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Show of Hope, Strength and Courage
One would think that I would feel ambivalent about returning to Israel after such a great peace tour in the US and given the current climate in the Mid-East. My enthusiasm to return baffled me until yesterday. An experience I wouldnt have missed for the world. I was one of more than 150,000 citizens who arrived from all over the country to attend the peace rally in Rabin Square in downtown Tel Aviv. Imagine the ENTIRE population of San Francisco, CA or Boston, Mass. convening for a rally all at the same time. This would be the proportional equivalent to last nights showing 2 ½ of the entire population. The last time I saw so many people here was in Nov. 95 when Itzhak Rabin was assassinated.
The roads were blocked off. As my friend and I approached Ibn Gvirol Blvd., the energy became palpable. The main boulevards around the square were closed off to anything but foot traffic. The police and soldiers were on guard, yet their tone was soft, calm and peaceful.
Men, women, children and babies mingled amongst the signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English Peace NOW. End the occupation. It is killing us all. Rather than political slogans, these were human ones. I watched secular Jews, mingling with kippot covered (head covering) religious ones and Arab and Jewish mothers with signs to meet on May 23rd for moving together peacefully.
It was an evening filled with courage. Yaffa Yarkoni, the Israeli Bob Hope sang on stage, a courageous act considering that earlier in the day her life was threatened should she appear at the rally. Yaffa Yarkoni, in her mid-seventies, is a national Israeli icon, similar to Bob Hope who performed before USO troops to inspire American values and uplift the troops during the war days. Ms. Yarkoni was interviewed live, just prior to Independence Day. It was expected that she would communicate national pride and support for the troops. Instead, she shocked the public by announcing her embarrassment over our current behavior saying she is considering sending her grandchildren to live overseas so they will not learn similar ways. She was promptly banned from performing at the holiday performance.
Shir LShalom (Song for Peace) was sung aloud by all 150,000 people. I felt so glad to be alive. I felt so free dancing in the square with so many others. I felt grateful for my freedom, and filled with hope that this number will grow, that we will learn from our mistakes, exit the territories, and resume the difficult but necessary process of living side by side as two nations.
We have all lived with enough fear. What we havent experienced enough of is courage and strength emanating from that inner source of faith and value for all life, no matter whose. Its ironic how the darkest hours can bring out the best in human behavior. Last night was a great example of that. I imagine ordinary people growing more active in their daily acts of courage, so much so that it tips the scales for good. I invite you to join me.
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