s the most important lesson from the Nakba that you mustn’t forget.

Wall mural in Gaza

Wall mural in Gaza

If you begin negotiating with Netanyahu and Abbas with the assumption that the conflict began in 1967, you will fail.  You might as well save your breath and travel expenses.

The injustices occurred in 1948, and have continued every year since, and your negotiations must begin from the Nakba.

Germany’s postwar reparations program has become such a matter of fact that many Germans are not even aware that their country, after paying $89 billion in compensation mostly to Jewish victims of Nazi crimes over six decades, still meets regularly to revise and expand the guidelines for qualification. The aim is to reach as many of the tens of thousands of elderly survivors who have never received any form of support.

  • Israel must acknowledge the Right of Return and make plans to allow Palestinians who wish to live peacefully with their neighbors, the right to return to pre-Israel lands, or pay compensation to those who decide they do not want to return.

I know the current leadership in Israel flatly rejects these points, but Israeli citizens deserve to live in peace — just as Palestinians deserve to live in peace — and neither side will achieve it until the Nakba is on the negotiating table and these points are addressed openly and honestly.

Wall mural in gaza

Wall mural in gaza

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My Passover Seder with Sami

Chag Sameach! Greetings to all of my friends and family who celebrate Passover.

I am remembering two Seders I have attended in Albuquerque, New Mexico —  both in homes filled with many warm people who were strangers to me at the beginning of the Seder, but certainly not at the end.

The first Passover Seder was an invitation by my law partner to join her and her friends at someone’s home (I wish I could remember the name of the host).   They patiently taught me the rituals, and the significance of the food on the table.

 

The Passover seder celebrates the Jewish people’s freedom from the Pharaoh and the larger issue of the immorality of slavery. As Jews, we have a long history filled with suffering, oppression and slavery, which has informed our choices as a community to work with other groups to help their own oppression. Jews have played roles in the civil rights movement, women’s movement, gay rights movement and feel a deep connection to suffering of others.

My second Seder was also in Albuquerque, a few years later, at my friend Melinda’s house.  Again, there were many strangers sitting at several makeshift tables, we read another version of the Haggadah, we shared the matzohs, horseradish and the rest of the Seder meal together while making new friends.

One young man at my table was from Jabalya Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip!  Sami was a Palestinian boy only 16 years old, an exchange student attending Manzano High School.  Before he arrived in Albuquerque, the only Jews Sami had ever met were the soldiers carrying weapons in Gaza.  My friend Iris writes:

Now he had Jewish friends in school and several Jewish mothers ready to take him home. For Passover, we invited him to his first seder. The ritual required one to ask questions. That night was different from all other nights because Sami translated the four seder questions into Arabic and Croatian, the language of his Yugoslav mother. Another person asked them in Spanish, another in French, and of course they were asked in Hebrew and English. An Israeli woman, expressed her belief that all people were “chosen,” not just the Jews. Sami responded by saying he believed the Hebrew tribe was chosen to bring the highest law to mankind–– how to treat your fellow humans. And the law was for everyone.

I don’t know how to find Sami now.  I am in Gaza City, only minutes from Jabalya but Sami could be anywhere on this planet.  That Seder was 10 years ago.  Iris continues:

It was easy to forget he was only sixteen, especially the day he brought an Israeli Major to his history class for a Middle East teach-in. It was a moment of face to face dialogue. Major Stav Adivi, a leader in the Israeli refusnik movement, was speaking in New Mexico, explaining why he refused to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, although he would gladly defend Israel with his life. Having little prior knowledge of the issues, the history students were confounded by the discussion but for Sami it was the opportunity of a lifetime. He had been given a chance to have an honest and public dialogue with a major in the Israeli Defense Army, the same army that had brought death and destruction back home. They stood as equals in front of the classroom, both speaking from their hearts, both wanting to end the occupation, the injustice and the deaths.

Major Adivi believed that security for Israel would come with the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. A defensive wall should follow the Green Line, he insisted, the 1967 international boundary between Israel and Jordan. Sami boldly walked to the chalkboard and erased all the separation lines drawn by Stav, and stated his dream. “I wish to live with the Israelis in one unified country, where everyone is treated equally before the law.”  His faith in that vision was breathtaking.

Sami, wherever you are, I hope your vision comes true.   I hope you are safe.  I hope your life is unfolding as you dreamed.  I hope we will reconnect one day.

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Do Unto Others ….

On Christmas Day I had the very good fortune to sit with a class of students — most of them older students with day jobs taking continuing education courses at the Islamic University of Gaza.  We talked about many topics; they wanted to listen to a native English speaker so they could improve their speaking skills.  I wanted to listen to them.  We both got our wishes.

The conversation turned to politics. Living under occupation, politics is the air everyone breathes in Gaza.  What can anyone do to change things here?  I didn’t have any satisfactory answers, I’m afraid.

Yesterday there were long lines at every ATM.  Someone explained that the November paychecks had arrived from the Palestinian National Authority (3 weeks late!) and everyone was trying to withdraw some funds.  I imagine that paychecks are automatically deposited. 

Gaza ATM on pay day.

Gaza ATM on pay day.

I decided to join the line at the ATM.  There was only one other woman in line, standing right in front of me.  We waited and waited, as one man after another cut in front of her.  So the line was getting longer, not shorter, and I was getting pissed.  I motioned to her as if to say “Why are you letting these guys cut in front of you?”  I think she understood, but she just shrugged as another man joined the line . . . in front of her.

Well . . . this wasn’t going to work.  I could leave and find another ATM.  I could make a loud fuss in English.  I could stand and wait patiently to see what might happen.  I chose the latter.

The woman in front of me got frustrated and left the line.  The men in line glanced at me, perhaps wondering if their cutting-in-line silliness should continue.  I really don’t know.

And then . . . a very nice, young man motioned me to come to the front of the line, ahead of 4 or 5 other men.  He signaled me that it was my turn, and all of the others agreed. 

Man with the green jacket standing to the right helped me to the front of the line.

Man with the green jacket standing to the right helped me to the front of the line.

I was mystified and pleasantly surprised to be ushered up to the ATM.  I quickly completed my transaction and stepped aside with a “shukran” (thank you).

This Christmas Day in Gaza, I’m reminded that there is one lesson every faith, every culture, every man, woman and child must learn if we are ever to have peace on earth. 

“Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.”  

The actions of that kind man at the ATM yesterday embodied that lesson.  Perhaps that is the answer to the students’ question today in class. 

This occupation could end in a heartbeat if everyone truly believed in the importance of “Doing unto others as you wish they would do unto you.”   We are all students, still learning this lesson in life.  I hope in 2013, we all get an “A+”.

 

 

 

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