Long Island Family Federation - Lloyd's Second Trip To Israel
Lloyd's Second Trip to Israel: Heart-to-Heart: Reflections of a Peace Ambassador

The Peace (under one God) Task Force:
12/1/03 thru 12/23/03
By Lloyd Howell


Ibrahim abu el-Hawa

The Wailing Wall
Rending one's garments
Tears for Jesus
Tears for the Palestinians
Arab Christianity
The Crying Menorah

Suicide Bombers, House Demolition, the 'Fence' and the Settlements

Some Vignettes
The Jews & the Goyim (non-Jews)
Anti-Semitism - Christian History, Jesus & the Cross

Salaam Alaikum (my Muslim brothers)

Angels Watching Over Me (Spiritual Phenomena)
Sleepless in Jerusalem
The Peres Peace Center
In Search of a Mosque
Heart to Heart - Our Visit to Tiba
Beit Hanina & Elizabeth Jadon

Shalom Al Israel: Peace for Israel - my prayer



     Events were set in motion when, in mid-November of 2003, an urgent call went out to all those connected to the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) for volunteers to participate in a three week mobilization in the Holy Land. The purpose was to advance the Middle-East peace process centering on a great Peace Rally to be held on December 22 in Israel. The underlying idea was that peace would not come through political or military means but that there is also a religious and spiritual side of the peace equation; that religion, at its best, brings man outside of himself and the confines of his nationality to see the brotherhood and oneness of all people as God's children. The goal was to tap in to these powerful currents and direct them toward solving the problem.

     Considerations for safety, etcetera, aside and after discussion with my wife we decided that I should go. So on November 30, along with most of the 50 or so American participants, I gathered in Newark Airport and departed on an El Al flight to join the task force which would consist of about 125 IIFWP members from around the world including some ministers and imams from the United States, the latter being associated with the American Clergy Leadership Conference.

     The campaign was conducted in a disciplined manner somewhat akin to a spiritual boot camp: we got up at 4:30 every morning for prayer and reading at 5 am, organizational meetings at 6:30 am and after breakfast went by car and, as a task force, visited just about anyone we could find all through Israel's major cities and smaller towns - that included rabbis, imams, churches, community centers, schools and various peace and other type of civic organizations. It was a very intense and emotionally condensed time. Our quest to locate and activate peacemakers often took on desperate proportions and once I even stopped at the "Peace" Medical Center to see the staff there was ready to respond! Each day required very serious prayer. Moreover there was much assistance from Heaven in the form of amazing encounters, connections and so forth.

     We worked in teams of four and later in teams of two. I started off with the following team members: Benedicte, a French woman; Etsuko, a Japanese woman; Jan, a Slovenian man; and Rev. Hilary, a black Baptist preacher and later, in his place, Imam Aziz, a black American Muslim.

     Each participant or "peace ambassador" has their own tale and perspective on the events that took place and with respect to the people that they met. The following is simply my own account of some of what transpired during the whirlwind that was my three weeks in Israel. Rather than write a simple chronology I chose to convey a sense of the mission through recounting some personal experiences and have categorized them randomly under a number of headings.

Ibrahim abu el-Hawa

     Ibrahim abu El-Hawa was one of the first people I met in what he referred to as the Land of the Prophets. He was small in stature and radiated warmth and generosity. He was lingering in the lobby of the Jerusalem Renaissance Hotel and we began conversing after he stated that he thought he had seen me before; a fairly common approach, I later discovered, used by Palestinians to initiate a conversation with someone they don't know.

     As I came to know Ibrahim I was deeply impressed by his ability to engage those within his reach. Eager to share about his life and to know another he approached strangers as one would old friends and thus it came to be that I, a man of few spoken words, came in to contact with him.

     He began telling me of his extraordinary family that had lived on the Mount of Olives for the last 1,400 years resulting in around 12,000 descendents. During that time the Crusaders, the Turks, the British and the Jordanians had come and gone. Now, he said, the Jews were here. He laughingly spoke of the "Travel Document" the government of Israel had issued him. Despite his family's deep historical roots the Israeli government, established only decades earlier, would not acknowledge his family as full citizens of the land, which is to say worthy of being granted an official passport! Not wishing to grant a non-Jew such a status, he could only obtain a travel document that arbitrarily categorized him as a citizen of Jordan! He said that if he was to show and try to use such a document in Jordan he would surely be arrested and that if he produced it in an Arab country he would be in serious danger; and that when his sons went to study in the United States such a document was used to block their return to Israel. He found it all somewhat ridiculous and, to my surprise, laughed good naturedly about it all.

     Ibrahim delighted in introducing himself to others by stating, "Do you know I am a very rich man?" This sometimes raised eyebrows as his clothes did not correspond with his words. In his mind his wealth lay in the fact that he knew thousands of people - their family life, jobs, income and children. He was rich because he had friends all over the world and was surrounded by a large family with dozens of grand children and thousands of extended tribal relatives. His world was one of community and family experienced on a level that most westerners could only imagine. He claimed that the people of his area did not need a newspaper - news would spread by word of mouth be it a wedding, funeral or whatever.

     Arabs, on the whole, are known for their extreme hospitality and when one is in an Arab's house, tent or apartment, one is also under the "protection" of his host. However, Ibrahim had taken the practice of Arab hospitality to the ultimate step. In his house one could find guests from all parts of the world. I said "guests," not boarders. At times they numbered a dozen or more, all welcome to partake of his family's food and generosity. It was not unheard to find a contingent of Jewish or Christian travelers celebrating both Easter and Passover in harmony in his home. Moreover to be a guest in Ibrahim's house one only had to come across his path. An invitation would unfold at the drop of a hat: "Are you hungry? Would you like to come and stay in my house? You don't need to pay for a hotel."

     It did not matter what religion, race or nationality one had. If a traveler needed a meal or desired not to stay in a hotel he was welcome at Ibrahim's home. In fact, at the time just prior to the peace rally Ibrahim had 12 guests staying in his house. Moreover, his family had no need for house keys since their doors were literally always open. This practice even got him on American TV as a camera crew got word of "the little man on the Mount of Olives who has the world visiting his home." They too dropped in and filmed the amazing camaraderie. No doubt his wife, who cooked and cleaned, must have been at least as much of a saint as Ibrahim!

     Ibrahim was by birth a Muslim. He was however above such labels. Other people were simply God's children and therefore part of his family. I remember him once approaching an orthodox Jew in the hotel lobby and asking, in Hebrew, if he could talk with him. For whatever reason he was quickly given a cold, "No" and said to me, "It is difficult with my Jewish cousins."

     Ibrahim had traveled the world and had friends everywhere. He was following the tradition of his grandfather who, as a young man, stowed away on a ship to see the world. This grandfather, he told me, had helped build one of the early mosques in America and lived to be 140, as recorded in the April 1959 National Geographic! Ibrahim himself spoke four languages: English, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic.

     The world was at Ibrahim's fingertips: if you said you needed to rent a bus, then he would reach in to his coat pocket and pull out one of his address books and there would be the bus company owner's name and phone number who would happen to be a friend of his. If you said you were from Long Island, as I did, he would, on the spot, produce the name of someone from Long Island he had once befriended. He was so well connected that I often caught him holding both of his cell phones, one to each ear.

     Jesus had spoken of this type of man in his story of the good Samaritan. It was easy for Ibrahim - he just asked everyone he met, "Can I help you? What do you need?" During the campaign he stood in the lobby asking people if they needed a ride somewhere. If you did he'd call a taxi or, if they were free, one of his family members would come to drive you to your destination. As I mentioned his good deeds were unconditional and crossed all boundaries. Most amazingly they would come back to find him. He mentioned how when visiting a synagogue in Washington State he came across a Jewish lady who he had once helped when her car stopped while driving near the Mount of Olives. Then there was a thirsty man who he once gave a bottle of water to at one of the gates to the old city of Jerusalem. That man recognized Ibrahim years later as he walked through Central Park in New York.

