Grapevine: Clearing a path

As the president of all the citizens of Israel, Shimon Peres either hosts or participates in major Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious festivals.

Peres at Christmas ceremony. (photo credit: GPO)
Peres at Christmas ceremony.
(photo credit: GPO)
In the hotel business, general managers are often people who have risen through the ranks, sometimes starting as a bellboy or a kitchen hand and moving through different departments until they reach the top. This experience enables them to do almost any hotel job when there is a staff shortage. That’s what happened at the David Citadel Hotel earlier this month when US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was scheduled to leave Jerusalem, found that the entrance to the hotel was covered in ice and snow, and that walking outside was a risky business. Hotel general manager Chemi Gur didn’t think twice. He grabbed a shovel, went outside without even bothering to put on a coat and began digging up the snow to clear a path for Kerry. By the way, because he was so busy pursuing peace in the region, Kerry missed out on celebrating his 70th birthday at home.
As the president of all the citizens of Israel, Shimon Peres either hosts or participates in major Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious festivals. In addition to Rosh Hashana and Hanukka, he celebrates Christmas with members of the Christian community and hosts an Iftar dinner for leaders of the Muslim community.
Last Sunday, just a few days before Christmas, he went to Ramle, where he was greeted by a large group of excited children dressed in Santa Claus costumes. They had been rehearsing up to almost the last minute for his arrival and welcomed him with Christmas carols in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
Also present were Ramle Mayor Yigal Lavie and representatives of all the Christian denominations resident in the city. The hall in the Franciscan Catholic Church where they assembled was resplendent with Christmas decorations.
In his Christmas message, Peres noted Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to Israel, and emphasized that Israel was both the cradle and the center of the three great monotheistic faiths.
“We all pray to the same God,” he said. “We pray that He should bring peace upon us and upon our children and that we should not know hostility and animosity. The Lord commanded us to live in peace, and I pray that by next Christmas, we will have peace in our region, and I hope that there will be unity among us.”
Father Abd Almashiah Fahim, speaking on behalf of all his Christian colleagues, said they were very moved as representatives of the various churches in Ramle to be together at this time, because Christmas symbolizes goodwill to all mankind, tolerance, understanding and love among people of all faiths. He also drew a parallel between the light of Hanukka and the light of Christmas.
Lavie stated that Ramle was a meeting point for Jews, Muslims and Christians, and urged all people to unite in brotherly love “here in this land in which all our religions were born and where our values were formulated.”