Muslim, Christians, Druze, and Jews gathered in the Galilee town of Dalyat Al-Carmel on December 1st, a year after the Carmel Forest fire. The worst fire in Israel’s history, it took 44 lives and destroyed over 5 million trees, as well as hundreds of homes. (See a controversial view of the planned reforestation here.)
The victims were officers and cadets of the Israeli prison system. They were on their way to evacuate a Galilee prison when a fireball burst on their bus. Among them was a 16-year-old volunteer firefighter. The group, all good comrades, comprised members of each of Israel’s major religions.
To mark the completion of the mourning year, the TRUST-WIN (Women’s Interfaith Network) inaugurated a garden named “The Garden of the Mothers.” It contains two ancient olive trees, 44 saplings to represent each of the people who perished, and monuments. Present at the ceremony were families of the prison staff who perished and clergy from each faith, as well as women from the TRUST-WIN. Here’s a Green Prophet report on another ecological commemoration of the fire and expression of interfaith peace.
After a minute’s standing silence to honor the dead, religious representatives and police officials spoke movingly of the families’ sacrifice and hopes for continued mutual understanding towards peaceful co-existence. Among the clergy were a Sufi sheikh from Jerusalem’s controversial Sheikh Jarra neighborhood , the rabbi of nearby kibbutz Nir Etzion and a Druze sheikh. (Christian clergy were delayed by a road accident.)
The founder of the TRUST-WIN is Elana Rozenman. She has been involved in interfaith and intercultural work since the recovery of her son from a terrorist suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1997.
“The Garden of the Mothers is a symbol of the sisterhood of Christian, Druze, Jewish, and Muslim women who have been working together in the northern region for ten years,” says Rozenman.
Believing that peace can be achieved through grass-roots, social interaction rather than through politics, the women’s group seeks to promote mutual trust between women of different faiths.
“We see faith as the key to solution to the conflict rather than being the source of it. Through our activities many Israeli women have gone into homes in East Jerusalem – for the first time entering an Arab home and overcoming their fears and prejudices. Many Muslim, Christian, and Druze women have gone into a Jewish home – coming to sit in my succah, sharing a meal together or an interfaith discussion – and overcome their stereotypes. They then bring their mothers, daughters and friends. They also influence their families, friends, and others at their work to understand their activities and to see the common humanity we all share.”
More from Green Prophet on interfaith efforts and the ecology in the Middle East:
- Interfaith Climate Change Forum Takes Place in Jerusalem
- If Faiths Can Live Together, The Environment Will Benefit Too
- National Religious Coalition on Creation Care Takes Environmental Concerns to US Government