One man was walking along the shore when suddenly he noticed a little boy who was collecting sea stars on the sand and throwing them back into the ocean. The man then asked him: "What are you doing?" and the boy answered: "I'm returning the sea-stars back to the ocean because if I don't, they will die." The man looked around and saw thousands and thousands of sea-stars along the shore, so he said to the little boy: "But, you will never manage to achieve it, there are too many of them. What difference will it make?" The little boy looked at him and then looked at the sea-star he was about to throw. He smiled and said: "It does make a difference to THIS one!" and threw it back into the ocean.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article titled, "What Gives Me Hope," about my journey to promote sustainable dialogue in the Middle East. For the past six months, I have being working with a few friends and volunteers on a project I founded called Six Days of Peace. We partnered with the Middle East Program (MEP) to host a concert and food festival which brought together several Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, American, Norwegian and Japanese musicians, filmmakers, chefs and other cultural figures to celebrate the unique cultural heritage of the Middle East. These series of events which began on May 29th to May 31st reminded me about what is great about human nature. It is the fact that despite our differences be it political, ideological or social, at our core, we are all the same.
The events began with an Israeli-Palestinian food festival at the historic Copenhagen City Hall. The choice of location for this festival, though coincidental, symbolized the journey for peace in the Middle East. The first City Hall was built in 1479 before burning down in the great Copenhagen fire of 1728. A second City Hall was constructed in 1728 and that too burned down in the Copenhagen fire of 1795. After many years of waiting, a new city hall was inaugurated in 1905 and has since stood the test of time and represents one of Copenhagen's enduring landmarks.
I say this story is symbolic of the journey towards peace in the Middle East because just like the Copenhagen City Hall, several peace efforts and plans have "burned down." This has led to what I call "peace fatigue," the feeling that peace in the Middle East is not possible. However, just like the Copenhagen City Hall, our failure to make peace in the past is only indicative of the many uncertainties of life. The fact that we have tried and failed is commendable and the "fires" that burn down our efforts should only encourage us to do more to work for peace. The question we face is not whether peace is an option but rather whether we have the will and perseverance to ride with the storms that will rock our journey towards peace.
At the end of the food festival, we had a concert at the magnificent Tivoli Concert Hall that was attend by people from all walks of life. The concert featured performances from the award winning violinist Diana Yukawa and the music band, "My Favorite Enemy." To see people embrace our common humanity and sing for peace reminded me that no matter how deep the valley and how tense our mistrust towards one another, we cannot allow ourselves to forget that we have too much in common and too much to loose together to ever give up on our efforts to overcome the challenges and transform "the simple human values, which are our common heritage, into the firm foundation on which we may unite our strength and live together in peace."
This project was made possible by the support we received from both the Israeli embassy and Palestinian mission in Denmark. It is my hope that both the Israeli and Palestinian governments will continue to see the value in dialogue and return to the negotiation table to resolve the differences that remain. We badly need courageous leaders who will put the common interest above self interest. Leadership must be substituted for power. Most Israeli's and Palestinians I speak to are eagerly expecting their leaders to bring them out of the current stalemate so they can live side by side in peace with their brothers and sisters.
At the end of the concert, the American singer and songwriter Michael Ochs said to me, "Tonight's ripple may become a wave for peace." I could not have agreed more.