Pilgrimage of Peace – Day One

The Pilgrims of Peace in this photo are so peaceful that even 20+ hours of travel from Los Angeles and New York to Tel Aviv could not dampen their spirits. The above photo was taken at Ben Gurion airport by our bus driver Ghazi, just after loading the baggage and safely bringing us to our first stop – Nazareth.

Shown in the picture (top row from top left to right) are:

Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, an Episcopalian reverend from Los Angeles who has been involved in multi-faith work for many years. Wilfredo provided us with a beautiful prayer just before our meal, which set the stage for our wonderful 1st eve together.

Cantor Steven Puzarne, Leader of this Pilgrimage of Peace, without whom the others could not have participated. Steve brings music back into the hearts and souls of Jewish congregations and has been involved in interfaith peace work for many years.

Paul Waller, a former aerospace executive, long time member of Beyond War, who retired early and dedicates his time to interfaith and dialogue work. His smile and gentle nature are clearly reflected in the photo.

Joan Waller, Paul’s long time partner, a peace advocate who through her affiliation with humanistic Judaism met Libby and Len Traubman and started a Jewish – Palestinian and Multi-faith dialogue.

Vanessa Karam, a progressive Muslim from Los Angeles, who came on this tour to discover how she can better contribute to positive aspects of peace within a constructive interfaith setting.

(Bottom row from left to right):

Yona Wiseman – the wise woman of Tel Aviv, who is our fabulous tour guide. Yona has a wonderful sense of the multi-faceted, multi-layered realities which make up this incredible holy land. She shares with an open heart and spirit.

Rebecca Jupiter – a beautiful creative artist and singer from New York, member of the leading edge spiritual Jewish synagogue of Bnei Jershurun on the upper West Side (affectionately know as BJ for short.

Alima Sherman – a beautiful and sensitive woman from Southern California (who is holding the sign), member of Rev. Jerry Stinsons congregation in Long Beach and who as member of a progressive Sufi order, herself embodies the notion of “interfaith”.

Rev. Jerry Stinson – Sr. Minister of the 1st Congregational Church of Long Beach, CA; first person to sign up for the tour. Jerry is a long time peace activist, who was waiting for an interfaith peace group program to visit Israel-Palestine.

Eliana Gilad – Me, co-creator of this fabulous group with Steve. I had fun making the welcome sign on the train ride from the Galilee to the airport. People watched with interest and asked about the program. It was so exciting to share with them.

In Nazareth we were met by logistics wizard & my partner at Sacred Peace Tours, Boaz Gershon with our dear friends and local interfaith Peace Leaders: Tareq Shihada, Director Tourist Office, Municipality of Nazareth and Kamel Barghouti, School Pricipal and Community Center Leader and head of the Nazareth English Camp. (They are sitting to the right and left of me.) Our welcoming ceremony and dinner couldn’t have been in a better setting – that other than the Sudfeh restaurant situated just above Mary’s Well Square in an ancient building.

Dinner was delicious. After our main course, before coffee and dessert, Steve suggested that each person in the group take a turn to share what had brought them to participate in this Pilgrimage of Peace, so that we could all get to know one another, and to help us create the best experience over the next week, such that everyone’s intentions will be more than met – and all of us will contribute to the highest good.

I so enjoyed listening to everyone and learning about each one’s different motivation for coming, as well as each one’s unique way of seeing the world.

The group is about to arrive here to the Voices of Eden peace center for dinner and a healing music evening, so I’ve gotta go prepare. I am hoping to give the computer over to them during the evening (if they are not dying from jetlag)- to provide their impressions of their first twenty four hours.

They have spent the day in Nazareth and at Kibbutz Metzer, Maiser in Israel and Barta’a in Palestine to learn about the complex situation, a humanitarian vlounteer health clinic set up by the friends of Middleway peace organization and how Kibbutz Metzer turned a tragic and bloody terror killing as a challenge to connect with their Palestinian and Arab neighbors working together cooperatively in these very trying times.

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