Friday, September 08, 2006

"We're here not to agree but to hear each other"

Over the Labor Day weekend, more than 250 Jews, Muslims, and Christians from the Mid-East, Northern California, and elsewhere, gathered in the woods of Tuolumne County, California, near Yosemite National Park, to talk about peace.

Len and Libby Traubman have been running a group for local Palestinians and Jews in San Mateo, CA since the early 1990s to try and create a dialogue for peace. They began the camp three years ago because, as Len says, "Government itself can't do it. It doesn't have the consent or the will or the imagination."
Some campers said they were drawn to the weekend retreat because they dread another war in the Middle East. Others came to heal their wounds.
"I see ourselves as two sides of the same coin, but it's a volatile situation," [an Israeli participant] said. "I think Israel was born out of absolute desperation. They needed a place to live, and they didn't give a hell who they pushed out. ... I don't think anything will be solved with violence. Someday, people will get tired of fighting."
[A Palestinian man], who lived the first 18 years of his life in Ramallah on the West Bank, said suicide bombings are acts of ultimate desperation. "I imagine there were many people at Auschwitz who would have been ready to be suicide bombers if given the chance."
Across the glen, pairs were engaged in similar conversations. At the end of their dialogue, a young Jewish woman and a Palestinian man hugged in a long, tear-streamed embrace.
This annual camp began with only 45 attendees. This year there were more applicants than could fit. The people are hungry for peace. Included in the group this year were former Israeli soldiers, Palestinian fighters, and citizens from all over who have experienced the hatred and the fear and have tired of it.

At one point during the long weekend, the campers heard a story from the Coast Miwok, whose tribal ancestors once inhabited the Sierra region where they were gathered:
A boy tells his grandfather: "I feel that I have two wolves fighting inside of me. One is angry and violent. The other is loving and compassionate. Who will win?"

The grandfather responds: "The one you feed."
Read the full story at TUOLUMNE COUNTY: Peaceful setting, intense dialogue.

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