Dialogue with Prof. Ada AHARONI,
Founding World President of IFLAC
Double Anniversary – Haifa, 30 July 2020
Lucreția Berzintu: - Now, on the eve of the anniversary of two important events, the anniversary of your birthday and the anniversary of the 20th anniversary of the founding of IFLAC (International Forum for Literature and a Culture of Peace), what do you wish the most?
Prof. Ada AHARONI: - My wish is to see World Peace, and that the world becomes a flourishing Global Villaage, in my own time.
Over the years you have written numerous books of literature in the following languages: English, French, Hebrew and translated into several languages, being appreciated all over the world. What inspired you to choose the topics?
My historical novels are based on my true experiences, and the biographies of people I admire who were great Peace Leaders, as for instance, my book on Itshak Rabin:”Waves of Peace.”
My poetry, uses both my psychological inner eye, and my outer sociological eye – for a variety of subjects, mainly: about the importance of peace for our blue planet, the crucial necessity ofequality for women, and of course love at all its level and its magnificence, based on my own experience and the profound materials of life.
I became a feminist at the early age of seven! My big brother taught me chess and when I won he was angry and slapped me! I immediately slapped him back. My Grandmother Esther, who had an Egyptian education, my father’s mother, saw this and she caught my hand and cried: Don’t ever dare to slap a boy again in your whole life, for a boy is worth 60 girls! I started crying and ran to Regina, my mother’s mother who had a European education. Grandmother Regina wiped my tears, smiled and said , Ada don’t worry, you are worth at least two boys! At this moment I became a feminist, and all my life I have worked and written to attain full equality for women.I recently started painting as one of my hobbies, and I painted a „CAFE ME TOO” with agroup of women with their leader who points at herself and says in bright colors - I too want to be equal in running our world, together with the men!
I wrote a great deal, in prose, and poetry, about the struggle of women to become equal in all walks of life. I also studied in depth the method Scandinavian women used to arrive at the equality of men and women in politics and in running their countries together with the men , and found out that that their slogans before their elections were very simple and at the same time, revolutionary : „Women vote women and men vote women too! For a change vote women, and if you want a change – vote women!” As women are half the population, and all women voted women, then half the ruling Scandinavian Parliaments became women! Not only I write on this important subject, but also IFLAC too works to make these actual facts widely known, and promotes imitating them in all the countries of the world.
How did IFLAC come into existence?
At my excellent English School in Cairo, Egypt, where I was born, at the age of fourteen, we were taught the poetry of the great British Peace Poet, Wilfred Owen, who was killded in the Trenches of the First World War, at the age of 25. I was so moved by his poetry and his deep criticism of war, that I decided I would continure his Peace Road. I was always good at writing, and I decided I will use my pen, as bullets to kill war. This was after the Second World War, and we didn’t have to run to the shelter when we were bombed every night, as we did when we were at holiday in Alexandria. At school I founded a magazine which was called THE RAINBOW OF PEACE, and it had a Motto: „To Abolish Wars Forever!” My co-editor was my Muslim friend Kadreya Fayoumi, to whom I later wrote letters and poems from Israel, entitled ’’From Haifa to Cairo with Love.” Writing this, I now realise that I became a Peace Leader from a very early age!
In Israel, at the House of the Vine, a Club for Jews, Arabs and Christians, together with my Arab friend, Violette Khouri, from Kfar Yassif in the North of Israel, we set up an organization called „The Bridge”, Jewish and Arab women for Peace in the Middle East. The organization was so successful, that our sons and husbands and men from abroad, said what about us? We went to help too!
So this is when I started IFLAC: TH E INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR THE LITERATURE AND CULTURE OF PEACE, as a registered voluntary peace organization. I realized that literature, poetry and culture havegreat power for developing world peace. As the poetry of Wilfred Owen entered my heart so deeply, and made Peace my goal in life, it can do that to other people too.
Are you satisfied with IFLAC's work so far? Do you regret something you wanted and failed to put into practice?
I am quite satisfied with the accomplishments of IFLAC so far.Together with our active IFLAC Peace Ambassadors, like my Vice President Prof. Ernesto Kahan, Dr. Maria Cristina Azcona, the Director of IFLAC in Latin America, Poet Susana Roberts, and the rest of our Peace Ambassadors all over the World, we succeed to bring the message of Peace Culture to Clasrooms, Colleges and Universities, and to the wide public through our Peace Books, our IFLAC Peace Anthologies, and our daily IFLAC DIGEST, which I editevery night, and which reaches thousands of IFLAC members and friends throughout the world. We have already published more than 4500 IFLAC Digests. We have also organized many successful Conferences and International Congresses: in Israel, Australia, England, Turkey, France, and other places.
Despite all our wonderful work, and the dedicated peace-building of our members, I am sorry that IFLAC is not enough known, and I think I know the reason. From the beginning of my founding of IFLAC 20 years ago, I decided that we will prove that we can do great things without money, and that IFLAC would be a completely voluntary organization; nonbody pays membership and nobody is paid.The reason for that was to enable all those who wanted to work to promote world and local peace - to easily join. This has indeed been attained, and we have many members, especially in Latin America, where the message of peace through literature and through words has found a large and Committed audience.
