As Israelis and Palestinians stood in pairs before the camera, a clear picture of the peace process appeared through the lens. There, inside the frame, over and over stood two people sharing the same small space. They were willing to stand together even though they stood separately, on opposite sides. What emerged in the lens became a startling metaphor for those Israelis and Palestinians who are meeting the challenge of their lives, making peace between their two peoples.
As Israelis and Palestinians stood in pairs before the camera, a clear picture of the peace process appeared
through the lens.
There, inside the frame, over and over stood two people sharing the same small space. They were willing to stand together even though they stood separately, on opposite sides. What emerged in the lens became a startling metaphor for those Israelis and Palestinians who are meeting the challenge of their lives, making peace between their two peoples.
Amos Oz is one of the most celebrated authors in the history of modern Israel. He has written over a dozen novels, having been translated into twenty-seven languages. His essays appear regularly on the Op-Ed pages of both the New York and London Times, as well as in all of Israel's major newspapers and magazines. This year, Amos Oz, a founding member of Peace Now, assumed Honorary Chairmanship of APN's Campaign in America.
[Oz] : "As a writer, I have been preoccupied for thirty years with the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is not the political and topographic dimension which interests me, but the moral one.
"In my essays, I have pointed out that between Israel and Syria, or Israel and Iran, there has been a black and white situation. They have been aggressors, and we, their victims.
"However, with the Palestinians, it is not black and white. It is a conflict between two victims of history. That makes the resolution not easier, but harder. The basic fact is Palestinians have no other homeland than this. The other basic fact is that Israelis have no other homeland than this. As we cannot share the land because of generations of bitterness, we must divide it between us. We need a compromise. We need to turn the country into a semi-detached, two-family house.
"Between Israelis and Palestinians, it has become a clash not between right and wrong, but right and right. Such a clash is called a tragedy.
"Tragedies can be resolved in one of two ways. There is the Shakespearean tradition for concluding a tragedy, and then there is the Chekhovian tradition. In Shakespeare, the stage is strewn with dead bodies. It's a justice of sorts. In Chekhov, everyone is frustrated, disappointed, sometimes melancholy, but they are alive, not dead. We need a Chekhovian, not a Shakespearean conclusion to this conflict.
"The terrorism that we Israelis are experiencing is unfortunately like a Shakespearean outcome. If you ask me if the peace process should continue in the face of these attacks, the best way I can explain my answer is to draw a comparison between the peace process and a medical procedure. The Israelis and Palestinians are on the surgical table in the midst of an operation. The patient is bleeding and it is painful. But if you want the patient to survive, finishing the operation is unavoidable."
Yuval Neriya is a Lieutenant Colonel [res.] in the Israeli Army and is Israel's most decorated war hero. He is one of the original reserve officers who founded Peace Now. Adnan Damiri is head of the Israeli Desk of the Palestinian Authority.
[Neriya] : "Even though we are partners in the peace process, I prefer that the Israelis and Palestinians be as separate as possible. I think we have to reconsider our relationship. For security purposes, right now, we cannot be physically intertwined.
"Yet, I have been a believer in peace since the Yom Kippur War, when I saw this huge Egyptian guy running under fire carrying his wounded friend. This guy was willing to sacrifice his life to save his friend. This was a very human moment for me. It made me feel we had something in common.
"After the war, I wanted normalcy. Peace creates normalcy. You don't have to always go to war. You don't have to worry every time you send your children to Jerusalem.
"Now that the peace process has begun, we cannot leave the mountain in the middle of the climb. I don't know how many steps there are in this process, but the closer to the top, the more difficult it becomes.
"From the beginning, Peace Now was built on the shouldres of Israeli soldiers. If we can fight war, we can fight for peace. Israelis are good fighters."
[Damiri] : "In 1976, when I was serving time in an Israeli jail, I began to learn Hebrew. As I read about the Jews, I saw it was not just me who suffers in the world, but that the Jews had suffered, too. It was very important to learn. Before this I didn't know anything about the Israelis. All I knew was soldiers and curfews.
"Yet, even after I began to learn about the Israelis, I still suffered under them. In 1989, when the soldiers came to my house to arrest me, they tied my hands and my eyes. My son was five years old. He lost his voice for three months and until now he has many psychological problems as a result.
"But I don't have revenge in my heart. I don't think revenge is the way of the future. What I need in the future, for my children, is peace.
