Nechemya – Tel Aviv, Israel

I’m a retired general in the Israeli Defense Force. In 1963 I’m a helicopter pilot, we didn’t have any schools for helicopters in Israel and we were sent all over the world to study. Six of us went into an Air Force plane and arrived 9pm to North Europe, Germany. 1963, eighteen years after the Holocaust and I am there with my friends, Jewish friends. We walked to the terminal and a German officer came to escort us. Blonde, blue-eyes, the typical Nazi as was described in the literature of the Nazi Regime. The same uniform of 1940-1945 because they didn’t change the uniform. It was a chilly moment and I’m not a Holocaust survivor, but as a Jew the Holocaust is something in our history, and it was only eighteen years before. The day after they introduced me to my flight instructor, an ex-Nazi pilot. We take off and our flight area is over Bergen-Belsen [the concentration camp]. I am flying over the Bergen-Belsen, look down to the beautiful park with graves and just small signs for hundreds of thousands of people buried there. I’m flying over this big cemetery and asking myself if the Jews that died there only eighteen years before could dream in their wildest dreams that eighteen years after a Jewish pilot would fly over Bergen-Belsen and a Nazi pilot would salute him and call him ‘Sir’. Because he was a Sergeant and I was a Lieutenant.

Over Bergen-Belsen I say to myself, ‘If this kind of dramatic change can happen, anything can happen.’ This is why I think we should talk to our enemies, we should talk to anyone, anytime.

OneVoice – Hebron, Palestine

We came to Hebron today to observe the Jewish settler family removed from a house they had illegal occupied in the city. There were major demonstrations from the settler community, cursing at the Israeli soldiers and calling them ‘Nazis’ for enforcing the Israeli Supreme Court decision.

Palmyra, Syria

Early one morning I took a walk through the Bedouin community outside Palmyra. On seeing a lone, Westerner, they invited me into their tent for morning coffee and breakfast and to visit with their ten-day old baby. Other than ‘assalam alaikum’ (hello) and ‘shukran’ (thank you), no words were shared. However there was a deep human connection. 

Akh Abdulsalam, Palmyra, Syria

My father doesn’t understand English so I can ask your help.  I want to have a love marriage with my girlfriend but my father wants me to have an arranged marriage with someone I don’t even like.  You come from America; what should I do?

Chocolate Celebration – Aleppo, Syria

Despite continued diligence to conscious of prejudices and judgments, it is easy to slip back into preconceived notions and misconceptions, as I learned firsthand. Three years ago, before all of the horror and killing began, I was in Aleppo, Syria with my family. As we walked around the Citadel there, we heard loud chanting. Instantly I went from a mode of conscious understanding to a state of panic. My immediate reaction was to grab my family and run for our hotel because there were ‘loud noises’ and we were ‘in the Middle East.’ Quickly I told them not to go near the crowd, but of course I broke that rule and went a little closer. What I found was that it was a promotion for chocolate. The next day was Mother’s Day and they were trying to encourage people to buy Elegance brand chocolate. Because I had investigated, I didn’t return with a story of escaping ‘something horrible in dreaded Syria,’ but instead ended up hoisted on people’s shoulders and joining the festivities. 

Hebron, Palestine

I was just released from Israeli detention.

Detention? What happened? 

I was fighting with a group of Jewish kids and the Israeli soldiers threw me in jail for three months. I got out yesterday.

What happened to the Jewish kids? 

Nothing of course.

Shahram Sharbaf – Tehran, Iran

Please don’t clap or cheer, I want them to let us have more concerts.

After being banned for seven years, Iranian musician Shahram Sharbaf, gave his first legal concert to an audience limited to 200, in order to ensure that the crowd would be kept under control. His lyrics are based on the revered Persian poets Hafez and Rumi, but rock or any rhythmic music is controversial in Iran. 

Sheikh Zuhare – Rasoun, Jordan

I lead my village. When the Abraham Path opened, I built a campground here with nice tents and beds on the mountain top for people walking the Path to stay and eat at. I’ve met a lot of really interesting people from all over the world and it is a good business for us.