On May 15, over 200 people with varying perspectives came together for the Fourth Annual Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. Why the Walk? The need was apparent even as it unfolded. Stickers reading “No Arabs, No Terror” were found on light poles along the Walk route, and an individual was distributing anti-Semitic literature. Such expressions of ethnic and cultural hatred underscore the need for gatherings of diverse people committed to establishing a true and lasting peace built on the foundations of justice. And so we gathered?#34;Muslims, Jews, Christians, and secular people; Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans?#34;to express this commitment and to invigorate the work needed to bring this commitment to fruition.
We have many people to thank for the success of the event. In fact, there are too many to list individually, but we must thank you all by category if not by name. To the legions of volunteers who helped with banner painting, sign making, food pick-up and delivery, tent donation and construction, sound system donation and set-up, thank you sincerely for your efforts. It was astonishing to be hearing, “I just wish I could do more,” from people who had done so much.
To the many area restaurants that donated the delicious food that allowed us to bring a taste of authentic hospitality and fellowship to the day, thank you for your generosity. To the Village of Oak Park and the Park District of Oak Park, thanks for your management of the many demands of that very busy weekend. To the Oak Park Police Department, we offer high praise for your dedication to enabling the rich cultural exchange in our village with respect and dignity. To Pilgrim Congregational Church, we give thanks for the use of your fellowship hall and your gracious space-sharing on that busy day in your church. To the 22 organizational co-sponsors, thank you for joining together so that our many voices may be heard urging our leaders to choose the path of justice rather than partisanship and become honest brokers in this tragic conflict. To the speakers and musicians, we thank you for sharing so generously your time, your thoughts, and your passion.
Finally, we must thank all of the people who came to participate in the Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. It is clear that a walk through Oak Park is a small gesture. It is clear that there is much more work to be done. But it is also clear that there are people of great talent, commitment, and vision to do that work.
Changing the course of history in Israel and Palestine will require a fundamental transformation of the relationships among Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans and their governments as well as a redefinition of the concepts of peace as more than a cessation of violence and of justice as more than a negotiated settlement. We hope that all who participated in the Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine will continue to join together in the challenging work of listening to people with diverse perspectives. We also hope that you will make your voice heard.
Hlne Bellour, Jennifer Bing-Canar, Gerri Brauneis, Michael Levin, Rebekah Levin, Mark Pickus, Martha Reese, Janet Settle, Caren Van Slyke