"I do not believe that our future can be about war. And I don't think that we and the Israelis have sat down to talk peace because we love each other. I think that we are negotiating with each other because up until now we have just beaten our heads against the wall.
"The future of peace in the Middle East won't just help Israelis and Palestinians. It is going to help the whole world."
Yael Dayan, member of Knesset representing the Labor Party, daughter of the late General Moshe Dayan, noted author and journalist, has become a pominent, courageous voice in Israeli affairs. Faisal Husseini, the leading Palestinian figure in Jerusalem, has been known for years to be a moderating voice urging peaceful co-existence. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference.
[Dayan] : "My parents raised me to believe that the original Zion dream had nothing to do with the size of Israel. It had to do with the quality of Israel - the quality of the state, its place in the world, and the quality of Jewish life within it. I don't believe that type of quality will ever be achieved except under peace. Militarily, we must and will remain the best army in the Middle East. Don't think, though, that this is what Zionism is about.
"In a sense I was born into the peace process. My family had full proximity to Palestinians while I was growing up. We always knew that with each victory, it was clear that the miltary option was being reduced for each side.
"Now, we have finally signed an agreement. It's not perfect, but it is the best that both sides can get at this time. Personally, I can scream against the pace and the vagueness of it. We need to expand and accelerate the process.
"I'm convinced that there is no other way. If we don't talk this peace, we're talking the next war."
[Husseini] : "Jews and Arabs can co-exist together, even in the same capital. It was in 1967 that I first began to feel that this is possible. I remember going to the west side of the city for the first time. It was the first time that I saw the Israelis as people. Before that, I saw them only as soldiers. I went to Jaffa Road. I saw children. I saw weak people, strong people, intelligent people, stupid people. I even saw and old man and an old woman sitting together holding hands. I realized that these were just people. I knew that we could and must live together.
"In 1973 when the next war broke out, I imagined if the Arabs win the war, what would we do with all those people in Tel Aviv? Would we throw them into the sea? And I realized that couldn't be. In the end we are all people with families and children. I again came to the conclusion that Palestinians and Israelis need to live together, side by side."
Hanan Ashrawi, an English Literature professor at Bir Zeit University, was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team in Madrid. Today she heads up the Palestinian Interim Commission for Civil Rights. Naomi Chazan, a member of Knesset represeting the Meretz Party, is an internationally known scholar on Africa and was, until assuming her Knesset seat, the chair of Hebrew University's prestigious Truman Institute.
[Ashrawi] : "The human dimension is what is so important to me in this peace process. Personally, as well. I immediately think about my daughters. I want my children to be safe without injustice intruding on their lives. I want them to have the assurance that they can be full human beings.
"Yet, the only way for us to have peace is by addressing the difficult issues. We have to get rid of terms such as domination, occupied and occupier, so that we can talk about mutual legitimization. We owe each other honesty. We need to have integrity with one another. We must lay open our mutual issues and not be victims of the past. This is going to take courage, vision and risk. Only insecure people opt for violence. There are no military solutions to this situation.
"If we are going to bring change, we have to put ourselves on the line. You cannot play it safe and at the same time effect change."
[Chazan] : "The biggest problem right now is that among Israelis today there is a great fear about terrorism and personal security. But we need to look at the facts. Terrorism didn't start with this process. And it will continue to be here during it and after. No one ever said that this process wasn't going to be accompanied by violence.
"All the recent attacks against us have been carried out by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Their purpose is to undermine the agreement and to undermine Arafat. They use terrorism to delegitimize their leaders. Every time we stop what we do, or backtrack, it is like giving a present to the Hamas.
"Achieving and implementing the agreements is our best way to confine terrorism. The people who decry the peace process because of terrorism, what do they actually want to do? Do they want to condemn us to an indefinite period of ongoing conflict? Sometimes it takes more courage to be moderate than it does to fight wars."
Danny Rubinstein is a veteran Israeli journalist who writes for Ha'aretz, Israel's equivalent daily to the New York Times. He has recently completed two books, "The People of Nowhere: The Palestinian Vision of Home" and "The Mystery of Arafat". Ziyad Abu Ziyad is a Palestinian lawyer and journalist. He is the publisher of the fast growing Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, a quarterly designed to influence and support the peace process.
[Rubinstein] : "At home, I always had the feeling that there were two peoples in this country. My father grew up in Jaffa and spoke Arabic. I grew up in Jerusalem where my father worked in the electric company. Half the workers were Arabs. My father believed in co-existence. He gave that belief to me. I could not close my eyes and deny that this other people existed.
