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Tikkun offers healing route to Mideast peace

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Initially, the idea of being both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian seems contradictory. However, Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder and editor of Tikkun magazine, says this state of mutual understanding is the only clear path to peace.

"The two counties are really inextricably bound," Lerner says. "Each can only get what it really needs with the help of the other."

On Saturday, March 28, Lerner will explore these ideas at the Tikkun Community Conference hosted by Triangle Tikkun in Durham. He will have the opportunity to speak twice, first in a lecture named after his new book, "Healing Israel/Palestine, a Path to Peace and Reconciliation," and then in a lecture entitled, "A Vision for Social Healing and Spiritual Survival in the Age of George Bush and Ariel Sharon."

In his lectures, Lerner will focus on the possibility of building a progressive middle path to peace in both the Middle East and throughout the world. This approach would promote cooperation instead of the more pervasive methods of domination and control.

"Both Bush and Sharon represent domination over other views," Lerner said. "Many people find this voice to be both immoral and self-destructive."

This continual and unfruitful approach has turned many Americans away from the conversation about Israel and Palestine. Lerner is focused on drawing them back into the debate. Through his work with Tikkun magazine and later the organization, Tikkun, founded post 9-11, Lerner has been able to reach a wide audience with his message. Tikkun draws its name from the Hebrew phrase, "tikkun olam," or "heal the world." It is an interfaith group that embraces the spiritual dimension of social justice.

Lerner formed the group in 1986 while living in Israel. He lived there in the 1980s and '90s and sent a son into the Israeli army.

"I'm a rabbi. I'm a Zionist. I've been involved with Israel all my life," he says.

However, while living there, Lerner became disillusioned with the country's political path and became convinced that Israel's policies were self-destructive. He understood that the conflict was not a struggle between a good side and a bad side, as it was often portrayed.

"Both sides have very legitimate stories to tell," Lerner agrees. "Both sides are legitimate. Both sides have wronged each other in ways that require repentance."

Despite all of this, Lerner is hopeful. In an editorial in Tikkun entitled "Hope From Geneva," Lerner wrote: "The signing of the Geneva Accord could be a major turning point in the search for peace in Israel/Palestine." The collaborative document was signed on Dec. 1, 2003 and offers an alternative to Bush's Road Map.

"Geneva is the solution, and Israel and Palestine must now implement it," Lerner wrote.

With American elections fast approaching, Lerner says he will discuss the implications of the accord and encourage both Republicans and Democrats to rally their parties' support.

"We'd like there to be platforms in both parties calling for strong American involvement to end the occupation and bring peace and reconciliation."

Registration for the Tikkun Conference ends March 17; it costs $36 (students, low-income free) and will be at the Millennium Hotel in Durham, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. To register, contact Svi Shapiro, svishapiro@nc.rr.com, 781-8424, or Mara Evans, evansmara@hotmail.com, 286-9639; or go to triangletikkun.tikkun.org

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