Tuesday was International Peace Day and it was celebrated at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.The highlight of the festivities took place when hundreds of children, both Jewish and Arab Israelis, as well as children from the Palestinian Authority and children of foreign workers, united to form a giant peace sign. The children all held hands and raised homemade banners with peace slogans written on them, over their heads, while a helicopter flew above taking pictures.The festivities carried on into the evening and included children’s activities like sports and crafts, a breakdancing workshop, a photo exhibit by Israeli and Palestinian photographers, an oliveoil tasting station, where people could taste oil produced by Israelis and Palestinians, screenings of documentary films about the peace process, a children’s play about stereotypes on both sides of the security barrier and a peace posters exhibit.The evening ended with a concert featuring artists like Daniella Spector, Groove Redemption and Hadag Nachash.September 21 was adopted as International Peace Day by the United Nations in 1981.To inaugurate the day, the Peace Bell is rung at United Nations headquarters in New York. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents. The inscription on its side reads: “Long live absolute world peace.”Ron Pundak, director-general of the Peres Center for Peace, said that the center had decided to raise the profile of the event this year to increase awareness of the cause of peace among the Israeli public, which he believes has tuned out to the idea in recent years.“Our job here is to promote peace and remind people of its value and, whenever and in any way that we can, to enable people to engage and take part in the process. We promote peace on a daily basis and are not part of the roller coaster that takes place on the political front,” said Pundak.“We, in the peace camp are often mockingly called the avant-garde. It’s important to note that the avant-garde is a term for the forces which lead the rest of the army, not just a group wandering out on their own. We are here to lead the public on the path for peace.”Pundak, a veteran of Israeli- Palestinian contacts from before the Oslo Accords, said he is considered an incorrigible optimist, but that even he is pessimistic about the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.“In the bleak situation that the region is currently experiencing, there is not much peace to celebrate today. All indications show that in 2008, under prime minister Ehud Olmert, Israel was a stone’s throw away from signing a final agreement with the Palestinians.“Today, two years later we are further away,” he said.“Within a week we will know whether the agreements that the Americans have been working towards for the last year-and-a-half will go forwards or collapse with the resumption of construction in the settlements.“The question now is whether [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu really wants an agreement and whether in the current coalition he can achieve it,” said Pundak. “My feeling is that he doesn’t want to and that even if he did, he couldn’t do it with the existing government.”When asked about recent proposals to hold a national referendum on an agreement, Pundak said he was in favor of the idea.“What we should do is have the leaders initial an agreement and then let the public vote on whether to adopt it or not. If the referendum is well administered and the question asked clearly enough, I am convinced that the public will approve it,” he said.