Despite all this, the reason that IFLAC is not known enough is that we did not suceed to attract sponsors who could help us in publishing and making our wonderful work known all over the world. We ouselves, did not have the monetary means to publicize our important Iflac work. I hope, dear Lucretia, that more journalists all over the world will join you after you publish our Dialogue, with your excellent questions and my answers, and that it will enable IFLAC to be better known and appreciated.
King Solomon ruled without war for 40 years and got along well with all his neighbors. Now, what is the situation of the peace between Jews and Palestinians, implicitly of the peace of the Jews with Arab neighbors? What would be the solution for a lasting peace in this period?
In Israel, we are glad today, that we have a Peace Treaty with two of our Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. However, not yet with our Palestinian neighbors.
Hamas in Gaza, does not recognize the right of Israel to exist, despite the fact that Israel is a legitimate State with a majority of the United Nations that voted for the establishment of the Stae of Israel in 1948. This is why they try till today to destroy Israel with Terrorist attacks and from time to time they throw rockets at Israel on innocent villages.When Israel responds in their defence of its citizens, they loudly complain through all the world Media that Israel attacked them! And unfortunately, the Media often believes their lies.
The solution for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is mutual recognition of each other by both States. The Palestinians have to recognize the legal right of Israel to exist and to live in peace, and Israel has to realise the necessity of the establishment of a legal Palestinian State. The Peace Plan by President Trump includes this central clause, and I hope both the Palestinians and the Israelis will accept it, and resume and conclude the Peace negotiations which they had started in the Past.
You were the first woman invited to speak at the Mohamadim Mosque in Kababir, Haifa, 2012. What was the topic and how it was the reaction of the listeners?
The title of the Conference at the Mohamadim Mosque in Kababir in Haifa, was: „A Nearing of Hearts”, and when they found out that I had just published a book on this subject, they decided to invite me to lecture on my research on peace and on my book. The reaction of the listeners was very positive and I received many compliments. The Mohamadim women came to me and thanked me for opening the door to them. Now that the sheikhs have invited a woman to the Podium to speak to both the men and women, perhaps one day they will invite us too!
The Mohamadim sect is a most liberal and Peace loving Muslim sect. We sat in their lovely Mosque men and women togther, of all religions. They presented me with their books on peace, and I was glad to read how peace is at the heart of their beliefs. I hope that all the Muslim world will follow in thesteps of the Mohamedim one day.
The "Second Exodus", a term you coined, has not been talked about much before. Following your research on the forced migration of Jews from Arab countries after the founding of Israel in 1948, what was the echo in the world?
Unfortunately, there was no echo at all to „The Second Exodus.” ! Despite the fact that half of my 36 books describe and analyze the various aspects of „The Second Exodus of the Jews from Egypt,as well as from the other Arab countries, yet this part of history is still quite unknown. Several other researchers wrote books too and they participated in the World Congresses I organized on the subject of the banishment of approximately a million Jews from the Arab countries, where there were flourishing Jewish communities from the time of the Bible, there was still no echo in the world!
I asked myself, how come that when the 700.000 Palestinians fled or were ousted from Israel, in 1948, the whole world heard about it, and when a million Jews were ousted from Arab countries nobody heard about it? In addition, the Palestinians had much less property than the ousted Jews from Arab countries, who like the Palestinians, were forced to leave everything they had behind. I researched the question, and found out that Arab countries, hoping to weaken and destroy the State of Israel, invested much money to the world media to widely publish the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees. Whereas, in Israel the Government did nothing to publish the fact that there were more Jews who were banished and became refugees and they lost much more property
The tragedy and atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews was so tremenous that it overshadowded all other tragedies, including that of the million Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This is a pity, as the publishing of the tragedy of the Jews from Arab countries can promote peace with the Palestinians, when they realise that they are not the only ones who have suffered from the Arab-Israeli Conflict. I have several proofs of that, and one of them is my peace film: THE PROMEGRANATE OF RECONCILIATION AND HONOR, that tells the story of the Second Exodus (published on You Tube). The feedback I received form many Arabs and Palestinians when they watched the film and realised that half the citizens of Israel are Jews from Arab countries together their children: ”So you Jews from Arab countries, went through what we Palestinians went through! Why is this not known? It so, it is high time that we should be reconciliated!” The major value in the muslim religion is HONOR, and several people from Gaza wrote to me, „your film has given us back our honor!” I realised that The Second Exodus story not only touched them deeply, but also had the effect of Catharsis upon them, and they abandoned the will to revenge themselves and did not see themselves as the only victims anymore, realising that all wars brought disaster and victims onboth sides. So, the story of THE SECOND EXODUS should be widely publicised and made known, so that it can promote true peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It will also give back their honor to the Jews from Arab countries, when they will see that their history has not been forgotten and is still alive and even useful for such an important goal as Peace..
