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Peace Education

Service and Learning Activities in Northern Israel

Israel-2008-12-20-Service and Learning Activities in Northern Israel

A variety of service and educational projects in northern Israel took place in December 2008.

We held an exciting service project in a Druze village on Mount Carmel in which the local Boy Scouts along with volunteer instructors transformed an old school wall into a beautiful mural. In Haifa, another group of young leaders from the Reali School joined Youth Federation for World Peace volunteers in a painting project at an old peoples’ home. The elderly residents were so moved that they didn’t let the young people leave without inviting them to share a meal together.

In the Beit Hagefen Theater a special awards ceremony was conducted on December 18, and 43 NGO leaders received a special service award for excellence in community service and preservation of the environment. Haifa’s City Councilor Dr. Moshe Becker commented that for him it was the greatest pleasure to be among people who make their life goal to serve others. Dr. Eliezer Glaubach, the master of ceremonies, read out loud each NGO’s mission statement while Dr. Walsh, together with Dr. Sang Jin Lee, the Regional Chair of UPF-Middle East, and Dr. Masatoshi Abe, chair of UPF-Israel, handed out the awards.

Also on December 18 two conferences were held in parallel at the Dan Panorama Hotel overlooking the beautiful Haifa Bay. The International Youth Leadership Conference gathered some 30 participants, Israelis and Palestinians among other nationalities. Mr. Omar Halasa and Mr. Alex Gabb chaired the dynamic forum exploring the theme, “Youth Leaders Spearheading the Culture of Peace.” The second session was devoted to “The Role of Service in Promoting Peace.”

In the neighboring hall some 80 religious leaders were gathered representing Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze among other faiths. The participants were greeted by Sheik Ali Birani, the President of the Interreligious Federation for World Peace chapter in Israel as well as by Dr. Shuki Ben Ami the well-known writer and theologian. Ms. Nurit Hirschfeld, the program organizer, guided two sessions. The first, chaired by Dr. Frank Kaufmann, dealt with the vision of “One Family under God,” and the second session, led by Mr. Taj Hamad, explored the meaning of “True Leadership.” Round-table discussions followed each presentation, and summaries of their deliberations were offered to the entire plenum. Swami Parameshananda commented “When we look at each others' religion we see differences; when we look up to God we realize that we are all His children.”

A week-long program took place under the banner of the Middle East Peace Initiative on the theme of “Religious Leaders Forging a Path for Peace.” Throughout the week, the international delegates visited religious and historical sites in Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the Sea of Galilee; in addition, they participated in dialogues, orientation sessions, and symposiums. Two important symposiums were held: one in Palestine and one in Israel. In Ramallah, the delegation met with Sheik Taysir Tamimi, head of the Sharia courts, as well as two government ministers and six parliamentarians. In Jerusalem, the delegation was hosted in the Knesset by Hon. Ran Cohen MK as well as by the deputy speaker of the house, Hon. Yitzhak Ziv. Tour leader Mr. Jeremy Jordan commented; “it is amazing that in such a short time a group of total strangers from different nations and religions can become such a close family!”

The entire set of programs was organized by a small group of volunteers and especially by a group of youngsters between the ages of 15 and 23 without much prior experience. However, their great enthusiasm and high spirits enabled the entire festival to become a huge success! The fact that such young people took ownership of the festival is the living proof that the message of “living for the sake of others” has become an integral part of their lives.

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