Cities of Peace

JudaiPeace Dovesm has always expressed a yearning for peace. From Isaiah 2:4:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Rabbi Hillel in Ethics of the Fathers:

“Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace…”

When Israel was restored to her ancestral land, the Declaration of Independence stated:

”We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their people in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation … “

In the prayer for the State of Israel..

“Please bless the State of Israel…spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Grant peace unto the land, lasting joy to its inhabitants. Remove from us all hatred and hostility, jealousy and cruelty. And plant in our hearts love and friendship, peace and companionship….”

In Leviticus, Jews are urged

“Seek peace, and pursue it’ ‑ seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.”

So is Judaism’s contribution to a peaceful world acknowledged? There is a global movement called International Cities of Peace: Surely they must admire our peace credentials:

International Cities of Peace is a wonderful example of “Partnerships for Peace”, which is the United Nations’ theme for the 2015 International Day of Peace. Plan your September 21st event now and help seed a culture of peace in your community. 

Well, judging by Jews’ eagerness to join interfaith initiatives, where Israel is routinely excoriated by faith partners, nobody tries harder to ‘seed peace’ than us. Let’s look at the qualities needed:


According to the only scholarly paper to date… written by scholar Peter van den Dungen, the following are major categories for consideration.

  1. Cities where a particular war has been successfully concluded (through a peace treaty).
  2. Cities which are the seats of international institutions which are significant for the maintenance of world peace. The city authorities in The Hague have declared their city a City of Peace, justice etc…
  3. Cities where important peace prizes are awarded/places where peace is being celebrated and honoured…. Examples: Oslo, Frankfurt/M., Aachen.
  4. Cities which, having been destroyed in war, have used this tragedy to dedicate themselves to work for peace, with the focus being on either

          – warning against nuclear weapons

          – reconciliation

         – tolerance and multicultural living

  1. Cities which have rediscovered and now are reconnecting with historical impulses from the past, especially the remembrance of a prominent historical figure born in (or associated with) the city, and who was a great peace advocate… Traditionally, war heroes are remembered, but slowly the notion of peace heroes is making headway, and cities are rediscovering their peace history and tradition. Examples: Rotterdam, Atlanta.
  2. Cities where important peace research or peace training institutions have been created Examples: Bradford.
  3. Cities which have joined important international peace organisations, and which are playing a significant role in them. Example: Manchester.
  4. Cities of practical peacemaking, in ethnically diverse and polarised environments. Examples: Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam.

In the list of “communities, villages, and cities that are self-defining as Cities of Peace!” there were certainly a few surprises. Who knew that Benghazi, Libya, qualified for this illustrious title? Try telling that to American Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three fellow Americans:

Among other exemplars of peace, it was a surprise to find a city in Somalia and Tunis. Cities in Pakistan also featured prominently, scant comfort for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman under threat of death for drinking from a Muslim cup:

Here’s an extract from the list:

Examining the map, I note with dismay that there are ZERO Cities of Peace in Australia and New Zealand. Where have we gone wrong?

Let’s find out more about this movement:

 International Cities of Peace™ is a nonprofit, tax-exempt association dedicated to connecting, promoting, and encouraging the global cities of peace movement. An Advisory Council…is working to create an all-inclusive, non-polarizing network of world citizens working on the ground to bring peace to their communities.

Peace…is not just a hope. It’s a right.

VISION: To foster peace as a consensus value in Cities of Peace around the world.

MISSION: To network, encourage, document, and provide resources and information for leaders and organizations working to make peace a consensus value through the global Cities of Peace movement.


  • Network individuals, villages, and cities of peace, internationally.
  • Provide an independent, unaligned resource for Cities of Peace.
  • Act as a non-polarizing source of information on worldwide peace issues.
  • Encourage, honor, and connect peace adherents and organizations.
  • Document the history, scholarship, and formation of cities of peace.
  • Promote the ideal of a World Dream of peace.

Safety, prosperity and quality of life: peace is a consensus value. Add your considerable energy to this worldwide, grassroots movement to define our cities and villages in the language of peace.

Luckily, under Historical Cities of Peace, Israel gets a mention. Neve Shalom also qualifies as a village of peace

Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions— Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The name Jerusalem is derived from the words in Hebrew and Arabic for “City of Peace.”

We know Neve Shalom must be special, as Roger Waters – icon of the anti-Israel movement – paid a visit there in 2006:

Roger Waters, who inspired the rock band’s iconic album “The Wall,” has scrawled “tear down the wall” on the concrete panels of Israel‘s security fence.

 The barrier was the first stop on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories for Waters, who had been criticized by some fans for planning to play a concert in the Jewish state.

