Letter From A
Friend of Peace - Ziad Alkabani
Cultures of the Children of Abraham - (I) Moslem Initiation Rites - Sa'ida
of War and Peace- Nachum Meyers
House demolitions have not stopped. The Israeli government is pursuing
this policy with a vengeance. They have again destroyed the Shawamreh house that was
rebuilt with the help of Israeli peace groups, as well as several other houses.
We must write to our government officials and tell them what we think. We must be more
stubbornly persistent in our opposition than they are in their determination to carry out
this policy. Beyond that, since the government seems to ignore our letters and our
protests, we must find effective ways to mobilize public opinion against this senseless
I have sent separately yet another letter to Bibi with copies to officials and public
figures in the United States and in Israel, as well as to PEACE members.
Seri Gomberg sent the following letter:
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I call upon you to cease immediately the inhuman policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.
I do not accept your government's claim that these houses are ``illegal.'' It is your
policy of forbidding Palestinians to build on their own land while providing Israeli
settlers with government-subsidised housing which is manifestly illegal and immoral.
As an Israeli citizen I am concerned with the impact this practice has on our
international image, as well as on the morals of all Israelis. We act like
bulldozers on the roads, and the government is very effective at reinforcing that habit.
I will not send my son to protect some imaginary "Israel." Your policies
will lead to the end of the hopes for peace and the beginning of constant bloodshed.
I and other Israelis will not let you turn this country into another Lebanon.
If you do, we will have to rebuild Israel, setting back this great country.
Maybe that is your undeclared goal - to destroy the accomplishements of 50 years of
building Israel so Palestine and Israel can grow together, as "sister nations,"
If so, why not start treating them as equals now?
I am afraid the next war will be a "fight to the death" and will include many
massacres. The Palestinians have nothing to lose. Is that what you want?
Seri Gomberg, Jerusalem.
IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT ISRAEL'S IMAGE, ABOUT PEACE, ABOUT COMPASSION FOR OUR
NEIGHBORS: PLEASE WRITE TO OFFICIALS ON YOUR OWN!!
Reminder of Major Addresses:
Israeli Government Officials:
- President Ezer Weizman - Fax: (+972-2) 561-0037
- Prime Minister Netanyahu - Fax: (+972-2) 566-4838 or 651-3955 or 651-2631
- Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani Fax: (+972-2) 584-7872
- Justice Minister Tzachi HaNegbi Fax: (+972-2) 628-5438 or
- Head of Civil Administration in Occupied Territoriess: General Mandi Or Fax: (+972-2)
- MK Shimon Peres (Labor) firstname.lastname@example.org
- MK Ehud Barak (head of Labor Party) email@example.com
******* Please write now - right now!********
Save these addresses for future reference!
Some small bits of good news. It is hard to find, but we try - and get
help from friends. If you know of something GOOD that is happening let us know.
- From Sa'ida Nusseibeh (Translated and excerpted from Al- Quds
Newpaper of London):
- Young People from Jordan, Palestine Meet in Israel -
Sixty young men and women from Israel, Jordan and the autonomy are having a very
special course in an Israeli Kibbutz near West Jerusalem. The course will be helf first
for a month in Israel then one month in Amman Jordan, and the third phase will be in
The students will study about human relations, and the working of the heart, and will
receive a certificate from Harvard University, that is supervising and funding this
The Jordanian group came with teachers and doctors who volunteered to give lectures
to the students. The group were guests the day before yesterday of President Ezer
Weizman at his private home in West Jerusalem, and after that
they went to see open heart surgery in an Israeli Hospital.
The 60 students are guests of Kibbutz Maaleh- Hahamisha, situated on a mountain
overlooking Jerusalem from the West.
- From Leah Green
Joint Business and Agricultural School
WASHINGTON (AP) - An American college plans to establish a business and
agriculture school in a desert area straddling the border between Israel and
Jordan, supporters of the project announced Tuesday.
Backed by governments of the two countries and the United States, the branch
of Touro College to be located in Jordan's Rift Valley hopes to have 500 students enrolled
by 2004. Faculty will come from the three nations, funding from the United Jewish Appeal
and instruction will be in English.
``This campus will mark a new, impressive demonstration of the cooperative
and creative potential that awaits the blooming of the peace process in the Middle East,''
Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said
at a news conference announcing the new campus.
Bernard Lander, president of New York City-based Touro College, said the
business and agricultural college will help residents of the region, known as the Arava
area in Israel and the Wadi Araba in Jordan.
Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben Elissar, making his last official appearance
on Capitol Hill before leaving Wednesday for a new assignment in Paris, said
``the more there are joint ventures of this kind, the more peace in the Middle East is
enhanced. There is a direct correlation between the two.
