Peace activist and Honorary Consul of Croatia Shmuel Schlesinger initiated a gathering of friends calling to stop the killing of innocent Syrian people and to empathize with the innocent victims in the civil war in Syria.
Schlesinger donated his home in Savion for the occasion whose participants included diplomats, representatives of several religions in Israel, a Rabbi, Christians, religious leaders from the Druze and Arab community, lecturers, academics and executives.
The conference was held on Friday morning, November 29, in protest against the killing of innocent victims throughout the world, and in particular against the genocide and killing of innocent people in neighboring Syria.
Honorary Consul Samuel Schlesinger explained the idea that drove his initiative: "As a Holocaust survivor whose family was destroyed by the Nazis, I can't afford to sit still when I hear that innocent women, children and the elderly are being killed in bombings and gassings. I have a private as well as a public interest in helping to sow the seeds towards world peace. I was personally hurt when the world was silent while innocent people were killed in the Holocaust. Now, I cannot be at peace with myself, if I will not shout out when across our fence, our neighbors are killing and murdering innocent people". "I know this will not actually stop the fighting and killing" says Schlesinger, "but through protest I hope to plant the first seed and steps toward real peace with our neighbors in Syria."
Besides being an activist for peace, Schlesinger is active in the diplomatic and public sectors, and is the owner and chairman of the "Schlesinger Group" which controls "Ashdod Bonded", with warehouses and freight terminals at air and sea ports and – "IQ LOGISTIC", a company specializing in logistical management. Schlesinger sees great importance and attributes supreme value to peoples of different religions, engaging in public diplomacy, and in promoting peace between nations and between people.
Among the guests were the Ambassador of Croatia Pjer Simunovic; MK Ayoub Kara, deputy speaker and Minister for Development of the Negev and the Galilee; the Mayor of Majdal Shams, Dolan Abu Salah; Leader of the Druze religion, Amin Kbalan in Beit Jaan; and Rabbi Yosef Kaplan, a Chabad Rabbi and religious Jewish educator. Among the academics present were Dr. Mordechai (Moti) Kedar, an expert in Middle East Studies and Islam, and Marc Gal, a bereaved father from the Druze community and others and other executives and intellectuals who came to show their solidarity with this topic.
As the event took place during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, Rabbi Yosef Kaplan, opened the event and invited Ambassador Simunovic, all religious leaders and academics to gather together to light the second candle, symbolizing cooperation between nations and religions. This created an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual respect among all those in attendance.
After lighting the Hanukkah candles, MK Ayoub Kara praised the Israeli contribution to the Syrian people that has been given quietly and discreetly. MK Kara noted that this aid is especially helpful to those seriously injured and having no one to turn to in their own country. He described how the contributions and Israeli humanitarian aid is being highly regarded in the world. He further says that his colleagues from other countries praise and even envy the fact that that the state of Israel sends humanitarian aid unconditionally despite the problems and difficult hostile surroundings.
Majdal Shams Mayor Dolan Abu Salah (second term as mayor) also spoke about the humanitarian aid that we as human beings must give to the Syrian people who are victims of war. When Mr. Abu Salah was asked what is the extent of his emotional involvement with the Syrian people, he commented: "I dedicate time, effort and deep thought to this issue, especially when I see my children playing around the house and imagine what they (God forbid) might have to go through if they were in Syria now.
Another speaker at the event was Marc Gal, a communications expert who proposed a global plan for regional peace. According to Gal, a stable peace in the Middle East will take place only of we take into account the traditions of the local population groups in the region.
Dr. Mordechai (Moti) Kedar, Director of the Center for Middle East Policy – at Bar-Ilan University, presented a broad picture of the historical sequence that led to the current situation in Syria. Dr. Kedar studies the core issues of the Israeli - Arab conflict and is a researcher of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar Ilan University. He is known as being an expert on Islamic groups, political discourse in Arab countries, the Arab media and the internal Syrian arena. Dr. Kedar is the author of the book, "Syrian Media Under Hafez al-Assad". He has also published articles and opinion pieces on Islamic terrorism, Iran, the Palestinians and the issue of Palestinian refugees. Dr. Kedar surprised the guests – particularly the Muslim religious Druze and Arabs, with his extensive knowledge of Muslim religion and the distinction between all its sects and factions, using terms from the Arab world only elders of the community know.
According to Dr. Kedar there is no actual concept of "Israeli nationality" but there is a "State of Israel", therefore, there is no actual entity called the "Syrian nation" but there is a "Syrian state", in which there are cults and sectors of the Arab Muslim and Christian populations who fanatically preserve their traditions and religion and are not willing to accept the religious coercion being dictated to them by the dominant party and the Alawite community headed by Assad. What is going on now is basically a process of dissolution similar to what happened in the former Yugoslavia, where Yugoslavia was broken up into small countries and ethnic groups. The same process resulting in small states occurred in the former Soviet Union. Dr. Kedar predicts that this is what will eventually happen in Syria. Peace will come in Syria when everyone will recognize the right of every faction to establish its own autonomy and form their own state.
Dr. Kedar summed up with the English expression: "High Fences Make Good Neighbors" giving his own interpretation: "Give each group respect, while making sure they are separated by clear borders, and they will live together in peace and mutual respect".
If at the beginning of the morning, we wondered how so many individuals from such different backgrounds gathered under the same roof could come together - at the end of the meeting, we discovered that unusual relationships and friendships had been formed.
Mr. Schlesinger sees a personal mission in bringing world peace by promoting dialogue between parties. Since he is a practical man, he begins to implement the change in his own home by inviting people to his home in Savion. Guests might include individuals from the wide political and religious map where they discuss different topics, enjoy music in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Schlesinger says his goal is to reach an understanding between the sides out of a sense of goodwill and love for humanity.
And we think, If only the same atmosphere of openness, understanding, love and mutual desire for peace, like that we have experienced here today between such varied groups of people, we could find between countries – then the world would be a much better place to live in.