 “It’s a horrific edifice, this thing,”

Waters told reporters as he stood beside a section of the barrier in Bethlehem.

“I’ve seen pictures of it, I’ve heard a lot about it but without being here you can’t imagine how extraordinarily oppressive it is and how sad it is to see these people coming through these little holes. It’s craziness.”

 Condemned by Palestinians as a land grab, the fence has been branded illegal by the World Court because it cuts through occupied territory. Israel is rerouting some sections after a Supreme Court order to lessen Palestinian hardship.

Pro-Palestinian media outlet, Electronic Intifada, added its bias:

Ramallah — Reiterating his opposition to the Israeli occupation and expressing his support for the Palestinian people in “their struggle to be free,” rock star Roger Waters has announced that he is relocating his Israel performance in recognition of the problematic nature of the previously planned Tel Aviv venue, particularly at a time when Israel is escalating its repression and apartheid designs to further dispossess, ghettoize and ultimately ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland.

The former member of Pink Floyd and the writer of its timeless song “Another Brick in the Wall” called off his Tel Aviv gig, heeding an appeal by many Palestinian artists and cultural organizations and their supporters around the world who feared such a performance, particularly by a respected and progressive artist like Waters, would have given legitimacy to Israel’s colonial Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague in July 2004.

Supporting the Palestinian letter to Waters, a group of Israeli refuseniks (conscientious objectors to service in the occupation army) also appealed to Waters to either cancel the Tel Aviv show or dedicate it explicitly to the struggle against Israel’s military occupation.

Waters writes:

“The suffering endured by the Palestinian people during the Israeli occupation of the last 40 years is unimaginable to us living in the west and I support them in their struggle to be free. I have moved the concert to Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam as a gesture of solidarity with those voices of reason, both Palestinian and Israeli, that seek a nonviolent route to a just peace.”

By calling off the Tel Aviv gig, Roger Waters has reconfirmed his commitment to freedom, equality and peace based on justice.

Reacting to the news, Palestinian civil society has warmly saluted Roger Waters for his courage and for his valuable contribution to bringing down all walls of oppression and subjugation, Israel’s Wall of shame included.

One has to worry about any place that has Waters’ endorsement. In Neve Shalom’s Little Secret, Daniel Pipes wrote:

I have always had my doubts about Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salam, the voluntary Jewish/Arab village half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and especially about its School for Peace.

My doubts about Neve Shalom were increased by an article in Ha’aretz that tells about one Eitan Bronstein,

“director of the youth section of the School for Peace [and] … also the founder, conceiver and moving spirit behind Zochrot,”

an organization dedicated to recalling the Palestinian presence in what is now Israel. The article quotes Bronstein saying:

  • On Zionism: “one of the achievements of the left is that it succeeds in turning the word ‘settlement’ into a curse. I erased the Green Line, because the real issue between us and the Palestinians is the Nakba. There was an occupation in 1948 and it’s impossible to expunge that fact.”
  • On the “right of return” of Palestinians to Israel: “I don’t know who will want to return, but whoever wants to—let them return—and if the result is that there will not be a Jewish state, then there won’t.”
  • On celebrating Israel‘s Independence Day: members of Zochrot “saw no reason to celebrate Independence Day. … Instead, they set up makeshift stages at selected points in Tel Aviv from which refugees or members of the association read out testimonies about the Nakba [Arabic, catastrophe] to anyone who wanted to listen.”

If such are the views of Eitan Bronstein, arguably one of the most influential figures at Neve Shalom, one wonders why mainstream Jewish and Israeli institutions continue to support the School for Peace.

Edward Alexander’s scholarly article, written in 1998, describes Neve Shalom as “an Exercise in Jewish Self-Debasement

If the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict were a misunderstanding, dialogue between Arabs and Jews might be the solution, and a village where Arabs and Jews live side by side, such as Neve Shalom, would indeed be the model for regional peace… In the Middle East, the two sides do not misunderstand each other at all, but, rather, understand each other only too well. The Arabs do not accept a Jewish state in their midst, and the vast majority of Israelis refuse to yield up their national sovereignty.

A village such as Neve Shalom can exist only if its Jewish residents are prepared to suppress their Zionist identity, and if its Arab residents are able to restrain their laughter as they watch their Jewish neighbors engage in self-debasement. Both types seem to abound in Neve Shalom.

“If I organize an evening of song, I am careful not to choose nationalistic songs,”

explains Jewish resident Etti Edlund. No Israeli flags are displayed in classrooms in the village school. When the Arab residents objected to the celebration of Israeli Independence Day in Neve Shalom, the town’s Jews agreed to go

“to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to partake in the nationwide celebration.”