Jordanian Embassy First Secretary, Rania Attalah, standing in for her country's
ambassador, said Jordan welcomed establishment of the college as a sign of increasing
cooperation between peoples of the two countries.
Let's hope it happens!
Letter From A Friend of Peace-
(Ziad Alkabbani is a Syrian expatriate who fought for democracy in his own country
- and paid the price- he now lives in Sweden)
Dear friend Ami, shalom!
I think you have seen my home page(sfol/whoarewe.htm), so know a lot about me and my
background. I can say now that I have suffered great pain in Syria in all 29 years of my
But I love my family, friends, people and even the government. I understand them. It
doesn't mean that I agree with them. Given my personal experiences I know that the
only way to live with other people is to be tolerant and tolerate them and even thier
mistakes. So I think the question is how to make all people in Middle East understand that
they all will win with peace, cooperation, friendship, mutual respect and trust.
To me all fanatics are the same thing in different colors. They all are people, who have
no yet found the way to understand and feel our human community. Why ? Because they have
no time, and don't know how to do that. They want to live and survive. They have
many economic, social and cultural problems.
I, as a Syrian Arab and Muslim, believe in peace, cooperation with you, dialgue with all
Israelis, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews.
I agree with you that the peace can only be achieved and maintained if the desire for
peace is rooted in the hearts and minds of all inhabitants of our region. It must be based
on equality, mutual respect, neighborly friendship and consideration for the needs of all
parties to the conflict. I hope do together all we can to help our peoples to live better
and understand each other.
I take this opportunity to thank you for your continuing efforts for peace in our region,
and to encourage you to continue in this task that is so vitally important to all those
living here. I would appreciate it if you will put this letter on your homepage. I am also
happy to invite everybody to visit my homepage: Syria's Friends On Line at www.algonet.se/~sfol
All comments are welcome!
Thank you, and I thank you also for your efforts for peace. Each person who speaks out as
we do is important - because there are still not that many.
As we both know, the problems standing in the way of peace are formidable, because of the
wall of hate and mistrust, but also because there are powerful interests at work against
peace in all our countries.
You have taken a courageous stand for democracy in Syria, which is an essential element in
any lasting peace.
I too hope that we shall win many new 'converts' to our cause.
Cultures of the Children of Abraham (I) - Moslem Initiation Rites - Sa'ida
(With an view to establishing a knowledge of our common cultural
heritage and differences, View Points is beginning a multi-part series on comparative
religion and culture by Sa'ida Nusseibeh. The first part of the series discusses
initiation rites of the three great religions. The first section deals with Moslem
initiation rites - The editor)
Abu Hanifa one of the four Sunni Imams says in his 'Al-Fiqh
Al-Akber (a credal statement): God created the creation-humanity- free from
beliefs or disbelief. He then spoke to them through his messengers commanding them to
prohibiting them from disbelief. So whoever believed it was also by free choice.
According to the Quran we have truly shown him the way and he may be thankful
or unthankful (76.3) Again the Quran declared and pointed out to him the
two conspicuous ways ((90.10).
The same idea is expressed in the tradition of Muhammad in his saying Every child is
born to the nature, which God had made him conform to- that is, upright. But his parents
make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian. This means in theological terms that minors
are not under any religious obligations until they reach the age of maturity, which is
defined in religious legal books as the attainment of manhood or womanhood. At this stage
the child becomes entirely independent of the thinking of the parents and is responsible
for discovering the right type of faith he or she thinks fit for themself..
This is, strictly speaking, the Islamic point of view and according to this those who die
before that age are not accountable for the religion of their parents and community if it
turns out to be false or unacceptable one with God.
It is incumbent on a Muslim to obey each and every one of the commands of Allah the
Almighty with genuine faith and intensity. It is essential to value time. The Muslim
believer must be able to arrange time in strict accordance with discipline, proper
principles and codes of life laid down in the Holy Quran and explained in the Sunni.
He must not neglect or ignore his duties but must carry them out at the correct times, so
just as salat (prayers) are obligatory for Muslims daily at the stated times,
so from birth to death certain rites and ceremonies are solemnised at the appropriate age.
Initiation of children into the folds of Islam is the duty of an adult Muslim and is part
of the duty he owes to others, his other duties being to himself and above all to God The
From birth to about the age of ten years, the rites of adhan, (call to prayer)
and iqamat, (start of prayer) shaving of head, naming, circumcision,
aqiqa (sacrificial offering) and bismallah (in the Name of Allah
the Almighty), are performed by the parents alone or with the help of a religious leader.
1) Adhan- After the birth the baby is given a bath. Then the act of
adhan is performed, so that the first words he hears will be the words of the
call to prayers. The call is said in a normal tone in the right ear with the aid of a
hollow reed or any other tubing. The call is then performed in a louder voice. Those
hearing the call repeat the call to themselves.
