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A speaking tour in Japan: first steps towards a new friends association

Friday 12 November 2010, by Dorit Shippin

Account of a trip to Japan, participation in a conference and presentations on WAS-NS

In October I was invited to accompany three young people to a conference of the Arigatou Foundation in Japan. The Foundation supports peace activities for young people and children around the world and since 2004, I have been their representative in Israel. In recent years, Arigatou has supported the Massa-Massar youth activities arranged by the Pluralistic Spiritual Center, in conjunction with other organizations. For the Conference, we selected some past participants of these activities: Bissan and Mohammad from Ramle, and Yishai from Jerusalem.

After the Conference, I remained for a few days in Japan, in order to give presentations on WAS-NS, as part of an effort to establish a Japanese friends association for WAS-NS. The initiative came from Kiriko Yoshimura, whom I met several years ago when both of us were attending a meditation course in Plum Village, France.

At the time, Kiriko was very excited to hear about WAS-NS. When she returned to Japan, she embarked upon a post-graduate program at the international studies department of the University of Osaka. She chose to write her thesis on the educational work of WAS-NS, and in particular on the activities of the Pluralistic Spiritual Center.

While writing her thesis Kiriko spent two months in WAS-NS during the winter of 2008. During this time she became well acquainted with the village and many of its members. Upon hearing of my October trip to Japan, she got together with some of her friends to organize a short speaking tour on the village and its educational work.

In Tokyo I gave a presentation at the new Jewish Community Center there. This was followed by a second lecture in the international studies department of the University of Osaka. The third was hosted by the Osaka Group of Amnesty International (AI Group 95), and the fourth and largest took place in in Kyoto University.

Reactions in all of these places was positive. I was able to meet with people from various domains, among them professors and students of international studies, Middle Eastern studies, Arabic language studies, multicultural studies and many other departments. The audiences were made up mostly of Japanese people, with some foreign residents among them.

While in Japan I was interviewed for Radio Japan’s international service. A follow-up telephone interview was given with Abdessalam Najjar, and additional supporting material was provided by the Communications and Development Office. A program, to be broadcast in 17 languages aired on Friday, November 12 (and is available on the web for the following week). An additional program for the Arabic service is scheduled to appear will be given in Arabic on Monday, November 15.

According to the responses received, there seems to be a solid basis of support for Kiriko’s attempt to initiate a friends’ association. This coming spring, a student tour group is being organized from Kyoto University. They are working with WAS-NS Group Visits department to put together an intensive study tour in WAS-NS and the region.

In conclusion, I hope that seeds have been sown towards establishing a new friends association in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Slideshow (see album

Poem by Tom Koch (participant in two of the lectures)

Oasis of Peace

There is an Israeli village
in the valley of the plains
It’s called Neve Shalom/Wahat al salam
by which it claims its fame

In this original Oasis of Peace
Palestinians and Jewish people are the same
They both choose to live together
in a village that they can equally claim

Sharing their joys and their sorrows
and through their struggles they find
That they have become bound together
by a bond that bridges all time

It’s really a dream, an idea
that has at its evolving core
a dream of a ordinary normal life
a dream of peace and nothing more

A dream that Jewish people and Palestinians
can live together just as before
Before the conflict of a million tears
came crashing outside their door.

May peace spring eternal
upon them
and upon their land
Shalom al Salam


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