Special to <i>Post</i>: Dalai Lama to visit Israel

He will focus on the spiritual rather than the political.

dalai lama 88 (photo credit: )
dalai lama 88
(photo credit: )
The Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of the Tibetan people who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, will visit Israel next month. A previous visit, in November 1999, during which he met with then-Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and education minister Yossi Sarid, elicited strong protests from the Chinese government, which at the time was negotiating a weapons purchase from Israel. The visit is part of celebrations marking the centennial of David Ben-Gurion's birth, and is the brainchild of Avishay Braverman, former president of the Ben-Gurion University and Labor Chairman Amir Peretz's candidate for finance minister, who recently took third place in the Labor Party primary. The events are being coordinated by the Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People (Yativ), and are expected to include a visit to Ben-Gurion's grave, lectures in Tel Aviv, and possible further meetings with Israeli government officials. While the Dalai Lama is a frequent traveler to countries around the globe, his visits to Israel are controversial because of Israel's close relationship with the Chinese government, which refuses to negotiate with the Tibetan leader and insists that Tibet is part of China. Israel is China's second-largest supplier of arms, a relationship which has caused tension with the United States. Last June, under pressure from the Bush administration, Israel agreed to cancel an arms deal with China and allow US officials to review its future weapons transactions. The public program of the Dalai Lama's visit, however, is more spiritual than political. On February 17, the Dalai Lama is to lecture on "Collective Responsibility," and the next day he will lead a day of workshops on "The Practice of Consciousness." Many Israelis visit Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, during trips to the Far East, and there are a number of Buddhist meditation groups in Israel. Born in 1935, Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama. Since assuming the leadership of Tibet, he has witnessed the end of Tibetan independence, the death of over one million Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese, and the creation of a Tibetan diaspora. He has met with Jewish leaders many times in an effort to learn how Jewish culture survived exile from the Land of Israel, most famously in a series of meetings that became the subject of the book and film The Jew in the Lotus. Notwithstanding the Dalai Lama's personal and political history, his bestselling books such as The Art of Happiness and The Power of Compassion generally focus on how to attain happiness in everyday life. "The very purpose of life is to be happy," he says. "And if you want to be happy, practice compassion."