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Joint Joint Israeli-Palestinian Expedition Conquers Antarctic Mountain

''By reaching its summit, we have proved that Palestinians and Israelis can cooperate with one another with mutual respect and trust,'' Nathaniel said, reading from a statement agreed upon by the four Jews and four Arabs in the "Breaking the Ice Expedition.''
  -- Associated Press, 1/21/04

Dear friends,

Below are short summaries of a few articles describing a wonderfully inspiring journey which I learned about in the excellent magazine Ode (, which is dedicated to building a better world. Israelis and Palestinians committed to building a brighter future came together on a moving expedition to prove that perceived enemies can work together to overcome great obstacles. Though this great feat was accomplished in January of last year, I am reporting it now as this historic event sadly received very little media coverage.

The first article from BBC was written before the expedition reached its goal. The two articles following give details of the arduous journey. The final piece from PBS (posted just last month) discusses a recent inspiring lecture given by one of the participants. For more information on any of these, click on the links provided to read the full article. I give thanks for the many wonderful people in this world working to build peace and understanding by bringing conflicting groups together in powerful dialogue and shared purpose. To quote one of the expedition members, "We cannot sit and wait for the government to do work for us. Peace can only be made by the people, not the government."

With love and best wishes,
Fred Burks - BBC article announcing expedition

Antarctic setting for Mid-East peace bid

A group of Israelis and Palestinians aim to prove that the two communities can work together - by staging a joint expedition to Antarctica. The project - called "Breaking The Ice" - will take the eight-member team from Patagonia in southern Chile to the top of an unnamed peak. The man behind the idea, 41-year-old Heskel Nathaniel, wants to show that people can work together as individuals, despite their troubled recent history.

"In the Antarctic, there is no way to turn back," Mr Nathaniel told the BBC.

The four Israelis and four Palestinians come from a variety of backgrounds. Two of the Israelis are former members of elite commando unit of the Israeli army, and one of the Palestinians served three years in prison for firebombing Israeli troops. - Official website for the journey, includes journal entries of the team

Breaking the Ice

On January 1st, a small sailing boat has left the Straights of Magellan in South America, on board: 4 Israelis and 4 Palestinians. During their journey, they have crossed the wildest sea on earth, they have climbed on ice and glaciers and marched towards their destination, un unclimbed mountain, carrying heavy loads and sledges and roped to each other day and night. - Associated Press article

Joint Israeli-Palestinian Expedition Conquers Antarctic Mountain
Posted: January 21, 2004
Courtesy: Associated Press

(AP) -- Eight Palestinians and Israelis on Thursday climbed an unconquered Antarctic mountain to prove that ``our people can and deserve to live together in peace and friendship.''

'We have named it `Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship,' '' expedition leader Heskel Nathanial said by satellite telephone from the peak of the snow-capped, windy 2,770-foot mountain near the Bruce plateau in Antarctica.

''By reaching its summit, we have proved that Palestinians and Israelis can cooperate with one another with mutual respect and trust,'' Nathaniel said, reading from a statement agreed upon by the four Jews and four Arabs in the ``Breaking the Ice Expedition.''

The expedition, which includes two women, departed in a rented British yacht on Jan. 1 from Puerto Williams, a Chilean Navy base on the southern shore of the Beagle channel, 2,050 miles south of Santiago.

The group reached Antarctica after sailing 600 miles through some of the world's most dangerous waters. Then they trekked for a week on Antarctic soil to the foot of the mountain.

Nathaniel said they would remain briefly at the summit and then begin their descent.

Two of the Palestinians on the expedition spent time in Israeli prisons -- one for attacking Israeli soldiers and another who was accused of terrorism. Two of the Israelis are former members of an elite commando unit. - PBS article

Expedition lecture at Northwestern U. used as tool for Middle East peace
By Marcy Miranda
Daily Northwestern (Northwestern U.)

(U-WIRE) EVANSTON, Ill. – "Having four Palestinians and four Israelis together on a mountain in Antarctica sounds like the beginning of a joke," said Doron Erel in a speech about an expedition promoting peace between the Jewish and Muslim communities. "I guess the punch line is that it was real."

Erel, an Israeli, recounted his Antarctic adventure with four Palestinians and three other Israelis. They climbed a mountain and named it the Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship. Students for Israel, Muslim-Cultural Students Association, Hillel Cultural Life and the student group Peace of Mind sponsored the hour-long presentation Wednesday.

Speaking to about 40 students at Norris University Center, Erel presented slides from the trip as well as the first minutes of a documentary that was filmed during the 40-day trek.

The goal of the expedition was to show that Israelis and Palestinians could work as a team by climbing an unnamed mountain and then pronouncing it as the first step in a journey to end violence in the Middle East.

Despite the participants' efforts to heal religious divisions, political disagreements arose within the group. But in the end, they were able to better see the other side's point of view.

During the group's political discussions, members agreed that peace is achievable if people are willing to listen.

"We cannot sit and wait for the government to do work for us," Erel said. "Peace can only be made by the people, not the government."

For another deeply inspiring story of Israelis and Palestinians working together for peace:

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