     Ibrahim's special passion was children. He said he had hundreds of them! At first, I wondered how many wives he had! But I discovered there was only one. These so-called children were the orphans of East Jerusalem. He would take the visitors that he met to Israel to visit these orphanages. However, Ibrahim was not one to directly ask a person to make a donation. He left it to one's sense of heart. He did it under the guise of tourism. If his visitor/tourist grasped the reality of what he was seeing and how he was better off than those he was visiting then Ibrahim had no doubt that they would help in some way or another. He was simply providing an opportunity for everyone to be blessed. To Ibrahim it was obvious that he could always spare something for those in need, so why not others?

     One of Ibrahim's long-term house guests told me of the time Ibrahim's sons had saved up money to buy him a decent but used car only to find out that a week later Ibrahim had sold the car and used the $6,000 or so dollars to care for some orphans for the next six months.

     Twice during our campaign Ibrahim, like Santa Claus, showed up with a bag of Muslim souvenir hats and gave one to everyone who wanted one. Soon the lobby of the Renaissance looked like a convention of Masons was going on! Always giving - like an endless fountain, Ibrahim, may Allah/God/Jehovah continue to bless you such that your wellspring never runs dry. May all that you've given come back to your descendents in manifold blessings, and may they all be like you - filling the night sky with the light of so many stars! Ibrahim I do a bow before you.


     There is the side of Israel/Palestine that is a land of tears. Tears come easy and for so many reasons. I had my share of them when in Israel.

The Wailing Wall

     There is first of all the "wailing wall" - the western wall of the great Temple. There the Jewish faithful go to pray. The orthodox can be seen fervently rocking back and forth while holding their prayer books. The cracks of the wall are stuffed with prayer requests written on paper. I can easily imagine the many tears shed there for the loss of the Temple and the kingdom of the Jews.

     Upon first arriving in Jerusalem the members of the Peace Task Force were challenged to drive to the Wall and offer up their prayers. In a state of exhaustion from travel I simply wasn't ready to deal with the twisted and unknown streets of a thousand-year-old city, even if provided with a map. I declined because, more than seeking to avoid what I suspected would be an unpleasant driving experience, I felt such an overpowering and urgent need to immediately pray for the mission that I simply couldn't wait to find a distant wall, no matter how "sacred" or "holy" that wall may be. I made haste to the walls of my hotel room and there I fell on my knees and tears flowed as I beseeched God to allow myself to be His ambassador for peace. I repented, in great heaves, over my life's unworthiness and inconsistencies before Heaven. As my prayer ended I realized that I had found my wailing wall and that any place where one pours out his heart is a wailing wall - even the unlikely walls of the Jerusalem Renaissance Hotel.

Rending One's Garments

     After we had gotten several days in to the campaign I had another pivotal prayer. We task force members had been going out in teams of four in search of contacts and key persons who could mobilize buses for the December 22 rally. A great chart, about 10 feet wide, had been made to report, team by team, daily progress with respect to bus commitments. To report buses was essential to the success of the rally; to have none meant its failure. Numbers were reported at the morning prayer meeting. It was a time of judgment. There was no public scolding or humiliation but mostly an inner accounting of one's conscience. And although only three days had passed our team had no concrete result. I felt that I hand come to the offering table empty-handed and, as the team leader, whether unreasonable or not, felt utterly ashamed before Heaven. I could not continue in such a state. Honestly speaking, I could barely endure sitting through the meeting.

     After it ended I immediately went in to one of the adjacent unused meeting rooms and fell on my knees in heaving sobs. It was a prayer in its most extreme form, a supplication of biblical proportions, an outpouring of grief and regret. I pounded the floor, my body wrenching up and down, my head uncontrollably bumping in to the floor. Such a prayer could not have been mine alone but somehow felt as if it was the outpouring of numerous ancestors, voices previously trapped within the depth of my being. For a time I forgot entirely where I was and it didn't matter if the world was watching and thought me a fool. When my apparent "madness" subsided I recalled the biblical phrase "rending his garments" and the story of how David tore his clothes in grief upon hearing of King Saul's death.

     Now I knew, not just intellectually but experientially, what was meant by that phrase. I felt that myriads had been praying with me, souls and spirits from Jerusalem seeking release from their failed offerings. I left the room with a sense of having been set free and wrapped in a blanket of God's love. I was beginning to think, "Jerusalem is a great place to pray."

Tears for Jesus

     It is said in the Christian Bible that Jesus (Yeshua ben Joseph) anguished in prayer over Jerusalem. There it says he yearned to gather the people under his wings as a hen would gather her chicks. No doubt he, and many prophets before him, shed tears in not being able to do so.

     One day our team went with Ibrahim, a Palestinian man from the Mount of Olives, to visit an orphanage there. The side of the Mount on which the orphanage stood had the most splendid view of the city of Jerusalem. (Who knows it could have been that very part of the Mount where Jesus had once stood and prayed.) As we entered the compound I noticed a statue of Jesus to my left, about eight feet tall with arms raised to Heaven in prayer. I felt a strong and immediate need to pray at the statue, which was somewhat surprising due to my Protestant sensibilities which normally steer me away from statues, icons and religious paraphernalia. However I followed the nun inside and planned to return later.

     After tea and some story telling we found ourselves outside admiring the grounds and the view. Somehow the subject of the statue arose. The nun recounted that the statue had been brought to her school in the first place because its former location had become problematic as vandals had broken its fingertips and slashed its face across the chin. She consented to take the statue and had a place of honor prepared to receive it; several stairs leading up to a flat area had been constructed adjacent to the orphanage and the statue rightfully placed in the center facing out over Jerusalem.

     Sometime thereafter, and I can't remember if it was a year or some months, the nun recounted that there arose a stir. It appeared that there were those who had begun to take offense at the statue's presence. Somehow it came to be known that the tiny figure on that distant Mount of Olives' hilltop was a statue of Jesus standing in prayer over the city of Jerusalem! There were those who could not tolerate the statue and the statement it seemed to make. Their indignant outcry reached up to the highest levels of the local government.

     Strings were pulled and as a result one day city officials showed up on the doorstep of the orphanage with a bulldozer and according to the nun asked which should she preferred to have removed, the statue or the school? She could not answer. The statue was then uprooted from its central location, in the process suffering breakage in the lower part, and placed to the side of the property next to a wall where it could not be readily seen from beyond the property and then turned to face away from Jerusalem.

     I could not listen any longer and walked to the statue as if it were Jesus himself standing there. I leaned on his side and grabbed his robe and sobbed deeply apologizing to him that still 2,000 years later there was no appreciation of his life and efforts to love his people, that still there were those who were infuriated at his presence, even be it in stone. Ibrahim thoughtfully put his hand on my shoulder as I wept.

Tears for the Palestinians

     I never imagined that my heart would embrace the Palestinian people. I had seen them on the news - they were terrorists, Jew haters, U.S. flag burners and supposed enemies of America. But it was my mission to embrace ALL the children of Abraham and so when appointments were made for my team to visit a couple of "Arab" community centers we went wondering what reception awaited us. An education of sorts was about to begin. It was a world that few Israelis would think of visiting but as ambassadors for peace we had license to go everywhere.

     There, at Al Tur, I met people just like all others. I met the staff and heard of there concerns with respect to child care, the handicapped and elderly. I heard of city budget cuts and so forth. I met Nazee Ansari, the director. I made a presentation about the Peace Rally and the importance of religious leaders and people of conscience coming together to create a new climate. "Heart to heart" was the non-political theme. I challenged them to get involved and think about bringing some buses. The 91-year-old village elder, Mohamed abu Al Hawa, was present and gave his blessing. Tea and snacks were served. On another day Nazee took us around to visit some local mosques and to see the (alleged) site of Jesus' ascension to Heaven. Nazee bought us falafel sandwiches and asked when we would like to come to his home for lunch.

