Late summer of 2003, four people were walking up the Mount of Olives, on their way back from the old city of Jerusalem. Dhyan - an Israeli Jew, Wassim - a Palestinian Muslim, Connie - and American Christian and Daniel, who was born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father and had recently converted to Islam.
When they passed by a courtyard with a sign "All Nations Café" and a neglected old house behind it, Dhyan was reminded of a dream he had the other night about re-opening this place and serving people there. They all agreed that it would be a great idea to open this café for guests of all nations. Several weeks later, after Reeka, who came from Germany and had experience in working a coffee shop, joined them, and a Palestinian-Israeli-German music group offered to perform at the opening, the "All Nations Cafe" was opened in a great celebration on the 20th of December 2003.
Shortly after that, Lisa had come from Canada and suggested to have an All Nations Cafe celebration at a sacred place in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. The energy generated in that celebration, together with a warm offer from Ofer to play music every Friday at the cafe, gave us the motivation to open the place on Friday afternoons, and later also on Tuesdays.
The array of musicians who performed at the All Nations Cafe included Miriam Iron, Ghidian Al-Qimari, Shaltiel Levi Mas'oud and an unforgettable performance of the duo Lamuria, Yael Tai and Daphna Rosenberg. A course of "Dances of All Nations" begun, where Richard, an Irish Catholic priest taught Irish jigs, Palestinian ladies taught Dabka, Lisa taught Circassian dances, and guests from South Africa, Egypt, Europe and America cooked there native dishes.
At the same time we began teaching classes at local girls' school on the Mount of Olives. Reeka taught Permaculture, Dhyan thought Internet, and Lisa taught the girls Circassian Dancing. We also had a course for adults from Jerusalem who wanted to learn Arabic language, called "Arabic Time", where Middle Eastern music and dance, as well as Arabic food were essential parts of the lessons.
The first All Nations Cafe summer camp was held in A-Tour, on the Mount of Olives, under the title: "A-Tour Kids Council". A young Israeli girl from West Jerusalem joined some of the activities, and all the Palestinian kids fell in love with her.
In the summer of 2004 we went on a Caravan to Jordan, were we, Israelis and other nationals, performed for the first time in history, alongside singers, musicians and dancers from the Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iraq at the all Arab Jerash Music and Arts Festival. We set up an All Nations Cafe there, and served fair trade coffee to the audience.
In autumn 2004 we began working with children from Al-Azariya, on the other side of the wall that had been built between East Jerusalem and Abu-Dis. The connection was made by Lisa, who initiated a wall painting event at the Rose of Jerusalem center. During the year we had theater workshops with Sharon and music and song with Daphna, and we participated in the kids' winter camp. The climax was a costume party with the Palestinian kids from Al-Azariya and Israeli kids from a West Jerusalem neighborhood, where they created a bilingual theater show.
We expanded to include other groups of children in different location in and around the city, apart from the Mount of Olives: at the center of East Jerusalem and in Jabal Mukabbar, with disabled kids and adults.
In the spring of 2005 we organized a Caravan to Europe. We had concerts and labyrinth workshops, and met and performed with people from unique communities in Germany and Switzerland, as well as Palestinians from Gaza, Syrians and Iraqis. The songs of this caravan were recorded by Ofer on to make a CD, which you can listen and purchase online.
Our second summer camp took place in Sinai, Egypt, under the title of Middle East Kids Camp. At a peaceful magical beach of the Red Sea, at the edge of the Sinai desert, near a Bedouin village, we had a international camp, where we explored relationships with each other and with the desert and the sea.
In 2006 we joined an Arab-Hebrew theater group called NANA. Originated by the Ein Karem Intercultural Center in West Jerusalem, Arab kids from Ein Rafa village and Israeli kids from Jerusalem practiced together on an Middle East version of Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle, including original songs and, of course, Circassian dances.
During the spring and summer we held Gatherings of Great Love in the area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, especially at a valley with a spring, a pool and some beautiful old stone houses. Our Dr. David brought many people from the West Bank, especially one family of 11 that became a major player in our events. A group of German volunteers, Vincenz, Esther, Lukas and others from the Tent of Nations project, brought their songs, music and good vibrations.
When the gatherings grew in number and energy, we decided to have a summer camp for both adults and children, form Palestine and Israel at that valley, on the border between the two countries. At the time scheduled for the Middle East Families Camp, a war broke out in Lebanon and Gaza, which made our project more urgent. During the war we held a warm, intimate, open hearted and creative camp, which was recognized and respected by Palestinians, Israelis, settlers, soldiers, government inspectors and random visitors.
From the autumn of 2006 we run regular Gatherings of Great Love in that valley, at Ein Haniya, inviting Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals to have a cup of coffee, listen to live music and join the dance.
In spring 2007 we had another Middle East Camp, with many new participants, especially from refugee camps in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Israelis and guests from Europe and the US.
In Tu B'shvat, the holiday of the trees in 2007, we begun planting trees on Abed's land, overlooking the checkpoint not far from Ein Haniya. The inviting hospitality of Abed and his inspiring work, have brought us to hold many gatherings as well as working days and workshops organized by Nimrod and Gali on the land. Among other things, we have planted olives and pomegranates in the grove of all nations, where you can also sponsor a tree.
Part of our ongoing work is to take care of the Ein Haniya spring and it surroundings. We have organized massive cleaning days in 2007 and 2008, where Israeli, Palestinian and international volunteers come to pick up garbage and set an example to people visiting this precious nature reserve, who sometimes spontaneously join us.
In the winter of 2007 and spring of 2008 we had Timna organize a very successful Village Fair at Ein Haniya, where local farmers, shepherds, craftsmen and chefs sell there produce along with live music performances, workshops and festive air.
To be continued...