March 12, 2006

If our little ones would someday enjoy peace, then all the sacrifices had not been in vain.We are blessed! Sharon Stone decided to celebrate her 48th birthday in Israel. Another Hollywood star coming for 48 hours to this troublesome area to show us the light. As a guest of the Peres Institute of Peace, she told the excited people in Tel Aviv, who paid $500 each to listen to her wise words, that she “would kiss anyone in the Middle East if this would bring peace.”

Actually, I would trade all the kisses of Sharon Stone for one kiss of my 5-year-old granddaughter, Maya. This adorable child is picky with her kisses, so you could imagine my surprise this week when, out of the blue, she became generous and let me kiss her with no restraints.

It was Family Day, when parents and grandparents were invited to the kindergarten to celebrate with the kids. This year’s theme was a café, where the little ones, dressed with cute aprons and hats, served us as waiters. The best part was that, instead of paying for the cakes and the soft drinks with money, you had to kiss your waiter. What a wonderful idea!

Then the kids started to say blessings and to express their wishes. Obviously, they had discussed it at home before, with their parents, so I guess it was kind of a mini public-opinion poll of the residents of that city, Modi’in, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Some kids wished us good health, to which everybody, especially us oldies, nodded approvingly. A little guy whom I already suspected of greediness by the way he had assaulted the cake, stood up and expressed the wish that everybody would be rich this year. He got only a moderate applause, because recently in Israel, it has become cool not to be identified as too materialistic.

The majority of the kids, however, spoke about peace. One after the other, they stood up and gave variations on the same theme: “Let there be no war.” “Nobody should be killed anymore.” “People should live in peace,” etc.

Every such wish was greeted with enthusiasm by the grown-ups. I looked at them: two, and even three generations of Israelis who had been hardened by endless wars and terror, but who had never given up the hope for peace.

I guessed they all felt the same way as I did – that if our little ones would someday enjoy peace, then all the sacrifices had not been in vain.

On the way back, we passed by an Arab village, Beit Sirah, lying just east of Modi’in, in the Palestinian area. Recently, the local villagers rioted against the Israeli plan to fence them off with a defensive wall. I hate that wall. It cuts farmers off from their fields and makes it difficult for pupils to go to school. Yet in an area plagued by terror, where Palestinian suicide bombers try to infiltrate into Israel and murder innocent civilians, the wall becomes a must. After all, life comes before quality of life.

As I looked at the village, I wondered: If there were a similar Palestinian Family Day, what kind of rhetoric would the kids use? And what wishes would they express? After all, their parents have just elected the Hamas – a movement that has vowed to destroy Israel – to lead them toward the future.

Yet on the other hand, in poll after poll, the Palestinians express their wish that the present, relative calm should continue and that peace talks with Israel should resume. How can we reconcile these opposing trends?

I don’t have the answer to that, but I do have a gut feeling. If Israeli and Palestinian grandparents start asking themselves what they can do to grant peace to their grandchildren, it might just happen. And you know what? I’m willing to show the way. If it takes kissing Sharon Stone to accomplish that dream, I’d volunteer to do it.

(Originally appeared in the Miami Herald – Reprinted with author’s permission)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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