No weapons, no security checks, no suspicious looks, no bullying.
Last Saturday, Feb. 6, Dead Sea – Palestinians and Israelis, young and old, men and women, were given the rare occasion to come together for a day of dialog and fun. For the Palestinians (mostly from the West Bank) it was also an opportunity to enjoy a little more freedom of movement than what they are normally used to. One woman told us that it was the first time in twelve years that she got to see the sea.
Ihab Balha, the head of the event (which was free of charge for all the participants), welcomed us in Hebrew and in Arabic. After a short walk together down by the Dead Sea, a simple, yet rich buffet awaited us outside the auditorium of the Ein Gedi Kibbutz: lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious desert dates, pita bread, yummy labaneh cream cheese with zaatar and olive oil, hot coffee and tea, and plenty of fresh drinking water. After having filled our tummies we went inside for various activities: conversation circles, each with a Hebrew-Arabic translator, music, and games. I think people felt good.
About the organizers of this event: Ora and Ihab Balha, both tall and of gracefully spiritual presence, are a Jewish-Muslim couple, which is quite a big deal in itself because interfaith marriages are still not widely accepted in Israel, neither by Jews nor by Muslims. Ora and Ihab are both peace activists; they run a bi-lingual Waldorf kindergarten in Jaffa, where they live with their three sons.
In 2011 they founded the (non-profit) organization The Orchard of Abraham’s Children, which is active in a variety of fields – educational encounters, conferences, festivals, art, music, ecology, sport, leadership development, and peace tourism – all for the benefit of braking the barriers of fear and ignorance and for promoting a peaceful dialog and co-existence.
Ora and Ihab are also the coordinators of the UPLIFT center in Israel.
UPLIFT – “Combining the gift of intimate live events with the power of the internet to reach the world, UPLIFT is a bridge of love and consciousness into real world action…”