Over the past few years, I have created an image in my mind’s eye, that is a source of strength for me during times of crisis, and in good times as well. I envision an almond tree, that is the first sign of spring, and on the tree I see a first blossom, from one side. I cannot see the other side, nor the entire tree in bloom, as it will look in a few days. I compare our kindergarten and our initiative to utilize Waldorf education as a bridge between the different cultures that live in our region to that first blossom on the almond tree. I find myself asking: Is it possible that other flowers are blossoming on the sides of the tree that are beyond my vision? It is possible that the almond blossom season has arrived, and tomorrow, and the day after, many more buds will appear?
Towards the end of this past June, I was one of 50 representatives from different countries in the Middle East that gathered together in Amman, the capitol of Jordan, for a long weekend conference organized by the United Religions Initiative. I went as a representative of the Salaam Shalom Educational Foundation, which is one of the supporters of Ein Bustan. Besides Israelis and Palestinians from different religious persuasions, there were also Lebanese, Jordanians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Iranians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, and one woman from the United Arab Emirates.
The common denominator of all of the participants that attended the conference is their activity in various interfaith initiatives. All of them are active in a variety of ways to reduce the violence that is perpetuated as a result of distorted interpretations of religion. The purpose of the URI, which celebrated a decade to its founding this year, is to bring people from these organizations together, in order to encourage joint action, as a global and universal network. Among the members that I met there were those that work with Suni and Shiite young people, those that are mediators between Moslem and Zoroastrian perceptions of the world, and Moslem, Jewish and Christian religious leaders that call for tolerance in the name of their religion. The activity included lectures and conversations.
I sat at the breakfast table with the Iranian and Iraqi members. For me, it was the first time I had ever met people from these countries and had an opportunity to talk with them. They showed great interest in my first name, which was an Arab name before it was a Jewish one, and in my family name, which is Iranian in origin. I told them how moved I was to meet people that speak the language of my grandfather (Persian), and to meet people that come from my father’s birthplace (Baghdad).
On Saturday, we were joined by another 50 URI regional coordinators from many different places in the world, who arrived in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the organization. From behind me I heard the cry “Amir!” and when I turned around - to my surprise and joy it was another comrade named Amir - from the Philippines. A spectacular mix of languages and faces, and stylized costumes from different places: Brazil and India, Kenya and Indonesia, etc. etc. I had the pleasure of playing music with Bishwadeb Krishnamorti, a phenomenal Tabla player from India, and also with the fabulous musicians from the Mosaique ensemble, which is comprised of musicians from Israel, Jordan and Lebanon.
For me, the opportunity to be a part of this network is an enormous source of solace and empowerment. Although I knew that there must indeed be additional blossoms on the tree, it still came as a big surprise to see my brothers and my sisters in their full beauty and splendor.
Maayan Babustan(Ein Bustan) POB 206, Kiryat Tivon 36011
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