A Dream for Peace in the Middle East By TRACIE DeANGELIS SALIM

Friday December 24, 2004

Every day I awake hoping that my dream for peace will have come true, magically in the night as I slept. Each of us is living a dream. Part of my dream took me to a land far away. A land where the people are mostly like you and me. People who want to enjoy the beauty of the moist morning dew on the ground and the colors of the tranquil sunset at night.  

Mothers and Fathers who work hard for their children to grow up safe and secure. Where is this far away land? I went to the West Bank, Palestine. 

I chose to live there for 15 months. I, a non-religious person, wearing my privileged white skin got on a plane to go see what life was like on the other side of the world where the people had been deemed “terrorists.” I was delighted with what I found in the people and in their culture. What is it that I want to share that might cause your heart to crack a bit and create space for understanding? Why do I want you to know this? Because I don’t want people to be afraid anymore.  

Afraid that “they are out to get us.” It seems that if we could all be exposed to life in the Middle East, rather than just read about it and feel fear, we would all be taking one step toward a more peaceful planet. 

Certainly, as with any group of people, there are those who one would rather not associate or socialize with.; but what group can this not be said of? They are not so different from many cultures in this regard.  

People are people. It is as if we are all characters in a big movie. And now, the actors who are taking part in the movie being played out in the Middle East are “the bad guys.” It is hard to care for them. We can’t root for the “bad guy.” But the characters are being misrepresented. We need to care for them. We need to understand them. Don’t you notice that it is when you begin to care about a character in a movie that you really begin to get hooked? I want you to care about the people living in the middle east. 

I want to share with you the feeling that I felt by seeing the joy in the eyes of the children when they celebrate The Eid. The Eid in Palestine would be what would most closely resemble the Christmas that we are getting ready to honor here in this country. It is the time of year in Muslim countries when each winter, usually sometime in November, about two billion Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, the three-day festival commonly known as “Eid.” Eid is commemorated by many different cultural rituals, colors, and festivities in countries across the globe. 

Each region has specific customs, foods, and traditions associated with this celebration. 

The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and is a culmination of the month-long struggle towards a higher spiritual state. 

Ramadan holds special significance for Muslims, since the Quran, the book of Muslim scripture, was revealed during this month. It is also the time when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day, refraining not only from food and water but also from both material as well as spiritual vices, such as lying, cheating, violence, or theft. The fasting is not only a symbol of sacrifice and purification, but also a measure of self-restraint and a tool for encouraging compassion for the hungry, the poor, and the less fortunate. Charity and service are especially 

emphasized during Ramadan, and Muslims are required to donate food and a percentage of their savings to the under-served and neglected in society. 

I found this time of year absolutely amazing considering that the people in the area of the world where I was living were suffering day to day to survive, yet the generosity and the importance of creating a celebration for the kids was the most joyful experience I shared with the people of Palestine. Just as we prepare and anticipate being with our families and honoring the traditions during the holidays, the people of Palestine also have their traditions, their culture, their celebrations. We are not so different. We all want to live in peace and be able to share our joy with each other. 

I want to share their story, because their voices have been muffled.  

Their voices have been silenced. They wait for their freedom; these people who breathe the same air, who see the same sun, moon and stars.  

Open your heart. The world will become a much gentler place.