     Later, at the suggestion of Nazee, I would call up Imad Karain, a school teacher, who immediately drove to meet us downtown and discuss the Rally. Without a whole lot of conversation he consented to undertake filling a bus. Then with what I was beginning to note was a cultural trait he invited Benedicte and myself to have dinner at his home a few days later.

     At the Beit Haninna community center I made another Peace Rally presentation before the local elders. They listened with respect but did not fall over each other to get on our bandwagon. The "mukhtar," acknowledged leader similar to a mayor, apologized for the lack of enthusiasm and then stated that there were good reasons for the hesitancy. He further elaborated by pointing to one of the men, a burly bearded fellow, saying that not too long ago he had had his house of eleven years demolished by Israeli bulldozers. He asked me why they did not stop him from building in the first place. Then the mukhtar let it all out: not only had that man's house been demolished but his pregnant wife had been knocked aside by soldiers, which resulted in the loss of her unborn child and then he mentioned how the gentlemen's children came home from school to the shock of finding that their home no longer existed. The mukhtar's words hit me like a sledge hammer. Then he pointed to another man, approximately 60 years old. This man, he said, had gone to the West Bank to pick up his elderly mother and bring her to his house. However at the checkpoint, upon seeing her Palestinian I.D., the soldiers turned her back and confiscated the man's car for 30 days, imposed a fine of 20,000 shekels (about $5,000) and held him in jail until it was paid.

     This was a difficult situation. These people lived on the flexible edge of East Jerusalem, where Israel meets the West Bank, and were subject to the whims of authorities and the winds of detente and struggle. I was at a loss as to how to open their hearts, how to give them hope. I proposed that the mukhtar and one representative come to the Thursday night dinner program for a more in-depth look at the IIFWP Peace Initiative. They said there would have to be some discussion and a decision reached. We then had a group photo taken - the burly bearded man putting his arm around me - I suppressed my desire to cry.

     We visited the large mosque in Beit Haninna, second to Al Akqsa, in size and found the Imam, Muhmoud abu Falah, who welcomed us in. I showed him our approach book and talked of religious leaders coming together and creating a new climate and movement toward peace. He didn't buy it. He couldn't believe the Jews, especially the rabbis, would get behind it. We encouraged him to make a response based on what is right and not what he thinks others might or might not do. He was unmovable and when he said that he was once with the Fatah Party of Arafat and had spent six years in an Israeli jail I then understood his intransigence. He stated he no longer trusted any political leaders but only God who he said would soon establish a new Caliphate. He believed that Bin Laden was not a criminal and so forth. I had to put my personal feelings aside for at that moment I was not an American but Heaven's representative.

     One Japanese woman on my team was nudging me to leave feeling that we were wasting our time. I ignored her and talked a while longer that this man might have some chance to feel the parental heart of God as represented by us task force delegates. I could not simply let him believe that we would easily accept such negativism.

     However, we eventually had to leave to visit another smaller mosque nearby. When we arrived no imam was to be found. However much to our surprise Muhmoud abu Falah showed up minutes after we got there! We decided to drive on and upon looking we saw that Muhmoud had gone up to the roof to wave "goodbye" to us. Shortly thereafter I was lost on the unpaved streets of the Arab subdivision and who came up behind me in his car - the same Muhmoud! We just couldn't shake him off. (Indeed his heart must have been touched after all as demonstrated by his inability to simply cut us off and be on with his activities.) He directed us to follow him and he led us out to the main road where he again stood waving goodbye.

     Even now my heart wants to cry that there are so many roadblocks to peace. My only hope is that true love can emerge from the heart of God touching the hearts of people one at a time. What other hope is there? A billion dollar wall, an arsenal of Apache helicopters - can they solve the problem? Can a good "fence" make a good neighbor?

Arab Christianity

     On one of my team's outings we went to the old city of Jaffa situated below Tel Aviv. Jaffa was an ancient city and is recorded in the Bible as Joppa, the port thru which the cedars of Lebanon were brought in to Israel. Now it is a mostly Arab city. Wandering through Jaffa's streets we came across the walled compound of St. Paul Jaffa Coptic Church. We rang the bell and an old monk appeared and slowly walked to open the gate. He was brother Mikhail a Coptic Christian from Egypt. He was in his late 60s, had trouble walking and only spoke Arabic. Nonetheless he could understand, through his very minimal English and with the help of our approach book, that we were people of God on a mission of peace. He invited us in and soon appeared with some tea and cookies.

     The property was in decline from lack of funds and congregants. We gathered that he had been "holding the fort" for the past 20 years. His loneliness was great but his faith and love, I surmised, kept him from departing for friends and family in Egypt from where he came. We struggled in vain to communicate the breadth and depth of our work. And although not much could be said he was happy to see us of Catholic and Protestant backgrounds and through various gestures and a groping for words we understood that he was calling us "Jesus' family." Later I asked to see the chapel where his few people gathered for Sunday services. He took us there. I was anxious to see the hymnals and Bible - yet when I saw the Arabic type I was caught by surprise!

     Although I had studied church history, the major emphasis had mostly been on the "successful" Greek thrust of the early church. However, upon seeing the Arabic type, the forgotten efforts of those early Christians who carried their faith to Alexandria (Egypt) and throughout North Africa came to my heart. Although I did not know the details of that mission I could sense the tears and disappointment of those involved to see that work eventually come to a virtual dead-end as Christianity in the 7th century receded before Islam.

     After we partook of the atmosphere I felt it was time to move on and make the Rally known to others. We, Etsuko from Japan, Benedicte from France and Rev. Tillery from New York and brother priest Mikhail, made a circle and joined hands. But when I began to pray a wave of profound grief came upon my heart. I felt the disappointment of God that His providence through Christ had, for whatever reason, not been able to capture the heart of the Arab people and how that perhaps had necessitated the rise of another religion, Islam, by which He could seek to bind those people to Him. I felt as if so many souls were some how apologizing to God for the complications involved as a result of Christian inability to love the Arab peoples. And here was this faithful man holding down this outpost of Arab Christianity on a dead end side street. I felt that, without knowing it, he was somehow paying for past failures all but forgotten except by God. I asked that his faithful attendance and perseverance be accepted by Heaven, that he be set free from such a past.

The Crying Menorah

     One of my team's visits was to S'hmuel Ha'navi (Samuel the Prophet) community center in a poorer section of Jerusalem. There we met Tali and her co-workers. We got a tour of the center and a description of its activities. Thereafter we sat down in the conference room where we were served one of those delightful cups of Middle East tea with the mint leaf floating inside. I gave a brief introduction to the Peace Initiative and the Rally and made my appeal that they organize some buses to bring their people.

     The talk was well received and the staff attending was of like minds and expressed their support but stated that unfortunately the day of the rally was also the day of the wedding of one of the center's staff. They were all committed to attend the wedding. Still we asked if some posters could be placed and if there was sufficient positive response we would be glad to schedule a bus.

     On the way out I noticed a wall upon which there were many photos. Not having noticed that wall on our tour I drifted over to see what it was about. Just before I got too close I began to grasp that I was going in to a sensitive situation, one that our guide had most likely purposefully circumvented. It was a wall memorializing those young people of the community who, had served as soldiers over the past decades, and in so doing had lost their lives in various conflicts and wars. The reality of life in Israel once again emerged its painful side. I awkwardly expressed my remorse before Tali, who too had served in the Israeli army. We had a moment of silence and exited.

     Outside I noticed a large menorah (a nine candle candelabra, associated with the celebration of Chanukah). Under the menorah was a list of approximately 34 names - no doubt the names of the youth who had lost their lives. Unlike American memorials, the eerie thing about this tearful menorah was that there was still room for more names to be added!

