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Locals take a peaceful journey

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet staff
Monday April 15, 2002

Two Berkeley residents will arrive in Israel this morning on a mission of peace. 

Tom Kelly, a grants developer for the California Department of Health Services, and attorney Cathy Orozco are among a delegation of fifteen peace activists from around the country who will travel through Israel and the Palestinian territories for 10 days, getting a firsthand glimpse at the conflict and meeting with local activists, peace leaders and ordinary citizens. 

Kelly said he hopes to return with greater insight on the Israeli-Palestinian fight, in part to heal local divisions over the Middle East conflict. In recent weeks, protesters on both sides of the issue have clashed on the Berkeley streets and the UC Berkeley campus. 

“This situation has implications way beyond the Middle east,” Kelly said. “Even here in Berkeley, the level of anger and reaction is pretty astounding.” 

Former state assemblyman Tom Bates and former councilmember Nancy Skinner have also reportedly declined to run against Dean. 

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an 87 year-old peace group based in Nyack, New York has organized the trip, its seventh such journey to the region in the last two years. 

The Fellowship, which makes an effort to include Jews, Christians and Muslims committed to non-violence on every trip, offered the delegation a one-and-a-half-hour training in Nyack this weekend. 

Richard Deats, communications coordinator for the Fellowship, said the training includes role-playing in how to defuse potentially violent encounters with the military or armed civilians. 

Deats said safety will be a paramount concern for the delegation, but noted that there is a certain balancing act in play. 

“We don’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” he said. “At the same time, we try to get to areas where there has been conflict.” 

An firsthand view of the conflict, Deats said, is an important part of the delegation’s education. 

Orozco, in an interview Friday, said she has some concerns about safety. But that is not her only worry. 

“The other thing is fear of the unknown,” she said. “I’ve never been there.” 

Orozco said, when she returns, she hopes to work with Kelly and four other Bay Area delegates to spread the word about her experience. 

Deats said the Fellowship encourages participants to speak with local elected officials, newspaper editors and activist groups after their return, to share their experiences and spread a message of peace. 

Usually, he said, delegates are so moved by the trip that they do take local action. 

“It’s a life-changing situation,” he said. 


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