When they returned later that night, Arab resident Rayek Rizek recalls,

“they made a campfire — out where they couldn’t be heard.”

Such scenes recall the stereotypical trembling ghetto Jew that Zionism was to supplant.

The Arabs of Neve Shalom may be willing to live with Jews, but have they reconciled themselves to the Jewish state? For Elias Eady, one of Neve Shalom’s leading Arab residents, Israel‘s War of Independence is “the symbol of the tragedy of the Palestinian people.” Jewish resident Daniella Kitain notes with discomfort that “people who I like” — that is, her Arab neighbors –“defend acts of terrorism or express understanding for such acts.” It comes as no surprise to discover that at a poetry reading in Neve Shalom an Arab poet recited a litany of grievances about Israel persecuting Arabs in “the wounded homeland”; or that a speaker at a political rally suggested it would be better for young Israelis to leave the country rather than serve in the army; or that a group of psychologists who visited Neve Shalom found themselves subjected to two hours of what they called “one-sided Palestinian political propaganda” from their Arab hosts.

Joseph Montville’s own account underscores this phenomenon. Assessing the impact of meetings between Arab and Jewish high school students, hosted by Neve Shalom, Montville quotes from what he calls “typical letters” written by a Jew and an Arab after four days of meetings. The Jewish youngster declared that meeting Arabs

“changed my entire outlook regarding Arabs . . .I hope they can improve their lives in Israel and that they won’t curse us — the Jews — every day of their lives.”

In sharp contrast to this prodigious feat of imaginative sympathy, we get the Arab youth’s letter of accusatory hatred and rage. He showers upon his Jewish counterparts the epithets “extremist” and “racist” and claims that “they don’t want to grant us even basic rights…” To Montville, such statements exude “genuineness.” To a less partisan observer, they suggest that Neve Shalom’s concept of Jewish-Arab dialogue amounts to little more than an exercise in Jewish self-abasement.

There are, of course, those to whom Jewish weakness is precisely the quality most attractive about Neve Shalom. The village’s loudest cheerleaders are to be found in quarters never famous for friendliness to Israel: at the State Department… Assistant Secretary Martin Indyk, has lavished praise upon Neve Shalom… several ferocious anti-Israel polemicists in the United States publicly praise Neve Shalom, and one, John Woods of the University of Chicago, sits on Neve Shalom’s board while remaining active in the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, which busies itself in depicting Israel as the devil’s own experiment station.

PeaceIn his conclusion, Montville points hopefully to what he describes as “the Neve Shalom spirit” in a recent meeting between an Israeli Knesset Member and Marwan al-Barghouti, the secretary-general of Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement,Montville is deeply impressed by the fact that Barghouti used the Hebrew term “Shabbat Shalom” to wish his Israeli counterpart a peaceful sabbath. Perhaps Montville should have investigated Barghouti more thoroughly before declaring him an exemplar of Arab-Jewish coexistence. In fact, Barghouti typifies the shrewd Palestinian Arab politician who speaks to Israelis and Western journalists about “peace,” then goes home and preaches the virtues of wars…not long after he so impressed Montville by his sabbath greetings, Barghouti declared on the Voice of Palestine Radio:

“The rifle of Fatah, the rifle carried by the Palestinian people which ignited the revolution, will not be buried. . . . Brothers and sisters, I swear, I swear, I swear by the blood of the jihad and the blood of our nation’s martyrs.”

On reflection, I’m proud that Australia didn’t make it into the “City of Peace” list, judging by the atrocious human rights records of some that did!

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  1. There is no “right” to peace. Such a “right” is an historical absurdity.
    Imagine if Obama, the Nobel Peace winner (whose “peace-loving” time in office as president has contributed to an unfolding nightmare in the Middle East) had been President of the USA during World War Two. Hitler’s genocidal fury would have continued unabated, and Obama would probably have “negotiated” a deal with the Japanese to allow them the atom bomb, rather than bomb Japan to end the war..
    There is a time for peace and a time for war, says the Bible. It does not say we should put our heads in the sand or appease endlessly in the face of aggression. It does not say we should make war. It simply acknowledges that sometimes war will be needed. We can hope for peace, pray for peace, negotiate rationally for peace, but not kowtow, grovel, sacrifice freedom, or ignore the suffering of innocent people, to postpone a just war or gain a false peace which is better known as cowardice.

    • The whole concept of Cities of Peace is anabsurdity, especially as they include some of the least peaceful places in the world. It’s an apt analogy imagining what would have happened had Obama been President during WW2. He would have out-Chamberlained Chamberlain!

      We have seen throughout history that appeasement doesn’t work,. Grovelling merely emboldens the aggressor and ensures that many more people will be persecuted.