     (There was also a trip to Hakfar Haryarok, a government run boarding school outside Tel Aviv. Purported to be the largest of its type in the country the school claimed 600 students; both Jew and Arab. It was an impressive setup with farmlands, animal husbandry, etcetera. There we too were hosted and given a full lunch including a glass of Israeli wine. It was a paradise of sorts and its lush tropical foliage and pheasants running wild made me homesick for my past years in Florida. But there too the ugly face of war had left its reminder in the old concrete bomb shelters scattered around the grounds.)

Suicide Bombers, House Demolition, the 'Fence' and the Settlements

     In Israel I came face-to-face with other uncomfortable realities. These existed everywhere in various forms. To walk in to a McDonald's was to be considered a potential terrorist and thus subjected to a baggage search and body scan to detect and deter a suicide bomber from entering the premises. Unfortunately business still suffered and the beautifully situated Tel Aviv McDonalds, although it overlooked the beach and Mediterranean Ocean, was still empty, aside from three of us task force members, even at lunch hour. Definitely the Holy Land was hurting, tourism had been at a standstill for several years. Most hotels were either virtually or totally vacant. Both Arab and Jew were suffering as a result. The only people benefiting were those involved in security which had become a big operation. Now a billion dollar "security fence" is being unilaterally constructed by Israel along and through parts of the West Bank. This impacted real people in a real way. Ibrahim's son stated that some of his cousins, who lived just behind him, had been arbitrarily cut off by its construction. The line had been drawn such that now they fell on what would be called the West Bank. Thus they would no longer be viewed as inhabitants of Israel and therefore no longer eligible for Israeli I.D. papers and the right to freely go to Israel for work etc.

     Ibrahim drove me to see the unfinished "fence" up close. I couldn't believe my eyes: this was no "fence," although benignly promoted as such by the Israeli government. It was nothing less than a modern day Berlin Wall - a type of concrete curtain. It looked like the Palestinians were being put behind a prison wall. Certainly this billion collar fiasco would not be possible without U.S. support and dollars. I saw an old man that Ibrahim knew. Ibrahim said that now he had to walk a couple of hours to get around the construction to get to the Israeli side to visit relatives and to get to the nearest store. When construction is complete, he said, that would no longer be easily possible. Then Ibrahim pointed to various piles of rubble and asked me if I knew what they were. I could not tell. So he stated that they were the remains of homes that had been bulldozed to create a clear zone beside the wall. I asked if the people were compensated for their loss and he looked at me as if I was naïve and foolish. "Of course not," he said, "the governmen does what it wants to do; there is no compensation for the houses or the land!"

     Then there is the suffering of those who've lost loved ones to suicide bombers. Once while Benedicte and I sat in a coffee shop on Jerusalem's Yaffa street, while waiting for meeting, she had occasion to talk with a French Jewish couple and what appeared to be an 8 or 9 year old boy. The man became quite upset to hear her propose that there could be peace. The woman, although somewhat unruffled, claimed that she had been involved to one degree or another with 7 suicide bombings. And she sought to calm the man, who was most likely her husband. However things started getting quite heated and the little boy's face turned in to a snarl as he said something about Palestinians. It was then that they decided to leave without getting their coffee. It was then that we became aware that we were in that part of Jerusalem where coffee shops, like the one we were in, and pizza parlors were the targets of the bombers.

     Before we had much time to dwell on that grim possibility Mr. Halper of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolition appeared and off we went to his office. Mr. Halper was a Jew from America and was about my age. We had both passed through that unique and idealistic period of American history - the '60s. I could relate to him. He too, like me, had put aside the lure of financial success and immersion in the 'system' to seek a dream. For me it was a unique religious path. For him it meant an exodus from America to participate in a dream called "Israel." Now he was worried where the dream was headed - he knew it had become a nightmare for many - both Jews and Palestinians. He was concerned that his own people were making a great mistake in not understanding and finding a way to live with the previous occupants of the land - whether it is a one or two state solution. His efforts were to educate others, chiefly in Israel, but also abroad about the blunders that he felt were being committed - ones that, he feared, would come back to haunt Israel.

     He had written a number of essays that had been compiled in a booklet. In brief he elucidated how many in Israel, government notwithstanding, had a long range plan to never let the Palestinians obtain true national sovereignty, just some semblance. He explained the "bypass" roads the Israeli government had built throughout the West Bank in essence establishing highways that skirted the Palestinian roads. He showed how Israeli settlements and zoning restrictions were dividing Palestinian control of their land into what resembled "Bantustans" - the sort of quasi but harmless self-governing states South Africa once sought to establish so as to relegate their unwanted Black population into "manageable" territories not altogether unlike the moving of America's Indians on to reservations. According to Mr. Halper, there was being established a "matrix of control" through which even with statehood the Palestinians would never be able to stand as a nation in the sense that others, including Israel, could.

There were other Israelis also not pleased with the way things were going. One that our team met was Dr. Prinz, an educator, who as a young boy had been through imprisonment for being a Jew in Nazi Poland. He no longer believed in God but he believed in Israel and goodness and invited our team to come to a rally against the Wall organized by peace groups and leftist organizations. Benedicte, I and a volunteer named Claire went to see what that was all about. It took place somewhere in the West Bank and the protestors were brought there by buses to join in smashing a styrofoam replica of the wall together with Palestinian participants.

The event was relatively brief and managed to garner only a small amount of media attention. However what was interesting was despite the fact that some hormones were raging not too far away, as the effigy of a wall was smashed, there grew a group of some fifteen or so Palestinian teenagers around Claire. They were so curious to talk with this American woman, to look at the photos of her teenage children. They enjoyed her telling them not to smoke and so forth. They were like teenagers anywhere - needing guidance to direct their lives to a better state. Palestine I hope you can find that leadership!

     Now it is about two months since I returned. For me it is rather clear that there is some cause and effect relationship between the occupation & Israeli settlements in Palestine and the phenomena of suicide bombing. Thirty plus years of losing control over one's destiny, of seeing the dream of statehood seem to vanish into nothingness, to experience continual humiliations results in a state of absolute despair that can not help but produce a totally irrational phenomena such as suicide bombing. It is something akin to the pressure created in the earth by the accumulation of hot boiling magma. It builds and builds until it finds some weak point out of which it can erupt. As long as that pressure (of occupation) exists there will be eruptions somewhere somehow.

Some Vignettes

The Jews & the Goyim (non-Jews)

     While some task force teams/members had intimate and breakthrough experiences with individual Jews, rabbis, etcetera, such was not always the case. And perhaps I must apologize for not having tried hard enough. Yes, I found there to be a real barrier between the religious Jew and the non-Jew (and, I also observed, between the religious Jew and the secular Jew). I know that, when on a few occasions, I went to speak to some religious Jews there was some unspoken feeling of "Why are you here?" Even without speaking, such as when we were at the airport, waiting to catch the plane to Israel. I sometimes got the sense that I or any non-Jew was viewed as an intruder, someone who did not belong. I suffered it as I knew they, had for generations during their Dispersion, also been treated that way by Europeans and people of other nations.

     There was one story of how some Japanese task force volunteers met utter rejection when visiting some ultra-orthodox Jews. Apparently they had reached out to the children to give them some origami creations (figures made from folding paper in shapes) as a gesture of friendship only to witness the children dropping them to the floor and spitting and stepping on them! I can only imagine that - not altogether unlike some hostile Amazon tribe that feels its sacred forest lands have been transgressed - they were, on principle, rejecting the presence of any "outsider" - too bad it was people who came in the name of "peace."

     Shabbat: I never encountered such a degree of rejection, as the Japanese mentioned above, but, as also mentioned above, I often detected a feeling of being unwanted. This feeling was especially heightened during Shabbat (the Sabbath). I could not quite comprehend why the Task Force organizers asked us to visit synagogues on "Shabbat." The Sabbath is greatly respected among the Jews and viewed as a time dedicated to God, study, prayer and family. To show up with a slightly different agenda, even for discussion of inter-religious peace task force activities, was interpreted, at best, as a slightly rude intrusion.

