A divided message of peace
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Palestinian threats force Jews and Arabs to hold separate Christmas coexistence events.
Israeli activists formed a heart-shaped drumming circle in Jerusalem on Tuesday
afternoon, after safety concerns forced them to pull out of a joint Christmas
Eve peace event with Palestinians next to the Bethlehem security
With the help of American aerial artist John Quigley, Israelis
and Palestinians had planned to form a large human sculpture of a peace sign,
with the concrete barrier running through it.
But at the last moment,
threats from Palestinian hard-liners to sabotage the project forced organizers
to scrap the barrier event out of safety concerns.
gathered solo in Bethlehem’s Manger Square on Monday, where, under Quigley’s
direction, they formed a peace sign with the words “Love All” by the large
And on Tuesday afternoon, Israelis and some foreigners
sat in the shape of a heart on the cold stones of downtown Jerusalem’s Zion
“Imagine all the people, living life in peace,” they sang in a
rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” – along with other classic peace songs – as
they banged on small hand drums.
During the event, which lasted for over
an hour, passersby stopped to stare and take photographs with their
“We know that on both sides, there are a lot of people who
want to have families and a job they love and who want to live in peace,” said
Mayli M of Artists United for a Better World, which helped spearhead the
project, as she stood in the middle of the circle and spoke to the
The idea for the original peace sign by the security barrier
stemmed from an UNRWA project on which Quigley worked in Jericho last year. For
that project, he organized 1,000 Palestinian schoolchildren to form Pablo
Picasso’s famous peace dove.
This time around, he worked with Project
Peace on Earth and Artists United for a Better World to bring together Israelis
They chose to do it on Christmas Eve, he said, to
harness the holiday’s universal message of peace and love.
“We knew it
was an ambitious goal,” said Quigley, particularly in light of increased
tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the past few months.
he said, “there are a lot of folks on both sides that would like to see closer
He continued, “Our hope and our dream is that the process of
peace is something that we continue to nurture on all sides.”
important that Israeli and Palestinians step up their efforts to reach out to
one another, “so that the voices of peace are strengthened,” he said.
added that he was not naïve and that he understood the situation was very
“I do not bear the wounds of this place, the way the people that
live here bear them, but as a human being, I want to see healing here,” he said.
“Those who want peace need to continually raise their voice to say that it is
He and Mayli M organized Monday’s project with Project Peace
on Earth, the City of Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Convention Palace and
Consolidated Construction Company.
But Quigley was unable to attend the
Jerusalem event, which was put together in less than 24 hours.
those who came out to support the Jerusalem event was Israeli artist Yair
Bartal, who runs his own organization,x Turning a New Page for Peace. He said he
was disappointed that threats of violence had forced the cancellation of the
original event, and that as a result it was important to push forward with the
idea by a holding a linked Jerusalem event.
This was not the first time
that people who wanted peace had been threatened, he said, adding that joint
Israeli-Palestinian events harmed hard-liners who were against any kind of show
of love and peace.
“There is no way we can give up,” Bartal said. “It
just means that we have to work harder.”