TIME 2 WAKE UP: Peacemakers Organize the “Jerusalem Hug”    
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pictureSaturday, June 9th 2007, by Brenda McCann

Friday, June 08, 2007 ::Peacemakers Organize the “Jerusalem Hug”
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By Paul Pierce, Quaker International Affairs Representative

On Monday, May 21, the Jerusalem Peacemakers organized an event to show the message of unity between the families of Abraham. Nearly 2000 Jews, Christians and Muslims and other friends and supporters from around the world gathered to show unity and came together to "hug" the old city of Jerusalem.

"By coming together to hug the old city, we show unity between Arabs and Jews, between all human beings, and by symbolically coming together to hug the old city we show that it is the heritage of all of humanity," says Eliyahu McLean, of the Jerusalem Peacemakers.

McLean acknowledged the work of the human rights organizations "Who are rightfully working to oppose various aspects of the Israeli policy, such as occupation, checkpoints, the building of the wall, etc," but said that the "big hug" is not against any particular policy.

"It is for showing unity between Arabs and Jews", McLean says. "We want to show the positive example of peace for the future that we want to manifest."

He also acknowledges the importance of Jerusalem to the three major religions.

"It's a holy place for the Jews. It's where the first and second Temple stood. It's the holiest place for the Christians. It's where Jesus walked and where the crucifixion happened. And it's a holy place for Muslims. It's where Mohammed came on his night journey. Al Aqua Mosque is here. Jerusalem is really a symbol for all of the world's traditions. The problem is that each tradition builds an exclusive narrative on this city that doesn't include the other people who also consider it holy. We want to show another way," says McLean.

"We want to show the peace of Jerusalem that we want to see manifest on a larger scale. We want to show a taste of that peace today on a smaller scale," says McLean.

Another leader of the Jerusalem Peacemakers, Ibrahim Ahmad Abu El-Hawa, a Palestinian Muslim living on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, joined with McLean to call for the end of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and for a ban on the importation of weapons that build the conflict on all sides.

El-Hawa called the guns and arms that are imported into Israel/Palestine "worse that drugs and alcohol," because they wind up in the hands of Jews and Arabs alike and both groups suffer as a result of the proliferation of these weapons.

Groups of "peacemakers" gathered at five gates of the old city of Jerusalem to dance, sing, pray, chant and hold hands in unity during the event. Israelis and Palestinians joined with Christians in the celebration and people from several countries including Turkey, Russia, Japan, China, the USA and the Netherlands took part in the event. At 5pm, they all joined hands and symbolically hugged the Old City of Jerusalem. Afterwards, the group moved to the area around the Damascas Gate and joined in singing, dancing with Palestinians, Christians, Jewish settlers and a wide variety of people who were on the scene.

Event organizer Dvora Pearlman said the gathering took months of planning, lots of meetings with police officials and that it resulted in a lot of positive energy for the city of Jerusalem. She said that Palestinians from the old city asked if the event could be repeated. She also expressed the opinion that the quality of the event was more significant that the quantity of persons attending.

"The joy of being together is better than the sadness of being apart," says Pearlman, and she feels that "Jerusalem is like a magnet that draws people together because of its significance. They can feel it in their hearts," she says.

Pearlman says that now that the precedent has been set, more people will come next time because it's enjoyable and its fun.

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