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Peace, Love and Light
by Judy Lash Balint
December 23, 2003

They must be jealous of all the publicity that Yossi Beilin, Abed Rabbo, Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon have been getting with their various Middle East plans over the past few weeks. The Moonies have suddenly sprung onto the "peace" scene with a series of rallies and activity in Israel. (Are the Moonies still conducting those mass weddings somewhere in the world??)

After papering the city with flyers in Hebrew and Arabic announcing the Heart to Heart Peace Rally under the auspices of the innocuous -sounding "Inter-religious & International Federation for World Peace," the group was outed by a Jerusalem Post article revealing Rev. Sun Myung Moon as the real sponsor.

Three thousand Moon adherents (they evidently resent being called Moonies...) arrived in Israel from 70 countries to sit in the cold in Independence Park to listen to a two hour program of speeches full of platitudes, interspersed with musical selections from a Sufi Chant Ensemble, the Black Hebrew Choir of Dimona and the Gaya Band.

At one point the bow tie-wearing MC announced that the event was being carried live over the Internet to an audience that included Rev. Moon himself. "Say hello Father Moon," he exhorted the crowd in English. Most of the Arabs looked around in bewilderment at the shout that went up.

Organizers had hoped that 30,000 people would show up to join them, and they did their best by organizing dozens of buses full of Arabs from Nazareth and other places in the Galilee--but still, there were no more than 5-6,000 people there. The predominantly Arab crowd was dotted with a few Jewish peace activist types, but the majority of those cheering each mention of Rev. Moon were his faithful adherents all dressed in identical colored caps and vests, who had each contributed $500 of their own money to pay for the event. At least that's what spokesperson Susan Fefferman of Maryland told me in aswer to a question about the budget for the event.

Fefferman claims that there are 10 Israeli activists for Moon who were ready to help carry out Moon's decision to take an active role in the Middle East, with another 80-100 here "who help out in some way." Plans call for further rallies in January and February. Leaders of the Moonie group met with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah last week, and received a gift from Yasser for Moon, she told me.

At the edge of the crowd a few Haredi youngsters from the Yad L'Achim anti-missionary organization handed out flyers in Hebrew warning people to "Stay away from the lies."

Across the street at the American Consulate, guards seemed a little on-edge as they surveyed the buses disgorging hundreds of Arabs into the park.

Another open public event took place across town on Emek Refaim, the central street in the up-scale German Colony neighborhood. For two evenings during Chanukah, the street is closed to traffic and becomes a Chanukah fair. Chanukiot are lit in buildings and on the sidewalk, booths with every kind of finger-food (everything from sushi to roasted chestnuts) and drink imagineable (ever hear of chocolate soup??) are set up along the street and street entertainers parade up and down. Gas heaters dotted along the way keep the crowd warm, while IDF and police wander up and down.

Off in a corner we see a huddle of plain-clothes, rather obvious-looking undercover cops chatting with their uniformed colleagues. But all is quiet, just a few blocks away from Cafe Hillel, where 7 people died in a terror attack just three months ago.

Over at the Cinematheque, the Jewish Film Festival is underway. A week's worth of programming of new and old films from all over the globe is on offer. My choice was a new film directed by Avi Lehrer, a British immigrant and friend from our ulpan days. The film, Mame Loshen-Kinder Loshen, is an intriguing look at the state of Yiddish language and culture in Israel today. Book it for your next Jewish Film Festival!

From the Cinematheque down in the Hinnom Valley the view to the northeast takes in the Tower of David, next to Jaffa Gate. In the run-up to Christmas, the tower is illuminated in red and green light, while the David's Citadel Hotel is bathed in blue light with huge Chanuka candles atop the entrance.

Peace, Love and Light to all.