In the name of peace

Among Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens, there are some who genuinely feel each other's pain and are working together toward easing it through mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation. That's why close to 5,000 people are expected to gather this week among the olive groves of the Latrun Monastery to dance together, eat together, and learn from one another in a three-day festival called "On the Way to Sulha." The Arabic word sulha, like the Hebrew sliha, means forgiveness. The festival, organized by the Sulha Peace Project, began in 2001 with 150 Israelis and no Palestinians. Now in its sixth year, it is thriving, with more than 300 Arab participants signed up from the West Bank, Jordan and Israel. There will also be participants coming from much further away. Guesha Thupten Phelgye, for example, was sent by the Dalai Lama with a blessing of peace. He's pictured above at the Sulha festival two years ago; last year's was cancelled due to the war. Sheikh Fara Guy, a Senegalese Sufi sheikh, will be coming as well. Events include listening circles, each with its own tone, but all very personal and focused on making an individual connection with strangers. A variety of workshops will focus on conflicts taking place outside Israel so as to gain a perspective on the local one. A multi-religion prayer tent as well as areas for children and teenagers will also be set up. In the evenings, musicians and entertainers - notably David Broza, Yuval Banai and Yair Dallal - will come together to help people release the tensions of the day. According to Gabriel Meyer, co-founder of the Project: "Peace is not a concept or an ideology; it's a way of being. We are surprising reality one heart at a time, until it changes." Tuesday through Thursday (August 14 through 16), Latrun Abbey, Ayala Valley; admission fee is NIS 10. For the complete program visit the site at