     What is interesting is how one man's Sabbath (day of peace and respite) can be another man's day of hardship. For the non-Jew, the Sabbath can be a hell of sorts - stores, restaurants, etcetera, are closed. If one is in a Jewish town or area then unless you have a friend there you can't even find a bathroom and like me you will find yourself having to drive to an Arab village to address those irrefutable needs of the body.

     What was especially interesting was how the hotel operated on the Sabbath. Regarding meals: the toaster became unavailable and the food warmers were turned off yet somehow the coffee was served hot! (Someone told me that the coffee pots were on electric timers.) However, although the non-Jew was not given the option to turn on a toaster he was in fact given the option of taking the non-Sabbath or manually-operated elevator! (Next to it was the "Shabbat elevator" which operated automatically stopping at alternate floors without the need to push any buttons!)

     There is one thing that I really appreciated about the Sabbath and that was the respite from traffic - the highways were relatively clear of traffic from dusk on Friday eve to dusk on Saturday eve. I say relatively clear because many not-so-observant Jews and secular Jews felt no compunction to refrain from driving on the Sabbath. But God forbid they or some unsuspecting person drive through a conservative area (many of which are closed off for the Sabbath) - for then your car could be stoned!

     Paralyzed: There were some moments when I inexplicably experienced very powerful feelings of not being wanted. One such time was when our team went to Tel Aviv's Orthodox neighborhood of B'nai Brak. The streets were full of more or less uniformly dressed men with beards, uncut sidelocks of hair, black coats and brimmed hats. We drove in our car staring out at the unfamiliar orthodox world. And they stared in looking at the strangers as fish in a bowl.

     We were going to walk the streets tell people about the upcoming peace rally, locate synagogues and ask to meet the rabbis. I had not even gotten out of the car and I could feel some sort of headwind pushing me away, waves of rejection; voices saying that I wasn't wanted, that I was a "stranger" and a missionary in disguise. I could hear the whispering of unseen myriads murmuring that I had a contagious disease which might be spread among the faithful. Interwoven in the voices were mixed emotions of distrust, fear and anger. Was it my perceived Christian background being rejected? Was it because I was simply a "goyâ" (non-Jew)? Regardless it was a heavy burden to bear.

     Interestingly, as I mentioned, all these feelings were not based upon anything visible! I admit that sometimes I am overly sensitive to things spiritual and this was one of them. Perhaps a multitude of departed souls, Jewish purists & zealots in the afterworld, were pushing me away. Pious, yet suspicious, ancestors believing that they were protecting their descendents from pagans, cultists and foreign gods.

     Some might claim that I was suffering from an overactive imagination, lack of sleep or even worse schizophrenia. Yes it's true that I was exceptionally exhausted due to a sleepless night. Regardless, the end result was a very real and paralyzing experience; and on that day these invisible souls, or ghouls of my imagination gone wild, got the better of me and to my shame I requested my team members to continue without me. My strategy - to simply sit things out in the car until the team returned!

Anti-Semitism - Christian History, Jesus & the Cross

     One can not help but come face to face with the results of anti-Semitism when in Israel. It is part of the landscape. It has, for centuries, been shaping the Jewish mindset and actions. Anti-Semitism was after all the driving force that ultimately resulted in the creation of the modern State of Israel. Now, at times, one meets a sort of anti-non Semitism - that is to say a suspicion, fear and even dislike of non Semites - those who are not Jews; sometimes it is toward Muslims and at other times toward Christians.

     I heard from a nun the story of a Jewish woman (not from Israel) and a non-Jewish man who had lived together and had a child. After several years, the man returned to his country and some situation arose through which the woman felt it necessary to place her child with the nun's orphanage. The nun said that the woman was by nature loud and outspoken in her views and opinions. The nun said she had cautioned her not to speak of placing her child with them. But apparently she had not heeded the nun's warning for one day the (Israeli) government social services came to take custody of the child. According to the nun the child was never again to be seen and the mother denied any contact. It occurred to me that in the eyes of the State she was a traitor of sorts; one who had committed the grave sin of placing a Jewish soul in the hands of non-Jews and that by doing so had rescinded all her rights. It occurred to me that historically there were many times that Jews were forced to become Christians - both children and adults. I'm sure there were even incidents of Jewish children taken to be raised as Christians.

     The nun, who had lived in Israel for decades, understood the grave response her action could incur. Given such historical realities, sensitivities and the resentful aftertaste that lingers such behavior (as a Christian organization taking in a Jewish child) could easily be regarded as threatening and subversive. On one hand perhaps she was lucky her orphanage wasn't closed down altogether.

Churches & Christian History

     Later, after visiting a couple of churches, I was more than irked to learn that the building of a church is not allowed in Israel - only existing ones are tolerated. This made my blood boil and seemed so hypocritical and antithetical to the freedom of religion so taken for granted in my native America - the very freedom Jews there are so willing to take advantage of (and rightfully so). Such a ban on churches seemed only a few steps short of Saudi Arabia's making Christianity illegal. I thought of how irate the Jewish Anti-Defamation League would be if synagogues were not allowed to be built in America!

     However, thinking from a Jewish viewpoint, it is somewhat understandable that now that the Jews have their own Land and can do things the way they want their sentiments may well question the need to see Crosses (symbols of persecution and pogrom) rising alongside the architecture of their new cities?

     All these sort of things were eye openers. The vandal scars on the face of the Jesus statue provoked me to recall instances of swastikas being spray painted on American synagogue doors. Apparently intolerance and bigotry know no boundaries. We are all susceptible; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etcetera. History seemed to be one of payback. An eye for an eye and so forth. The task force's task was to get people to come forward and rise above the past. I know I had to swallow some distasteful things in order to give peace and dialog a chance. As Rev. Sun Myung Moon (founder of the IIFWP) once said - God's representat

     It is not a history that can be deeply gone in to in this reflection but I thought of how unwelcome Jews have been in the Christian world. I realized that, in general, I am relatively oblivious to such things. Just as most whites in America, being the majority, have never been on the receiving end of bigotry and racism. Some do not even know that it still exists! I thought of how flat Christians singing "at the Cross, at the Cross I first saw the light" sounds in Jerusalem. What about the Crusades and the killing of Jews. Certainly if I were a Jew I wouldn't want any part of that "light!" I thought of how foolish it was to think the Jews could accept Jesus as the representative of God's love when his followers had persecuted them and, even more, left them to the hands of Nazism! Such sentiments were among those encountered by the Peace Ambassadors.

     I recalled Rev. Moon's recent encouragement to Christian pastors to take down their Crosses and go to Israel and embrace the rabbis. I came to grasp that what was a symbol of redemption to Christians was a fearful symbol of hate to many Jews. The idea of that Cross Initiative, which produced a breakthrough meeting and inter-religious declaration, was that Christianity had existed for centuries without the Cross as its symbol and that perhaps it was actually blocking the way of reconciliation.


     As mentioned earlier, I had some difficulty with the fact that Jesus did not appear to be welcome in his homeland. Once when walking the streets of Jaffa I met a loud and outspoken man who claimed to be a Jew who had found the messiah Jesus. He had told me some stories; one of a rabbi friend who, he said, he had convinced to accept Jesus who was thereafter threatened (by his fellow rabbis) to be silent or lose his life. He wanted me to call this rabbi on the phone and tell him of the rally but he warned me to say nothing if his wife or children answered the phone! However he scoffed at the idea of his own life being in danger. He said he simply did not care to walk in fear once he knew Jesus.

     Many Jews seem to gloss over what is sensitive and central to Christians. It seems so very difficult for them to admit that maybe some faction of them once had something to do with the death of a good man, Jesus - be he the messiah or simply another rabbi. Even Jesus' basic goodness was rejected as discovered by one (task force) team that met a rabbi who proclaimed that Jesus was evil for he had taught people to disobey the (holy) Mosaic Law (given by YHWH)!