"In 1967, I was working as a journalist for Davar when I was sent to cover the newly occupied territories. I saw many things which gave me reason for serious questions. I began to tell people, 'Don't ignore that there is a second community of people living here.'
"American Jews must understand that we have to find a way to live here together with the Arabs. That doesn't mean that there isn't a crisis here because of the Arab radicals and their terrorism. But to surrender to their violence by ending the peace negotiations will condemn my children to an unending cycle of bloodletting and hatred."
[Ziyad] : "In the 70's was when I began to believe that peace could be possible. I was among the first to advocate a two-state solution. I was pragmatic. I saw the facts. I could not close my eyes at the time and deny that my enemy existed here with us. He did exist and we needed to come to terms.
"That's why I believe that promoting and supporting this peace dialogue is the investment of our lives. There is no other solution but compromise. This is a historic opportunity, and Peace Now has been and must continue to be the driving force in this effort.
"Look, we are in the middle of the fire. Our hands are burning. There are others who arejust using the fire to get warm. We, Israelis and Palestinians who are in the fire, know how important peace is. Those who are far away, it is easy for them to be against it or to be extremist.
"Peace is the best guarantee for everybody as well as for the security of Israel. This is the Middle East and Israel needs to be absorbed into the Middle East by having peace with its neighbors. The peace process is the best thing for the entire region."
Ala Abu Ein is a 20 year old Palestinian university student at Bir Zeit who lives in Ramallah. Stephanie Dakerjian is a 16 year old Palestinian high school student who lives in the Old City. Na'ama Solomon is a 16 year old Israeli high school student from Northern Israel. Chen Raz is a 24 year old Israeli who finished his army service one year ago and lives in Jerusalem.
One of the proudest accomplishments of Peace Now is the Youth Dialogue, which brings together hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian youth to learn about one another.
[Ein] : "Through Peace Now, I meet Israelis and I see a different side. I see that there are Israelis who care about us.
"I want peace in order to keep my freedom, to study, to go out from my home at night and not have my parents worry. Whenever I travel to Jenin, Kalkilya or Tul Karem, I am stopped three or four times by the military. My dream is to have freedom and my own government. This peace will affect my entire life.
"Our past history is full of bloodshed. We didn't get anything from this. Now that we are at the negotiating table, we are finally getting something."
[Dakerjian] : "This conflict affects my father's work, our school, our business. When there is a closure, it stops everything in our lives. It makes our education bad. Our principal has to go and actually pick up kids at 5:00 a.m. in order to teach them.
"Most Israelis feel that all Palestinians are terrorists. It's not true. I think Israelis are shocked when they find out that there are Palestinians who believe in peace and indeed will work for it."
[Solomon] : "I live in the north of the country, next to the border, just beneath the security zone of Lebanon. Since I was little, we hear helicopters and we run to the shlters. I believe that life has a higher value than this. I believe that peace will bring that higher value.
"The army is very central in our lives. I don't think that we should be such a militaristic society, always worrying about terror and occupation. Everyone goes into the army. My father went, I'll go, and my children will go. I worry always that someone is going to get killed.
"I work with kindergarten kids. They are the next generation. We have the ability to raise them with peace."
[Raz] : "When I was seventeen, I aprticipated in an Israeli/Palestinian youth dialogue in Bethlehem. I met a girl there who said to me, 'When you come to Bethlehem as a soldier, please don't shoot.' I remembered her words all my time in the army. But, it didn't help. I had to do things I wasn't proud of.
"There must be a group that pushes the government toward peace. That is why I am involved with Peace Now."
Amiram Goldblum was, until recently, the spokesperson for Peace Now. He is an internationally known biochemist at Hebrew University. Ghassan Khatib was a member of the Palestinian negotiating team in Madrid. He is a professor at Bir Zeit University and today is the director of the Jerusalem Media Communication Center.
[Goldblum] : "In the Yom Kippur War, I was a Sergeant Major in the army and found myself ducking under Egyptian bombers. As I pushed myself deeper into the ground, I promised myself that if I came out alive, I would dedicate myself to peace.
"In Suez, during the evenings, we would sit with the prisoners, many of them officers, and have dinner together. That's when it became clear to me that fighting for peace would be feasible. I saw them as partners who just wanted to go home, to stop fighting, to have a better future for their kids, as I did for mine.
