Interfaith Leaders Launch Day long Fast for Peace
While violence escalates in Israel and Gaza, a movement is taking hold that unites Jews, Muslims and others in a campaign for peace. On July 15, a daylong fast was organized as part of a public effort to show unity in the fight against war and violence in the region.
Using the Twitter hashtag #HungryforPeace, the cause started in Israel and gained strength in England, promoted by Yachad, a U.K.-based pro-Israel, pro-peace group. It was announced in temples, mosques and churches in the U.S. Pastor Steve Norman of Kensington Church near Detroit used Twitter to call his 10,000-strong congregation to join him in the fast after reading about the efforts of Muslims and Jews to publicly stand together.
“It just seemed right to follow their lead,” said Norman, whose church sponsors several trips to Israel and the West Bank each year. July 15 is a Jewish fast day (17th of Tammuz) and the beginning of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples. It occurred this year during the month of Ramadan.
The religious observance coincides with a public cry from many in Israel who have had enough. “Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over,” wrote Robi Damelin, in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, “We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence.”
The latest series of clashes between Israel and the Palestinians are blamed on the kidnapping of three Israeli young men who were later found dead, as well as the reported revenge killing of a teenage Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. In the words of Lee Ziv, an Israeli peace activist, “The tears of an Israeli mother over her dead son are identical to those of a Palestinian Mother.” Ziv started a Facebook page called “The Bus of Peace” and is organizing a bus to drive from Jerusalem to Gaza with flowers and peace slogans to demonstrate the goodwill of many Israelis toward the people of Gaza. “We know there is massive grass-roots desire to end the fighting and live in peace,” said Scott Cooper, an American Jew.