     However some very special Jews, who were able to go beyond the pain associated with examining the life of Jesus, were also met. One task force member who had a meeting with a chief rabbi of one city reported that when he apologized to the rabbi for the historical shortcomings of Christians to Jews he was surprised to hear the rabbi turn the tables on him and say with a smile: "I accept your repentance. But if Jesus had not been persecuted by Jewish leaders and handed over to be murdered by the Romans, and if the early (Hebrew) Christians had not been persecuted by Jews, there would be no (Christian) anti-Semitism today." Oh how smoothly things would go if significant numbers of people could reach these types of conclusions with respect to each other's shortcomings.

     For this sort of progress to take place wherein each religion and ethnic group can awaken to its own shortcomings on a large scale calls for great leaders to come forth. It is such people that our Middle East Peace Initiative was and is in search of. Such gems are out there and must be panned for like gold in a river stream. Thus we drove from place to place in search of them. People, who are ready to break out of the mold, are needed while others, already found, must be further nurtured.

     People like Imam Bundakji, now a task force supporter, whose older, yet infant, brothers had been killed by Jewish militia shooting randomly & purposefully into homes of Palestinian villages in 1948 in efforts to drive them out of the land of Israel. Subsequently, in the same year, Haitham Bundakji was born in a refugee camp in Jordan where he grew up. For years he watched his mother's tears and, seething with hate, attacked the first Jew he met, when, as a teenager, he arrived in Greece. He later moved to America and always got in to fights with Jews, spoke out and organized against them. He was their sworn enemy until one day, when on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Allah spoke to him through the verses of the Koran and brought about a profound change of heart. He is now the imam of a major California mosque that has made many interfaith breakthroughs with surrounding Jewish communities. He now even looks forward to the possibility that perhaps his son will one day marry a Christian or a Jew.

Salaam Alaikum: Peace Be Upon You - My Muslim Brothers


     Two times several of us did some mass leafleting outside the (ancient) Damascus gate to the old city of Jerusalem. This gate was frequented by Muslims going to and from their prayer times at the Al Akqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.

     On Friday literally thousands of men would come pouring out after the morning prayer. All one had to say was the Muslim words of greeting salaam alaikum (peace upon you) and extend the flyer announcing the rally to them. They would always respond w'alaikum salaam. I came to understand the power of those words; they evoked some universal feeling of community and friendship, once uttered they demanded an equal response and opened a door that made personal interaction (with a stranger) possible. Almost everyone would then accept the flyer and many would stop to read the entire text.

     Reactions were expectedly varied and were, in my opinion, a fair barometer of the state of people's hearts toward peace. I have to say that most people I met were fed up with politicians and welcomed the idea of heart-to-heart peace. Some said to me that God had given the land to Abraham's descendents, specifically to people of faith. Those that had faith (in God) be they Jew, Muslim or Christian should be welcome to live in the Holy Land. Many were happy to learn of the event and gave a nod of approval. Of course there were a good many that were skeptical and disillusioned and with these I had some engaging conversations. I was occasionally questioned as to why America was supporting the Israelis, why "we" were giving the Israelis bullets to shoot their people and helicopters to attack them? Those were sincere questions and often difficult to answer to their satisfaction. Most were strongly against the war with Iraq.

     Among those leafleted a few persons openly expressed anger by ripping to pieces the leaflet they had received. Those that I got to talk appeared to have good reasons for being upset such as having been driven out of an ancestral home during fighting between Israel and Lebanon or some other grievance.

     Certainly I could grasp that the passing throngs respected my/our commitment to be out there leafleting in the first place but even more so when I did it on one cold rainy day. Then they knew it was a serious thing and the fact that I, an American, had come to do this work was also not without some positive effect on some people. That is grass roots ambassadorship.


     On one day I visited a number of shops and businesses on the Mount of Olives - an area that has been severely hit as a result of the Intifada (violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation) and the subsequent drop in tourism to Israel in general and Jerusalem specifically. No more were throngs of tourists to be seen. Where once there had been busload after busload of foreigners seeking to photograph Jerusalem from the peak of this favorite spot or visiting Jesus' alleged place of ascension or see the street from which he rode the donkey in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday or visit the Garden of Gethsemane at its base - now they were no more. Hard working vendors and other people were now on the verge of desperation and could descend upon a stray visitor with a spirit so desperate that it bordered upon assault and was inevitably counterproductive.

     What amazed me was that in spite of the barren financial climate many were ready to overlook money to demonstrate their support for peace. Indeed it was their only hope. Let me give a couple of examples: once Benedicte and I sat down and had a coffee and a tea in a smoky Mount of Olives coffee shop amidst what must have been half a dozen unemployed men. We showed the proprietor our approach book, spoke the simple English he could comprehend and got his permission to put an Arabic poster on his shop window. After I asked how much we owed him for the coffee. He said, "Don't worry. You are working for peace."

     Then on another part of the Mount we went in to a hotel that felt like a ghost town. Nonetheless there were two people in the office; one was, like me, a mechanical engineer who could not find work. They talked of how they had no guests and that business had been dead for almost three years. They too consented to our hanging a poster for the rally on their exterior window. And as we left the manager said, "Come back and stay here some time." That sounded like any normal business promotion but then he added, "at no charge because you are working for peace." I was choked up especially by such graciousness in the face of financial depression.

     My overall conclusion was that most likely more Arab/Palestinian people would come to the Rally. My concern, if success was to be judged by significant numbers of both parties, was then just what percentage of the rally attendees would be Jewish! It seemed to me that most Israelis felt they could survive without the Palestinians whereas the Palestinians felt a benefit from being associated with Israel in one form or another.

Angels Watching Over Me (Spiritual Phenomena)

Sleepless in Jerusalem

     That this (peace) project was one that Heaven was behind was manifested in the many spiritual phenomena and extraordinary experiences that were interwoven in the task force activities. I too had my share.

     Certainly among these was the many intense and profound prayers I personally experienced a few of which were recorded above. Also, not unrelated, was the fact that I and others often found that we could not sleep much at night. This was not just a result of the mental stimulation that comes from being in a new environment but was a function of the spiritual energy surrounding the mission. This was a manifestation of the invisible force behind our mission; the force which had pushed many of us to Israel in the first place; call it the spiritual world or simply God's Holy Spirit.

     Regardless it was present in the very air and, as far as I was concerned, manifested as a sort of anxiousness which would not let me rest. This was also born out by the experiences of many one of whom was Rev. Hartom, an orthodox Christian leader in Nazareth, who reported that one morning he was awakened from his sleep at 3 am to find that he was having a dream wherein Rev. Moon was waking him and asking him why he was sleeping when he had a mission to save the nation! As for myself to find a bit of rest, however brief, I found the following appeal to the spiritual world somewhat helpful. I would explain that I appreciated their support and investment BUT reminded them that I lived in the physical world with a physical body that needed a period of rest to be able to function productively and thus requested that they back off to allow for a period of sleep. After that my nights became more restful.

     But beyond those inner and personal prayerful epiphanies and the energized pace of life were other phenomena that told me that Heaven's angels were working overtime to bring things to pass.

The Peres Peace Center

     The first of such episodes was took place on our team's very first sortie. We had been assigned to Tel Aviv and given the names of three Israelis who had had some previous interaction with our organization. We were to contact them and from there springboard and network our way to those who could connect with and support the rally.

     So in faith we drove down from Jerusalem like bloodhounds following a trail. Upon entering Tel Aviv we had to make a decision as to where we would get off the highway. Being on a mission for Heaven I asked, in my heart and soul, just what exit I should decide to take. Then I saw "Ha'shalom Exit" (the peace exit) - that was good enough. The traffic was somewhat backed up but still I felt that this was where we were supposed to go. From other experiences in my life of faith I knew that this was a moment where one had to have his antennae up and out there to pick up on the spiritual signals. Team unity of mind was and always is a key ingredient in such a process.

