Peace Pilgrimage to the Middle East 2020

For whatever the past many now worship One God,
And we pray that this truth be recognized through the ages—
Peace between thee and me, peace between me and thee,
Peace between Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael. Amin.

From Saladin, A poem by Murshid Samuel L. Lewis (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti)[1]

“My friends,” he said, “the Middle East has too much religion, not enough spirituality.” 

Syrian Orthodox archbishop of Jerusalem, Dionysius Behnam Jajjawi [2]

My peace pilgrimage begins with a single step onto the Bondi Shuttle Bus, then onto the Qantas plane, flying to Tel Aviv. Arriving in Israel, I catch a sherut (minibus) at Ben Gurion Airport to Ein Kerem, a suburb of Jerusalem where I meet Ruthi, one of the local dance leaders. She takes me to a funky local café, where we are joined by Hadas, the other local dance leader. Both Ruthi and Hadas had recently been dancing with Arjun (Jorge) in Turkey and Iran, along with Raimunda, one of our local dance leaders. Even though this was our first meeting, there was an instant feeling of connection with fellow dance leaders – how marvellous this global family of dancers for Universal Peace! It also gave me a wonderful feeling of being welcomed to Israel by ‘family.’

This was my 3rd visit to Israel, the two previous ones were in the mid 70s and early 80s. Then I was welcomed by my blood family, most of whom were originally from Romania, the country of my birth. It took me 38 years to return. This time I came for the Holy Land, Living Waters Tour, organised by 3 groups: Eco-Peace Middle East; Unity Earth and the United Religious Initiative. On my first 2 trips to Israel, I was visiting a country where many of my relatives happened to live, this time I was visiting the Holy Land – from family visits to peace pilgrimage! Much had changed for me in this time and much had changed in this part of the world. I was now a social ecologist, a dance leader, a follower of the Ruhaniat Sufi Path, a father and much older. I was very conscious of Murshid SAM’s vision of the need for Peace in the Middle East, to allow Peace to come into the World.

Saadi (1995) outlines Murshid Sam’s Peace Plan in Desert Wisdom: SAM’s ideas ‘reflect an attempt to change the atmosphere (or “wave-reality”) of the region as a preparation for any specific political changes in the “particle-reality.”’[3] This resonates strongly with the Holy Land, Living Waters Tour[4] which began my peace pilgrimage. Some 94 people gathered at the Kempinski Hotel on the shores of Dead Sea, Jordan, on the 1st of February. The 1-week tour coincided with the UN Harmony Week and culminated in Haifa on the 7th February, where an interfaith musical performance with inspirational talks celebrated Bob Marley’s Birthday and the end of our tour. We had 2 reggae artists as part of our tour, which was a continuation of the Unity Earth gathering in Ethiopia 2 years earlier [5]. Allaudin had attended that event, and introduced me to Ben Bowler, the founder of Unity Earth, who lives in Melbourne. Ben and I had spoken on the phone, but it was only in Jordan that we met in person. Ben, who has a Sufi connection, knew about me. He heard Shabda and I interviewed on ABC Radio National, when Shabda was in Australia a few years ago. Apparently, his father heard the interview and rang Ben very excited to tell him that the “Sufis are on the radio!”

On the first 2 days some of us went for a float in the Dead Sea; got covered in black mud; visited Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land; had a Dead Sea Convergence with the 3 CEO’s of Eco-Peace ME, and other celebrities; watched the sunset and participated in a water healing ceremony with Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, Buddhist Monks, Rabbis, Sufis, Christian Ministers, members of the Peace Prayer Society, the president of the Parliament of World Religions, and many other amazing people who had all said yes to this tour which was intended to save the Jordan River, as well as create interfaith harmony and celebrate our diverse cultural creativity.

Sunset on the Dead Sea from the Jordan side

Uncle Phil Lane, Uncle Jason, the Green Sheikh, Sister Angelica, Aunty Pat McCabe

and others as they begin the ceremony process of prayers for the water and for peace.

On the second evening leaders from the Peace Prayer Society led a ritual celebrating peace with the prayer: May Peace Prevail on Earth for each of the nations of the United Nations. Holding the Image of the flag of each nation we said the prayer and sent the peace vibration to that nation. This ritual was something we did in the city on the 21st of September in Sydney each year with school children and dignitaries from these nations if they were available. We then did some peace dances with the children and any adults that joined in, around lunch time in the CBD.

It was great to be reminded of this ritual, which we haven’t done now for several years.

Peace Pole Ritual with images of flags

The following day we went to the Jordan River to the Baptism site of Yeshua and received a blessing from one of the 4 Christian ministers in the group.