Israel is said to be the only democratic country in the region. In an interview with Weekly Blitz, you said, "If a foreigner would like to become an Israeli, like in every other country, he should make a demand and wait a couple of years until his demand is accepted.” But, as you know, virtually no Israeli citizenship is approved without Jewish origins or without one of the spouses being Jewish. So you think democracy is being violated? In this regard, did IFLAC had any intervention?
Twenty pecr cent of Israelis today, are Palestinian Muslims or Christians, so to say that only Jews are allowed Israeli citizenship is not correct. In your quote above, I was answering the question, „Why only Jews have the right of return to Israel, and automatically receive Israeli citizenship, and not people from other religions? When Israel was created, the Government decided to invite the Jews of the world to come to their revived State, and they passed the Rule of Return. I hope one day there will be no need anymore to have this rule, when Israel feels safe and lives in peace with all its neighbors. Religion is part of Culture, and it should not be a basis for citizenship. This is the attitude of IFLAC too.
What is your vision for lasting peace, generally speaking?
I firmly believe that lasting world Peace is possible today. The British writer Thomas Hardy wrote: „One day soon, we will have lasting World Peace. Not because humanity will become wiser or better, but beause war will become more absurd than ever, and it will be eliminated.” I think that this time has arrived , for with the entry of nuclear weapons, war has become so absurd that if there is a nuclear war, it will not only kill the enemy but will kill all sides and the whole of humanity will be contaminated and destroyed!.
The scientist Margaret Mead, wrote: „never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed , it is the only thing that ever has.”
This is why I think that IFLAC can play a substantial role in bringing about world peace, as it his an active group of thoughtful, committed world citizens. To this end, I created this month, in the name of IFLAC, a crucial Peace Petition to be presented to the UN: YEAR 2021 WITHOUT WAR AND TERROR! Our goal was to reach 100 signatures until the 30th of July, when we celebrate with an International zoom, twenty years to IFLAC – and we have already reached: 128!
How can IFLAC contribute to a lasting peace between Jews and Palestinians, when the fate of the peoples is in the hands of politicians?
We have to convince the politicians, and if this is impossible, we must change them and put instead: thoughtful committed citizens to govern , on the basis of half men and half women, according to the Scandinavian political method: „For a change vote women, and if you want a change vote women!”
IFLAC claims that the year 2021 will be a year of peace, without wars and terror. What message do you have in this regard for those who read us?
Iflac cannot claim yet that year 2021 will be a year without war and terror – Iflac recommends to the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres to pass this Resolution at the General Assembly of the UN toward year 2021. Till then we will try to collect hundreds and thousands of signatures from the peace-loving citizens in the world, who are indeed the largest group in the world, for who doesn’t desire peace? Only a small number of war mongers tycoons, who sell arms to both sides of conflicts to line their pockets! Our message to the world to sign our petition is: Give Peace a chance, so that our children can live in a better and safer world.
Who is Ada Aharoni? Please introduce yourself to our readers and add a poem that would be an urge for peace for today's generation and the future generations.
I think you more or less know me by now, after reading my answers above to the excellent questions. I would define myself today as: Peace Leader and researcher, author, poet, and sociologist in the field of CR:Conflict Resolution. Mother, grandmother and great grandmother of fourteen wonderful grand-children. Thank you dear Lucretia for this wonderful Dialogue and your congratulations to IFLAC for its twenty years and for me for my 87 years young (not old). It is my creative work at IFLAC and at my poetry that keeps me young..
My chosen Poem:
A BRIDGE OF PEACE
“They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.” (The Holy Bible, Micha, 4,4)
“He who walks with peace, walk with him” (The Koran, Sura 48)
My Arab sister, let us build a wonder bridge
from your fig tree and vine to mine
above the boiling pain of the Intefada battle
Salima, my Arab sister, when will we laugh again
like two women, instead of weeping on our sons' stones?
You and me, Salima, my friend, on this wonder bridge
from your culture to mine, from my culture to yours
in the fragrance of blossoming jasmine, holding hands
whispering secrets about our loves, our children, our plans,
and our deepest, deepest yearning for a bright free sky
crowned by twinkling peace stars.
I do not want to be your oppressor, you do not want to be my oppressor,
or your jailer, or my jailer, we do not want to make each other afraid
under our vines and under our fig trees blossoming on a silver horizon
above the bleeding of our children by stones, bullets and missiles.
So, my Arab sister, let us build a sturdy bridge
of tolerant jasmine understanding,
where each shall sit with her baby
under her vine and under her fig tree
AND NONE SHALL MAKE THEM AFRAID!
Prof. Ada Aharoni
IFLAC Founding President
The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace
Ada Aharoni on Wikipedia
Happy Birthday, Ada Aharoni! Happy Birthday, IFLAC!
Dialogue by Lucreția Berzintu, July 2020