Two weeks ago, I participated in a conference called Horizon 2012, devoted to the quest for a nuclear and mass destruction weapons free zone in the Middle East, with other participants from civil society in the region. It took place on a very unique venue — the Japanese Peace Boat NGO. I flew to Athens with an Israeli colleague Sharon Dolev who for the past few years served as the director of the Greenpeace Mediterranean disarmament project based in Tel Aviv. We then took a bus to Piraeus, the port closest to Athens, to board the Peace Boat, and join colleagues from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, India, Greece, Switzerland, the international Peace Boat staff and a senior UN disarmament expert. An Iranian was also supposed to participate, but he didn’t make it because the Greek embassy required him to submit an application for a visa ten days in advance, and he didn’t manage to do that.
We boarded the ship at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, and held our discussions in the conference room on the 11th floor (see first photo), near the workout room and the chimney. The ship set sail from the
From there we continued on to the Turkish coast, where the two Israelis and our Palestinian colleague Rami Naser Eddin, director of Palestinian Vision and the Palestinian coordinator for the Peace Boat, got off at the port town of Kusadasi, and eventually made our way to Istanbul for the return flights- the Israelis to Ben-Gurion Airport, and Rami to Amman to go back to East Jerusalem.
The Egyptians told us that, because of the uncertainty in Egypt, they could not arrange visas for the Israelis, Iranians and Palestinians (quite a combination!), but everyone else was welcome and did go on to Port Said in Sinai, to take a bus to Cairo for the final event at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (pictured below).
In addition to our team of about 15 conference participants, including a very sharp admiral former head of the Indian navy, there were also 750 Japanese passengers of all ages on the ship, who left Japan in January for a 4 month around the world journey which finances the activities of the Peace Boat, including 9 Hibakusha (survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), with whom the conference participants had a very moving two hour encounter.
I published an article in the weekend edition of Haaretz, (here’s the link) which describes some of the contents, context and goals of the conference. I welcome any comments you may have.
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