Peter Yarrow: Last Friday I Returned from Israel (VIDEO)

New York, N.Y. Last Friday I returned from Israel. The fear and the distrust has spiked enormously due to the tragic knifings of civilians and quick response killings. I fear that the situation there will, alas, intensify. However, I also experienced something quite wonderful and beautiful when I was in Israel.

Peter at the AJCC in Jafo “Blowing In the Wind” sung by me at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in
Jaffa/Jafo with the Voices of Peace, a Jewish, Muslim and Christian teenage
singing ensemble (They sing most of their songs in Hebrew, Arabic and English
but only the Hebrew portion of “Blowing In the Wind” was video-taped (VIDEO).

When I was at Jaffa, where The Arab-Jewish Community Center המרכז הערבי יהודי ביפו (AJCC) fosters intercultural and religious coexistence, I sang at a memorial for Anna, a very young child who died tragically, yet whose memory is being celebrated with great love and through a most remarkable effort that created a library as part of the AJCC in her name. The mayor and many dignitaries were there, among them the Ambassador from Austria, a country that gave the AJCC an award for their efforts to foster peace.

At the request of the Anna’s parents, whom I had met through my Operation Respect efforts in Israel, I sang “Weave Me the Sunshine” (so emblematic of the struggle to turn pain and heartbreak into more love rather than a turn to the “dark side”), “Blowing in the Wind,” “Puff the Magic Dragon” (which was a favorite of Anna’s), and “Day is Done” (which, as you know, I sang at Theo Bikel’s memorial and I find so moving and soothing in such a circumstance). The Voices of Peace joined me for all the songs but “Weave Me the Sunshine.”

The painful events in Israel were counterpointed by a most beautiful memorial for Anna that stands as a tribute to what can be done by people who devote themselves to fostering real-life, experiential peace “on the ground” at the grass roots.

So, upon my return, I am filled with worry and pain but also hope born of that memorial and my reconnecting with the AJCC, which is also the place in which that remarkable teenage choral group, The Voices of Peace was born and continues to grow and flourish with Arabic, Jewish, and Christian students living, not just singing about, the shared experience of interpersonal peace.

I also traveled to Israel to advance the work of Operation Respect where our “Don’t Laugh at Me” Program (DLAM) has become deeply, deeply, deeply embedded in over 100 schools over the past six years. It is also a source of great pride to us, as we just found out when we had a meeting with the the Head of “Life Skills” at the Israeli Ministry of Education that, more than any other such program in Israel, DLAM has been utilized by 63% of the school counselors in Israel as an effective educational tool to mitigate the kind of fear and hatred that, not unexpectedly, exploded amongst the Jewish as well as the Arabic students in Israel, subsequent to the Gaza war.

To know that our Operation Respects efforts, among children and youth, are effective as a counterpoint to incitement and the most tragic effects of the continuing conflict, is a mitzvah of the first order and makes me prouder than proud.

Peter Yarrow.

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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