On December 27, 2007 the World Business Academy published my article, “Planting the Seeds of Peace.” In it I mentioned how I visited India after many years and met with many parliamentarians and business leaders, encouraging them to establish an unofficial network with their counterparts in Pakistan. Sadly, the date of December 27, 2007 also became the date of the assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. Exactly one year later, December 27, 2008, Israel began her assaults against Hamas, escalating the ground war. My aim is to steer you away from what we are all watching on television. I will put the conflict of the moment aside to tell you the story of my honeymoon memory of the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In Cairo on May 4, 1994, the Gaza-Jericho agreement (sometimes called the Cairo Agreement) was signed by Israel and Palestine. From this accord grew the Palestinian Authority and the relationship led to the Oslo Peace Process. During this time, October 1994, I was at my home with Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke and Mr. Bradford Morse, former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). We judged that, in light of the positive climate, it was a good momentum to organize what would be the Jericho conference.
I sought the counsel of several old friends: Co-chair of the Global Forum, Rabbi Awaraham Soetendorp of the Netherlands; Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Director of the Israel Institute of Talmudic Publications in Jerusalem; and the Israeli Minister of Culture, Mrs. Shulamit Aloni. All had attended the Global Forums in Oxford and Moscow. Minister Aloni told me that no one would question my religious background. This meant, importantly, that I was able to be an unbiased participant in the talks to come. She directed me to Chairman Arafat of the Jericho Conference while she talked with Prime Minister Rabin of Israel. The other Co-Chair of the Global Forum, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro of Syria, was so pleased to hear of the positive news he offered to introduce me to the Imam Al Aqsa Mosque. Grand Mufti Kuftaro later made an historic achievement when he joined Pope John Paul II in entering the Omayyad Mosque at Damascus, Syria in May 6, 2001.
And so we began the first exciting and positive steps toward the first World Assembly on Reconciliation to be held at Jericho in December 1995, hosted by Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat.
Rabbi Steinsaltz suggested that the conference should be held at Hisham’s Palace in Jericho. Jericho is a city in the Jordan Valley, near the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. In addition to being the lowest city in the world (at 250 meters below sea level), it is also the oldest. Parts of the city are 10,000 years old. My Palestinian friends agreed that Hisham’s Palace would be an excellent site for the assembly and were proud to have Jericho as the host. I was taken on an incredible tour through the old part of the city (constructed in 5000 BC to 8000 BC), and was awed. Astoundingly, the “new” part of the city has roads where Jesus might have walked. Living in the United States, this brought me a new perspective.
We found throughout the preparatory meetings that it was very difficult to move along—the Palestinian members were so excited by the prospects, suggesting that we should invite business leaders, create cultural exchange and education programs, and so on that each item took much time. It was incredible to see their unlimitedly excited ideas flow forward, showing their hope for the future. The climate was very positive, which boded well for the Assembly itself.
When I visited the Gaza Strip to meet with Chairman Arafat, I and my Palestinian friends sat down at the Gaza beach. They told me that they were living a dream—only recently they were unable to walk through the street there at night.
On the Israeli side, Rabbi Soetendorp, Rabbi Steinsaltz, and their colleagues were also excited to establish a new dialogue with their Palestinian counterparts. I cannot stress enough the positive climate and level of excitement brimming on both sides of the discussion.
My wonderful memories of working alongside both Israelis and Palestinians are filled with positive attitudes and a hopeful dream for the future. I wish to keep these as my honeymoon memory of this area’s people forever.
I have the impression that their thousand years of shared history and cross-cultural experiences have cultivated a basic sympathy between them—a sympathy for their historical sacrifices. This had led me to believe that, in any situation, positive thoughts and hope is the strongest engine toward constructing ideas as well as nations.
I was born in Tokyo during World War II and raised in its ruins. Although being brought up in the decaying skeleton of a city, I remember the hope that was supplied to us by nothing more than the Walt Disney movies our parents comforted us with at the time. The characters and fictitious worlds of Disney gave us a positive dream for our people and the world. In this new century, our youth rely on other sources of entertainment beyond video, specifically the computer. Our time now is filled with violence and war, and so are our computer games. I wonder, if instead of a game based on war or violence, a talented businessperson produced an equally entertaining game based on the installment of peace, what would happen? I have no doubt that children’s minds will be nurtured in a peaceful way, and my honeymoon memory of Israel and Palestine’s people will be able to be extended further throughout the world. I am sure that the world’s people, with a desire for peace, will rally to support a game for peace, and will become a profitable enterprise.