2) Iqamat The iqamat that the religious leader recitedsin
the left ear of the baby differs slightly from the text of the adhan. Muslims
carry out this practice without exception throughout the world. When the religious leader
is not available the father usually discharges this duty.
3) Aqiqa- On the seventh day of birth, the babys hair is shaved and the
equivalent weight of gold or silver is given away as charity. The shaving of the
babys head is a symbolic act to take away the uncleanness of the act of birth as
well as to help the hair grow in greater profusion. Olive oil is usually applied to the
shaven head. Two goats or sheep in the case of a baby boy, and one in the case of baby
girl are sacrificed. The animal must be free from any physical defects and healthy. The
meat should be cooked sweet, as an omen that the child will be good natured. One third of
the meat is given away in charity to the poor and two thirds distributed among the
The Prophet, peace be upon him, maintained that by performance of Aqiqa
the child is freed and made safe from calamities in the future. If this ceremony is missed
for any reason, it should be performed at some time in the childs future life. It is
usually performed on the day before the birthday. However this custom has no religious
authority to back it, similar to many others cultural rites.
4) Name- Abu Mussa, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a baby
son. He took the baby to the Prophet who gave him the name of Ibrahim. Following this
example, parents generally seek help of the religious leaders in naming their children.
5) Circumcision- The Prophet Muhammad said that circumcision of males is the practice of
the Prophets of God. Therefore it is an important ceremony of initiation. It is important
that it is carried out before the age of ten because after this age the lack of it would
constitute a form of shamelessness. Some people make it coincide with the rites of
aqiqa. Some money or alms in kind are given away, but only if the parents can
afford it. Profuse spending is against all norms of religious practice.
6) Khatem Al-Quran- For boys and girls who finish reading all of the
Quran for the first time, around age thirteen, a ceremony takes place, and a
festival is held in their honour (separately) where they recite few verses of the
The Prophet of Islam laid a great stress on the learning and acquisition of
knowledge. To seek knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman.
When the child attains the age of discretion- as distinct from maturity- then the first
ritual act begins to take place. Although it is considered beneficial to take children to
the mosque to familiarise them with what takes place there, the tradition reported from
the prophet gives the age of seven from which teaching the performance of the ritual
starts. Serious attempts at educating him in the faith and practice of Islam commence from
The basic Islamic rule is that on attaining the age of maturity, a person becomes legally
responsible to make the decision to become a Muslim. It is this decision, and not any
other act or confession, which makes them full member of the Muslim
Bases of War and Peace - Nachum Meyers
The emotional roadblocks to peace, including religious beliefs and
mandates from God that stand in the way of rational conflict resolution, play several
obvious key roles in preventing the peoples of the Middle East from reaching agreement to
end the state of hostility with which they have lived since Zionism brought modern Jews
back to Palestine. Homeland, motherland, pride, racism, jingoism, nationalism, patriotism,
flags and other symbols of right, might, and glory, all are put around peace like mine
fields and barbed wire. The peace-people strive to remove these barriers to peace, but no
sooner than one symbol is moved or removed, another replaces it.
What is going on here? After fifty years of war and bloodshed and waste of human and
natural resources, can these two intelligent, needy groups of people not find a path to
mutual self realization, self-determination and harmony? The polemics, the arguments, the
agreements, the demands and counter-demands of land for peace and peace for land, and
security or nothing, go on and on with no end in sight.
But we do have guidance through this barbed-wire minefield. It is not as if there is no
example for us. Look, Egypt and Israel and now Jordan and Israel have come to terms and
made peace. What enabled these momentous events to occur? What enabled Bill Clinton to get
elected and re-elected in the face of damaging emotional roadblocks to election, including
religious beliefs and mandates from God. Simple; "It's the Economy, Stupid."
Well, it's not quite that simple. The Israeli political right snuck into power on false
premises with the assistance of some well-timed terrorist bombs. "Peace With
Security" with the emphasis on the "with security" scuttled Shimon Peres
and his star-crossed electoral history. The Israeli economy was doing quite well before
Netanyahu came to power, the country is open, democratic, westernized, and enjoys a
standard of living comparable to the upper tier of modern countries. I am not sure that
continued conflict benefits the Israeli economy despite the fact that Jews around the
world contribute financially to Israel in light of its perceived precarious military
position, i.e. being severely outnumbered in manpower and weaponry though not in
However, the continued conflict does benefit the arms merchants in the United States and
in Israel. That benefit should never be underestimated in evaluating the political tactics
of the U.S. government and mainly, the Republican Party and, of course, the tactics of
Israeli wealth-producing military industries. It simply pays to maintain a state of
conflict for those elements. But it is really small potatoes compared to what is at stake
in the Arab world.
The Arab power structure in the Middle East is based on a two-class non-democratic model.
