Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2006, pages 59-60

Waging Peace

Seeds Grow in Washington

Seeds of Peace President Janet Wallach, widow of founder John Wallach (Staff Photo M. Horton).

SEEDS OF PEACE held its second Annual Winter Gala, on the theme “Seeds Grow in Washington: A Festive Evening,” on March 4 at the Organization of American States headquarters. Rep. John Dingle (D-MI) welcomed guests to an ambassadors’ reception.

The banquet program was opened by Young Leadership Committee co-chairs Nick Mansour and Dan Magder, who introduced recently named Seeds of Peace President Janet Wallach. Wallach, who replaced former State Department Mideast envoy Aaron David Miller after three years in the position, is the widow of Seeds of Peace founder John Wallach and author of Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Arafat: In the eyes of the Beholder, and The New Palestinians.

“In this bleak desert of despair, Seeds of Peace must be an Oasis,” Wallach said. She highlighted Seeds of Peace accomplishments, including their Arts Café project in Jerusalem and a partnership with Sesame Street to teach second graders in Israel and Palestine tolerance and respect.

Introducing the second half of the program, which featured Seeds of Peace graduates who “don’t know life without war,” was Bobbie Gottschalk, one of John Wallach’s first partners. “Human beings are evolving to a life without war,” she proclaimed, which should be “the next stage of human development.” Gottschalk then presented Ahmed Shah Hemmat, 17, an Afghan who is currently a junior at Peddie High School in New Jersey. By giving him the chance to talk with others who experienced war, Hemmat said, Seeds of Peace helped him to “break the cycle” of ethnic sectarianism in his community “and make a change.”

Indian Rashna Kharas, 18, who is currently a freshman studying psychology and philosophy at Middlebury College, described the effect of Seeds for Peace on her community. Asking what good it does to take 20 people from a population of over one billion, she explained: “It’s the same change as putting one spoon of sugar in your coffee. It’s a slow change.”

Israeli Ya’akov ”˜Koby’ Sadan, 25, the child of Iranian and Iraqi Jewish parents, recalled his father teaching him that “Arabs are never to be trusted. They just want to drive us into the sea.” Now he counts Palestinians among his friends. Since participating in Seeds of Peace, Koby served in the Foreign Relations department of the Israel Defense Forces, coordinating primarily with the Jordanian army. He currently is finishing his undergraduate degree at Yale University in ethics, politics and economics, and is co-chair of the Seeds Advisory Council and the U.S. branch director for the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation.

As he took the microphone, Palestinian Fadi Elsalameen, 22, congratulated Koby on his speech, but added, “It would be so much better if it had a phrase like ”˜free Palestine’ in there.”

For more information about Seeds of Peace, visit <www.seedsofpeace.org>.

Matt Horton

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