     Unknown to my team members I struggled to know if I should turn right or left at the top of the exit ramp. It was a serious moment for me because a wrong turn could send us off the trail to wander in an urban wilderness. Then a thought came "find a gas station." And there at the top of the ramp and to the right was a gas station. We just had to make some turns and get across a divided road and there we were.

     As it turned out there were no public phones from which we could call our contacts. However, next to where we parked on the perimeter of the station and its coffee shop there was a man, in his 60s, who had a little convenience stand. He spoke limited English but when he understood our desire to find a telephone he offered me his own cell phone. I made the call but there was no answer. I had two numbers left and asked him to use the phone again. He consented again but I got an Arabic person who could not converse with me. The man gave me his phone one more time. This time I got through but our would-be ally said he would be busy for two weeks working on a rally to stop the building of the wall (between Israel and Palestine).

     All of a sudden we appeared to be at a dead end. Here I was leader of a team without a clue as to what our next move should be. It became clear that I had to begin with where I was. I felt gratitude to the helpful man (who had let us use his phone) and I decided to buy coffee from him for the team. In so doing we struck up a conversation and learned that he had come to Israel from Rumania about 40 years earlier. He showed me some photos of his family and I showed him our approach book with the photos of rabbis, ministers and imams working for peace. Then he suggested that we go up the street for there we would find the Peres Peace Center. Wow, we had come to the right place after all for here was our contact ready to show us where to go. He had been standing next to us from the moment we parked.

     We left our car in his good care and walked up the street and came to building #12 as he had directed. Although it was some sort of office building after looking at it I intuited that it something was not right - so we didn't even go in. I felt strongly drawn to the building next to it, despite its number not being "12."

     We entered and to my surprise found that that was the building hosting the offices of the Shimon Peres Peace Center! We took the elevator and the receptionist called Nirit M., assistant to the Director. Nirit welcomed us to have a beverage and brief talk in the conference room.

     So this is one glimpse in to how destiny, spiritual world, God or fate was guiding us the ambassadors for peace to meet those prepared. It is another story as to how people respond to and follow-up on the opportunities put before them.

In Search of a Mosque

     Another spiritual kind of phenomena transpired one morning after the direction was given to visit a mosque that day. I took it quite seriously that Heaven had willed for our teams to meet Muslim leaders prepared to work in the peace process. The question was how the connection would be made. That, my faith told me, had to be left in the hands of God - all we had to do was our very best to make it happen!

     So that I would do, my time in Israel was an offering - I would go where asked. Unfortunately, as usual there was an almost total lack of organization and no specific towns or mosques had been selected in advance. Still God had His plan.

     Our team was spontaneously given the rudimentary direction to simply go to Petwha Tikva, a small city outside of Tel Aviv, more than an hour's drive from Jerusalem. When we got there much to our surprise we found it to be a totally Jewish city! There were no mosques in sight! The clock was ticking as we knew that the big Friday morning Muslim prayer time was a little more than an hour away. Our goal was to find a mosque and approach the imam before the prayer time began!

     Someone in Petwha Tikva gave us rough directions to an Arab village BUT it was not to be so. We drove and improvised and simply could not see the prayer tower (minaret) which is the trademark characteristic of a typical mosque. Finally, after meandering down some highway, we saw some distant minarets only to get to the top of a hill and discover that they lay on the other side of what looked like a Berlin Wall! I was shocked. So this was the Wall I'd heard about. The wall that Israel thought would end its problems with the Palestinians. It was unbelievable to my American eyes to see something similar to what I thought the world had long waited to dismantle - now here was another similar monstrosity rising in its place!

Heart-to-Heart - Our Visit to Tiba

     Anyway we stopped and got some new directions and soon thereafter entered the Arab village of Tiba. What a different atmosphere from the Israeli towns and cities I had seen. The roads were in need of repair and the atmosphere was somehow charged with a sort of spontaneous energy that seemed to speak that anything could happen at any moment. We simply drove toward the first minaret and parked the car among the many vehicles lining the nearby streets and hastily made our way. Unfortunately we were a tad too late - the prayers had already begun. Not entirely confident how to conduct ourselves in a mosque I hesitated to enter. One of the latecomers told us it would be over in an hour. We decided to grab a bite to eat and return by 12:30 pm.

     However when we did we were shocked to discover that every single person had gone and moreover the doors of the mosque itself were locked shut! How could this be? It was as if everyone had instantly evaporated - unlike Christian churches there is no coffee hour mingling after a Muslim service! Regardless and desperate I pounded on the door as if to awaken some sleeping cleric.

     This brought the attention of a passing vehicle that slowed down as if to say why are you, a non-Muslim, knocking on the door? It certainly wasn't something that people in the village were accustomed to seeing - an international group composed of Westerners and an oriental. Desperate to make something happen I ran down the stairs and showed the man, who spoke little English; the approach book with its glossy photos of imams, rabbis and ministers together. He got the idea we wanted to see the imam and directed us to get in his truck. Not altogether familiar with the culture and the world I had entered I hesitated for a moment actually wondering if he had some sort of connection to the infamous Hezbollah terrorist group. Then I pushed that thought aside and waved everybody over to hop in his vehicle. I didn't know where he would be taking us or when and how we would get back BUT we had to go forward to accomplish our goal.

     He brought us to the home of Muh'mud Mansur, who, it turned out, was one who appointed the local imams! An hour before we had no idea that we would be meeting Muh'mud, we couldn’t have imagined how it would happen and we could not have planned it out if we had sat up all night. BUT Heaven was steering us despite ourselves and Heaven knew that Muh'mud did not speak English and Heaven had made an arrangement ...

     Little did we know that about an hour north of Tiba, in Galilee, lived the niece of Muh'mud. Her name was Hannah and she had lived some years in London where she was trained as a lawyer. That morning she and her husband Fuad, also a lawyer, who had studied in Germany, had gotten a spontaneous urge to go and visit the relatives in Tiba. So while our team had wandered lost and while we waited for the service to end another plan had been set in motion. Hannah and Fuad were being mobilized to play a role in our meeting with Muh'mud. And as if by clockwork they arrived at the doorstep of Muh'mud only a minute before us and thus were on hand to connect with our visit and its purpose. In fact if we had arrived a little earlier the meeting with Muh'mud could have come to a quick conclusion given his lack of English and his difficulty to embrace the notion of peace.

     However as fate would have it Hannah arrived, right on time, as a Heaven-sent angel. And so we walked together to meet Muh'mud and sat down with him and Hannah's father and some other relatives who lived next door to Muh'mud. I had heard of Arab hospitality and now saw it kick in to action. Dates and other fruits were brought out, Arabic coffee and tea and I began to talk of the mobilization and the rally and the need for imams and rabbis to work together.

     Hannah wore the traditional Muslim women's head covering wrapped closely to her face. But her garments did not matter. I felt so close to her in a very natural way as if she was my sister. In my mind I envisioned her as a member of the Women's Federation for World Peace. As it turned out Hannah jumped right in interpreting everything I said just as if she was a team member. And although Muh'mud seemed to be shaking his head Hannah encouraged me saying, don't worry Lloyd I will work on him. Yes, Muh'mud had some good reasons for being skeptical. He had seen and knew about the harsh treatment Palestinian friends and workers were receiving from Israeli authorities. He had become convinced that there was no good faith or desire to make peace in Israel. And although he could not quickly change his position and mental state I felt assured that he would be left in the competent and caring hands of Hannah. How precious she was. I could see that Heaven had plans for this dynamic professional Arab couple. Having reached an impasse with Muh'mud we were invited next door to her father's house for the big Friday afternoon meal.

     It was a beautiful family gathering, actually a feast. And to my surprise Muh'mud, who had said he had some things to take care of, actually returned to continue our meeting. I think he actually wanted to find some inner "peace" now that we had stirred up his heart. So after the meal the discussion continued in the parlor. Some good points were made and Hannah's father got quite inspired but more than anything heart-to-heart time was spent together and that was a true investment for peace. In the end two good things had taken place: one, Muh'mud had consented to send a representative, who could speak English, to the rally and two, we had met Hannah and Fuad, who were from thenceforth on their way to also becoming ambassadors for peace.