With an improvement in the economy, with all that represents in its causes and effects;
increased literacy and education, technological achievement, democratization, growth of a
middle class with substantial economic clout, widespread rapid rise into the information
age, continuous and growing demand for ever higher standards of living and improved health
care; the power elite is in danger of being overthrown. The essence of an improved
broad-based economy is shared wealth. Autocratic oil regimes as exist in Syria/Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Persian Gulf emirates, Libya, Tunisia and many of the Muslim or
Islamic countries of the world, are more fearful of democratization in their homelands
than they are of the rise of religious fundamentalism - although in some instances it is a
close call. Fear of Westernization leads to a need to contain Israel in a box. First
television and now the fruit of computerization are causing ferment in the Arab world.
Control of these media are prime goals of the existing power structures. Preventing Israel
from contaminating the economies of the Arab world through the back doors of Palestine,
Egypt and Jordan underpins the Palestine/Israel policies of the regressive and repressive
Peace with Israel is equivalent in their minds to loss of media control, improved economic
conditions for the lower classes, the subsequent rise of democratization and the ousting
of the existing power elites. That was why every effort was made to sabotage the election
of Shimon Peres as Israeli prime minister. Peres believes that without a Palestinian state
there can be no Jewish state. Turn that around to read, "If there is a Palestinian
state then there will be a Jewish state." Therefore, the goal of the leaders of the
Arab world was and is the prevention of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Get the
Jews to vote for Natanyahu and the religious right in Israel. Do not allow peace to spread
under any condition. Contain
Egypt's normalization of ties with Israel and ditto with Jordan. Kill tourists and little
girls, if necessary. Threaten and then carry out terrorist bombings in Tel Aviv whenever a
possibility exists that peace is approaching.
Where do we go from here? How do we who wish for peace attack this problem
realistically? Yes, an Individual Peace Movement must be supported and developed. Yes, the
growth in educating Arab and Jewish children must be supported. Yes, we must all vote for
true peace-loving politicians. Yes, more and more the peace lovers must write voluminously
and speak out and clamor for the end of terrorism and demolitions. But how do we counter
the entrenched Arab and Jewish power elites that sabotage peace at every turn? By going
around them. By developing economic bases for peace. By fighting for combined
infrastructure, water-sharing, electric grid, higher education, health care. By tearing
through the economic enclosures and setting up combined industries, joint ventures across
real and imaginary borders. By demanding equal pay for equal work for Arab and Jewish
workers. By demanding equal access to markets. By combining, Jews and Palestinians, to
demand from the world bank the funds to develop industries, demanding the location of
plants and factories in the territories as well as in Israel proper. If Israelis had
shares in the Gaza Strip airport, it would be bustling by now.
If Haifa could serve Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and Arabs had shares in the local
companies, can you imagine the tonnage that would flow through that port? By combining
Jewish and Arab fund-raising activities in the United States and around the world to
support, not military strength, but economic development in the lands of Israel and
Palestine. We need to build an economic brotherhood of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East
and around the world. We must wage peace the same way the war-mongers wage war; with
propaganda, with calls to motherland and patriotism, with drums, bugles and flags and
appeals to God. But all for the war against poverty, ignorance, oppression, greed and
power. Then we will approach peace with a reasonable chance of getting there. Without an
economic drive for peace, there is no hope for peace. Take note Madeleine and Dennis.
Comment by A.I.: Money May Not Be Everything
You have presented the case for peace through economic development well; I think though,
that it is sometimes presented the other way around: peace will bring economic
I would not say that all Arab leaders are against a Palestinian State, though I certainly
would not take them all at their word that they are for it!
You must realize however, that some of the fears of our neighbors, not necessarily those
of the ruling class, is that peace will bring with it "Israeli economic
hegemony." In our eyes, we are Mickey Mouse. In their eyes, we are at least Mighty
Mouse. They are afraid that the relation between Israel and its neighbors will be
like, for example, the relation between the U.S. and Mexico. Given the current relation
between Israel and the Palestinians who come to work here, we cannot say that this fear is
There is also a big fear of cultural domination. Let us leave, for a moment, the problem
of religious zealotry, which is certainly not confined to our Arab neighbors, much to my
sorrow. France is proud of her culture, and the government tries to control by regulation
out what they consider American culture. Our Arab neighbors have the same right. Fawzi
Mansour, an Egyptian anti-Israel intellectual is afraid of Israeli plumbing fixtures. It
is an absurd example perhaps, but in his way he has a point. Moreover, in a two-class
economy, what the WMF calls prosperity is often a process in which the rich get richer and
the poor get babies. Even at the hieght of prosperity in Asia, it was still possible for
visiting sex maniacs to get twelve year old girls who had been sold for a pittance because
of the desparate poverty of their parents.