Searching for Peace in Mideast

February 9, 2007

Author: Peter Smith

Source: The Courier-Journal

In 2004, a group of Louisvillians overcame everything from deep-seated suspicions to bureaucratic red tape to bring two teenage music groups -- one Israeli, one Palestinian -- to town for a series of concerts for peace.

Now they are attempting something even more difficult than bringing them halfway around the world -- they are traveling to the Middle East in hopes of bringing the musicians together there.

Even though the youths' homes are less than a two-hour's drive apart -- from the West Bank city of Nablus to Israel's Jezreel Valley -- bridging that gap is almost insurmountable given the travel restrictions, checkpoints, terrorist attacks and threats, military actions and other unrest.

But the effort is an attempt at "bringing the human factor into this conflict," said Bashar Masri, a Palestinian-American Muslim from Louisville and a native of Nablus. "It's always been missing. If we don't humanize the conflict and make both people feel real about each other, it will be very hard to accomplish any real peace."

Masri, who has been traveling in the Middle East for the last several days for business and family visits, plans to rendezvous with three other local men who embarked yesterday from the Louisville International Airport -- Mark Isaacs, who is Jewish; Terry Taylor, who is Christian; and Omar Attum, who is Muslim.