     For me the day was a miracle that all the planning in the world could not have arranged. Praise God, praise Yahweh, and praise Allah!

Beit Hanina & Elizabeth Jadon

     Elizabeth Jadon's appearance was a miracle of sorts. Why? Because she came out of nowhere and responded to Heaven's call as easily and naturally as the sun rises in the east. Of course, you should know that the sun rising every day out of complete darkness is itself miraculous.

     What was "miraculous" with respect to Elizabeth's coming forth were the circumstances surrounding her appearance, at least as I interpret them. First of all I note that our team had previously visited the community of Beit Hanina, the relevance of which with respect to Elizabeth I will elucidate shortly. We had gone to Beit Hanina to meet the community elders with the hope and expectation of Heaven - that, even though they might have much to overcome, they would put it aside and respond positively to the peace initiative and do what should be done - that is bring buses to the rally. Yes we were idealistic and not intimately aware of the painful realities of life in their part of the Holy Land. Still our task was not to let the past blur the vision of a new future. To that end we had poured out our heart as a team and as representatives of Heaven's Will that all should try and come together (for Peace). However, as mentioned in another section of this report, the mukhtar and other elders were not able to decide on the spot to come to the rally. They were unfortunately burdened with too many memories of past disappointments, house bulldozing and other incidences with Israel. It was a dark moment but we had hope that something could change as one of them said they would discuss attending the introductory banquet.

     And here is where things get interesting. Sometimes when one prepared by Heaven, be it a person or nation, does not respond Heaven then calls forth a backup. It has happened so many times in history. For example when Saul failed as king to stand as an object to God's Will David was called forth and so on. The same has often happened in my own spiritual life and was about to happen again.

     Honestly speaking, after some days I had given up thinking that the community of Beit Hanina was going to respond on this occasion and had continued to look for another. Still, unknown to me, God wanted to collect His investment there. God had heard their prayers and lamentations and on that merit He was preparing another person.

     I still don't know exactly how it happened but shortly after Beit Hanina appeared to have fizzled out I returned from a day’s activity to sit down for dinner one night and a moment later found an attractive young woman asking if she could sit at the table. I said "of course" and at first thought that, with her bright spirit, she was a newly arrived IIFWP member who had volunteered to participate in the campaign. She said her name was Elizabeth. She was about 20 years old, wore a pants suit and spoke perfect English (from having attended an English language high school). She could have easily passed herself off as a Brit but, as it turned out, she was not an IIFWP member but a Palestinian from Beit Hanina!

     I inquired as to how she got invited to dinner. It turned out she had "somehow" heard about our activities and had decided to come and had arrived at dinner time. She couldn't even seem to recall who had contacted her or when! From my perspective it was as if she had come on a flying carpet to be dropped off at the hotel's doorstep to finally roll in to the dining room next to me! I intuited the hand of God at work and certainly wasn't going to question the hows and whys! At first I didn't see any connection with her and my earlier visit to that community. I just talked to her about the Peace Initiative, about the rally and the people who had come from many nations to help. She was sincerely interested and moved to learn of our activities.

     I told her about the need to bring buses of people and that the campaign would supply the buses and asked her if she had any contacts or leads. She gave me the name and phone number of a Jewish activist she new. She got more excited and by the end of dinner completely surprised me by deciding to bring a bus of people all by herself. A plan was already forming in her mind - she was going to put up notices, make an announcement at school and hand out flyers at the mosque - the very mosque where the Imam had declared he could not participate! Things like that were supposed to happen but I could hardly believe my ears. All too many times in my life I have awakened to the smallness of my thinking with respect to the possibilities around me especially including the unseen hand of Heaven.

     I had to ask myself if this wasn't the work of God: to bring forth a young person without concepts and hang-ups, yea even one from Beit Hanina, one who could respond openly and with hope and the expectation that things could go right in the world. God bless you Elizabeth and the young people of Israel and Palestine who are not yet tainted by the twisted minds and damaged hearts of their elders. I hope that over time your hearts can remain pure and protected. And thank you Heavenly Father for your continuing hope and belief in your wayward children; for the (miraculous) opportunities that lie silently and unnoticed in each minute of each day - may we find each and every one of them.

Shalom Al Israel: Peace for Israel - My Prayer

     Despite your collective ancestral memory of pogroms, of expulsions, of disenfranchisement, of ghettoization and unwelcome I pray for you to find peace.

     Despite your pledge to "never forget" the memory of the Holocaust I hope you will find your way through this new wilderness. I hope you will discover that the peace you seek comes not through removing "unwanted" neighbors, not through military might and not through taking the land upon which others live.

     I believe peace comes from turning swords into plowshares, helicopters in to tractors, from banging away at the hard feelings until they yield and bend in to new shapes. Peace comes by opening the heart and not closing it. Peace can only be found by the brave and the strong - Israel, I know you are both brave and strong.

     The art of peace is the ability to turn one's enemy in to a friend, to cultivate not just land but friendships.

     Israel I fear you carry the ghosts of the past too close to the present. They haunt your thoughts and color your actions. They preclude the possibility for peace. They drive you to seek protection in a false and external strength. They push you inexplicably to do the things to others that have been done to you and this too many of you are still not able to see.

     Israel please don't be angry at me. I may not be a Jew but I DO understand and I AM your friend. You don't believe me and why should you. All I can say is time will tell who your true friends are. They won't always agree with you or say that you are right but they will speak truly and honestly.

     May God bless you and may the leopard lie down with the kid and the earth be full of the knowledge of the Jehovah. Amen.

In Conclusion

     Overall, the Task Force, in its short three weeks, made contacts on many levels and some truly exceptional people were found, not all mentioned above. A good foundation was left for future development and the rally, although attracting fewer than hoped for, (about 10,000 people) was deemed a success by the IIFWP organizers.

     As for myself, I learned and experienced many things on my brief trip to the Land of the Prophets, Priests and Messiah some of which were recorded above. I met the limitations of today's religions and their followers and I met some of my own limitations and found God working with me nonetheless. I saw how badly intermediaries are needed; people who, in knowing God's parental heart, could steer the antagonists to reconciliation and appreciation. I saw the need for vision and leadership and how the IIFWP could be instrumental in that respect.

     One of my conclusions is that making "peace" is not like buying "fast food." It is a "process" more like making fine wine - one that requires the investment of sweat and tears and sometimes life itself.

     Peace can not happen by itself. It requires peace workers. There is unfortunately, not yet, any monetary compensation for such work - thus the task must be done by anointed volunteers working in shifts.

     Whereas one worker might sow some seeds, another will water, another weed and prune, and yet another harvest. The work goes on only if there are workers; workers willing to take it on the chin and still carry on; workers who won't always and at first be appreciated. I can only hope that I will one day soon be able to return and labor again in the vineyard of the Lord.

     Inshallah (Muslim expression meaning "God willing"). Amen (Hebrew for "so be it").

The Principle of Creation
How can we know the nature of God, who is invisible? We can know it through observing the Creation. Just as the work of an artist is a visible manifestation of its maker's invisible nature, every being in the Creation is a substantial manifestation of the invisible nature of God, its Creator.

The Fall of Man
Every person has an original mind whose nature is to pursue goodness and repel evil. But fallen people are unconsciously driven by an evil force to commit evil acts, contrary to the desires of their original mind. In Christianity, the one who controls this evil force is known as Satan. This chapter, "The Fall," makes clear the identity of Satan and the origin of evil.

Mission of the Messiah
What is salvation? Salvation in restoration: to save a drowning person is to rescue him and restore him to the state he was in before he began to drown. God's salvation of man means God's restoration of fallen and sinful man to his original state of goodness -- to the position where he can fulfill the Purpose of the Creation.
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