"After that experience, I was committed to peace. Today, as I begin to see the results of the agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I am even more committed. Without that agreement, there would not have been peace with Jordan, and there cannot be peace with Syria. You can extend that thought in all directions, throughout the MIddle East and North Africa. Without peace, Israel cannot exist in the Middle East. Zionism is about fighting for the normalization of the Jewish people. There is no normalization without peace."
[Khatib] : "During the intifada, Peace Now organized Israelis to come to Arab villages so that we could meet with one another to discuss and show our support for mutual recognition and a peaceful solution. On the way to one village, a Peace Now convoy was stopped by the military. When at last they arrived they asked the villagers, 'Were you waiting for us?'
"The villagers replied, 'We have been waiting for you for twenty years.'
"I believe there is no future here unless peace is achieved. Wars will never bring the Palestinians or the Israelis to their objective. Some people thought that by waar we could achieve security, stability and peace. I have always lived under occupation and I never believed that violence could achieve these aims."
Galia Golan, a leader of Peace Now, is a recognized authority on Russia and Eastern Europe. Based at Hebrew University, she was a founder of the Israeli women's movement. Hisham Ali Abdel Razik is a member of the Executive Council of Fatah in Gaza and is negotiating with Israel on the release of prisoners.
[Golan] : "I have lived here for thirty years now. And to me, peace is not just a philosophical concept. It is the way I want to live, without wars every few years, without people we love being killed. I want to live a normal life in a Jewish state. But I don't think there is much chance for survival and security without a peace agreement.
"In the late 70's and early 80's was when I first realized that in order to have peace, we must recognize that what we were doing was wrong. We were occupying another people. This injustice wasn't part of the Zionist dream. But peace is. And so is security. Today, security is a major concern. The way to tackle terrorism is to sow the Palestinians that there is a future to the peace process, that we believe in a Palestinian state. By making such a declaration, we can whittle away the support and economic power of the terrorists, which is what they are really all about.
"As much as I understand the situation of the Palestinians, I want to point out that Peace Now is not a movement in support of the Palestinians. It is a movement in support of Israel, in support of Zionism."
[Razik] : "I was in an Israeli jail for twenty years. That is when the real dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians first took place.
"We prisoners got to know the Israelis better than anyone else. We conducted dialogue not only with the prison guards, but with people from the outside. I remember lecturers coming from Ben Gurion University to talk with us. There were pilots and even army officers.
"We had books and read about Israeli history. I myself read about Zionism. I read about Judaism.
"Many of us Palestinians began to believe after the 1973 was that there was no other way to solve the conflict except through negotiations with Israel. We accepted that we had to recognize Israel's right to exist, and they had to recognize the creation of a Palestinian state. But our voices were silenced behind the walls of the prison. Now we are able to try to make reality out of our thoughts and dreams.
"We must no longer live all our lives by the sword."
Sofian Abu Zayda, is the Director General of the Planning and Cooperation office of the Israeli Affairs Department of the Palestinian Authority. Chaya Noach is the Director General of Peace Now.
[Zayda] : "I was serving time in an Israeli jail and after three years I began to see a change in my thoughts and realized for the first time that I was believing that there could be peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think this came about because during those three years I had learned fluent Hebrew. I was reading books and newpapers everyday in Hebrew. I began to learn about Israel, its problems, politics, history and society. Eventually, I felt that I was learning more about the Israeli side than the Palestinian side.
"Today, I believe in the peace process more for my children than anything else. My children have learned to believe in peace, too. It took me twenty years to arrive at this understanding. But my children have learned much quicker.
"As a Palestinian, I know that we cannot stop the Israelis from living. And as Israelis, the must understand that they cannot stop us. We must recognize the rights of both peoples. The peace between the two peoples, it must be. There is no other future."
[Noach] : "My parents came here after World War II and taught me that this place is mine, but also that I can live here with other people. Especially because of our history, we have to be very sensitive to the needs of people who are sharing our society.
"The reason to live in this society is to live in peace with our neighbors. I would like to know I can walk peacefully in a shopping center or a bus station. The other day I went with a friend of mine to Jaffa and I was looking behind my back all the time. I think the only way to solve the security problem is to speed up the peace negotiations so that the Palestinians can believe they are benefiting from the process. This will stop the Hamas."
Concept: Gary Wexler and Neel Muller
Copy: Gary Wexler
Art Direction: Neel Muller
Interviews: Gary Wexler and Carol Polakoff
Photography: Carol Polakoff