Thursday, July 17, 2008

Combatants for Peace

Heroes come in all shape and sizes and every philosophy and culture. This was proven at a meeting that was held a while back in the auditorium of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis.
One would never suspect that Shimon Katz and Sulaiman Al Hamri would be working together for a common cause. On the surface, they appear to be natural enemies. Katz is a former officer in an elite Israeli Counterterrorism Unit and Al Hamri is a Palestinian who spent more than four years in Israeli prisons for organizing demonstrations against Israel’s military. Yet they met together in St. Louis, along with more than 200 others, to demonstrate their commitment and determination to create peace in their home land.
These men are part of a US speaking tour sponsored by Combatants for Peace, a group dedicated to the peaceful establishment of an independent Palestinian nation and an end to violence in the Mideast.
“We’re not stupid and we know things are not going to change automatically or very quickly,” Katz said when asked about the prospects for a peaceful solution to the region’s problems. “But we set ourselves simple goals.”
Al Hamri was inspired after stints in jail convinced him that the region’s conflict could be solved ONLY by sitting down with the Israelis. Thus the organization, Combatants for Peace, was formed and it includes members from the Israel Defense Forces, former fighters from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization.
There is no surprise that there are a variety of opinions among the members. Yet, the organization’s basic message is consistent. “The solution is, let’s talk. Let’s talk to one another as human beings. We are talking about the small hope of co-existence, to have two states on this piece of land and to live peacefully side by side.” To these remarks, Al Hamri received a huge round of applause.
Indeed, even setting the goal to create peace in a troubled section of the world requires vision and courage. The willingness to hold to strong ideals was a topic about which Robert F. Kennedy was passionate. He said that “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he send forth a tiny ripple of hope…and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
We have seen great changes in the world – the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended, Russia rejected communism and moved to establish a democratic state. In our changing world, miracles do happen and now we have an opportunity to stand with Katz and Al Hamri for peace. Perhaps their willingness to stand bold in their conviction marks a time to move from hate to love and from separation to unity. Perhaps it is time for each of us to reach out heroically to our entire global family to assist in the mending and healing of our world.