As we are today witnessing a new round of violence in Israel, it is important to remember that there are people of goodwill on both sides who are working toward peace and a shared vision of the future of the State of Israel. On our congregational trip last May to Israel, we visited the Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva, located on a kibbutz near the Green Line that demarcates Israel proper from the West Bank. There we met with Lidia Aisenberg, who talked to us about the mission and strategies of the organization and guided us on a tour of Barta’a, an Arab village about a five minute drive off route 65, one of the busiest roads in Israel.
A few days ago Lydia sent me a declaration signed by Jewish and Arab mayors and regional authorities calling for a secure and shared life in Israel. The banner above the declaration said, “Jews and Arabs won’t give up on a Shared Society”. Here is a summary of the five points of the declaration:
- The statement affirms that the State of Israel is based on the principle of equality, andhas been a shared home for both Jews and Arabs since its inception.
- It calls upon all the citizens of Israel, and residents in Wadi Ara and the Triangle in particular, to maintain an attitude of respect and avoid any harm to one another. It condemns any attack on body, soul, or property, as well as any expression of physical or verbal abuse.
- It appeals to the leaders of both peoples to refrain from incitement and the ferment of emotions. “Our task at this time is to inspire calm and ensure public safety.” It appeals to religious leaders, intellectuals, educators and teachers tolead people in dialogue that will help adults and children to deal with the complex situation in a way that will not lead to manifestations of racism, revenge, injury, or threats to the other.
- It urges the Israeli government to pursue a political solution that will enable all people in Israel to live in security and peace.
- It recognizes the great sensitivity of the Temple Mount / Al Aqsa Mosque for both Jews and Muslims. Asks the Israeli government, the government of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to manage the crisis responsibly and to return to the preservation of the status quo on the Mount.
The declaration concludes, “During this time of crisis we will continue to maintain good relations and promise to remain faithful and committed to our partnership, which is based on mutual responsibility and equality between Jews and Arabs in the region and in the country.”
For more information on Givat Haviva go to http://www.givathaviva.org/