You’ve probably noticed by now that I avoid political discussion. It’s not that I am not interested in politics. Here in Israel, politics is not only THE “national sport”, it is a matter of survival. It is too close too close to my heart to remain in my head. And I am not the only one who feels that way.
Take the story below, for instance. What motivated the stabbing in The Church? Is it anti-Christian terrorism? Is it internecine violence? Or is it a lone crazy with a knife? The facts are not yet known but your opinion as to how the facts will play out will probably depend on your beliefs, your knowledge and your fears. Not on the statistics. Your heart, not your head.
All of which brings me to this past weekend. Every three months or so, I get together with this very unusual group of martial artists collectively known as Budo For Peace (BFP).
Budo For Peace is a non-profit organization founded and led by Danny Hakim, a high-ranking teacher of Shotokan Karate. Danny travels the world to train and compete. During a get-together in Japan, he was struck by the fact that, when adherents to the practice and values of the martial arts get together, they work in harmony despite the political climate outside the door. Iranians, Iraqis, Afghanis, Americans, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews- as long as TV cameras keep their distance, the participants’ common purpose blurred the political, religious and social lines between them.
Danny returned to Israel with a dream. With the help of a Japanese government grant and donors like 1-2-1 in Britain and Sugat in Israel, he created Budo For Peace, an organization of instructors from a wide range of populations, Jewish, Arab, Druse and Bedouin, who teach traditional martial arts- Karate, Aikido, Ju-jitsu, etc.- to students ages 9-13 and 14-16, together with the arts’ traditional values: honesty, loyalty, courage, gentleness, kindness, respect and so on. BFP’s Values Education curriculum is based on a book written by American martial arts instructor Terrence Webster-Doyle.
Three to four times a year, the instructors spend Thursday-Friday working out together, learning games and teaching strategies, planning activities and, most importantly, practicing what they preach, creating an Island of Peace in which the bonds between them take center stage and the world, with all its conflicts, melts away.
When I was first invited to take part in Budo For Peace, I recoiled. It was inconceivable to me that a gathering of Israeli Arabs and Jews would not be rife with hand-wringing and propaganda. I told Danny I would come but, at the first hint of a political agenda, I told him “I’m out of there”. I never left. Even though I have no BFP dojo of my own, I have continued to attend these sessions for three years.
Sometimes, when we are all sitting in the classroom, joking around like a group of grade-schoolers, I take a mental leap back and realize that I am living a dream, that for 20 hours, as John Lennon might say “the world is one”.
How strange that it is the so-called “Fighting Arts” that create the framework for such a peaceful gathering. How strange and, yet, how fitting. When people of good will have confidence in themselves and in their ability to stand their ground, then they have the power to choose how to respond, rather than to react to the world around them.
When the Head, The Heart and the Body are one, then the world can live as one.
Tourist Shot After Attacking Church Goers
Man seriously wounded in chest, leg after trying to stab worshipers, policemen in Church of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; his identity and motive unclear
April 23, 2010
A tourist was shot by a policeman on Friday evening after trying to stab worshipers and police officers at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. One police officer was lightly injured in the incident.
The officer ordered the tourist to put his knife down, but the man refused and threatened to hurt one of the worshipers. He then attempted to stab a policeman as well.
A Magen David Adom crew dispatched to the area attended to the tourist, who sustained serious wounds, and evacuated him to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. A hospital official said he was injured in the leg and chest. His identity is unknown.
The security forces are looking into the incident and the stabber’s motives.
According to eyewitnesses, two priests and a policeman had asked the worshipers to leave the church just before its closing hour. When they approached the tourist, he pulled out a knife and after refusing to put it down, the policeman sprayed him with tear gas. The tourist was shot after rioting and threatening to hurt one of the worshipers.
The officer who shot the tourist said he aimed at the upper part of the man’s body after he had tried to stab him and a priest standing next to him. A police investigation revealed that the tourist arrived in Israel on Friday, bought the knife in the Old City and hid it between his clothes.
Many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and then resurrected at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.