Near the Baptism Site on the Jordan River

Our pilgrimage then continued to a Muslim Shrine of one of Mohammad’s companions PBUH, and then we crossed over into Palestine and visited Jericho and Bethlehem. Then in Israel, in Jerusalem we went to the Holy Mount, with the Dome of the Rock, as well as the Wailing Wall and other archaeological and religious sites, one of which was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The journey took us to so many sacred sites – like the Sea of Galilee, where waking up at dawn and watching the sunrise was transformative.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

I sat there in my morning meditation and watched hundreds of birds fly by. This is the Rift Valley that extends to Ethiopia, and the birds migrate along this valley from Siberia to Africa.

Migrating birds down the rift valley

From the perspective of the Dances, it was at Meggido that I could finally make my contribution. There was just so much talent in the group, there wasn’t space before- hand. When there was a possibility in terms of time, at the border crossing into Israel/Palestine, they would not have been well received. So there we just did some improvised singing and dancing with one of our Reggae artists, Panto.

Ceremony at Meggido

Here we are gathered at Meggido, the site of the Armageddon prophecy. This experience was captured beautifully by a journalist who presented the following report:  SPIRITUAL UNITY TOUR MT. MEGIDDO. [1] When you watch the video, you need to know that the ‘Water Dance’ the journalist mentioned was The Ocean Refuses No River, in a creative variation adapted to over 90 people and with only a few minutes to teach it. Our descent from the Mount was to the song Shalom Lai Lai. I had a travelling microphone and speaker and 2 guitarists with me. We greeted the tourist groups waiting to come up the mountain and encouraged them to join our song for peace. It’s possible that this peace ceremony may have averted Armageddon, but only time will tell.

On the evening of the 6th February we had a multifaith concert, with our 2 Reggae artists Rocky and Panto, in Haifa, interspersed with inspirational talks in celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday and the end of our pilgrimage. For our closing day we went to the Bahai Temple in Haifa, as they too celebrate many religions and work for peace.


[1] See video at Mt. Megiddo here:

 

Ben Bowler, the founder of Unity Earth and me

In this brief report, I’ve only covered some of my highlights of the pilgrimage. There’s another report on the Centre for Earth Ethics website. [7]

In conclusion, I would like to return to Murshid Sam’s peace plan in Desert Wisdom:

Lewis supported all means whereby ordinary people could come together simply to recognise  their mutual humanity. Only this would prove stronger than the modern economic and political forces that drive many apart for the benefit of the few. “My main peace theme is: eat, dance and pray together,” he said. (Douglass-Klotz, 1995, p. 263)

My experience of this pilgrimage completely resonates with this peace plan. Over the 7 days of the tour some 94 of us travelled in 2 tourist buses, to amazing sacred places in the Holy Land and we ate, danced and prayed together. We had people from over 10 nationalities and at least as many religious and spiritual organisations. We were an intergenerational group which included an Ethiopian Prince and an environmental representative from the Vatican. We had several indigenous people – and all was harmonious for the whole time. We were a living example of Peace in the Middle East. I believe we co-created a change in the wave-reality of the region. I’m also conscious that Eco-Peace ME has also affected the particle-reality in the region. It has facilitated a process of helping the Jordan River to flow again by working at the grass roots with local mayors, even presenting at the UN Security Council. [8]

Finally, I want to note that our timing was perfect. We could not have embarked on the same tour one month later, because of a certain virus. ‘Everyone arriving in Israel will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus’, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. BBC News 9/3./2020 [9]

Report for Ruhaniat News by Arjuna Ben-Zion Weiss,

Sydney 10/3/2020


[1] See Ruhaniat website: http://www.ruhaniat.org/index.php/poetry/major-poetry-epics/2206-jerusalem-trilogy-part-4-saladin?highlight=WyJwZWFjZSIsInBlYWNlZnVsIiwicGVhY2VmdWxuZXNzIiwicGVhY2VzIiwiJ3BlYWNlIl0=

[2] Douglass-Klotz, N. 1995, Desert Wisdom, The Middle Eastern Tradition from the Goddess to the Sufis, London: Thorsons p. xxi

[3] Douglass-Klotz, N., 1995, Desert Wisdom, The Middle Eastern Tradition from the Goddess to the Sufis, London: Thorsons p.262

[4] See website:  https://unity.earth/events/holyland/

[5] See website: https://unity.earth/u-day-ethiopia/

[6] See video at Mt. Megiddo here:

[7] Read another summary of the tour:

[8] See their website for details:  https://ecopeaceme.org

[9] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51809818

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