What do German President Richard von Weizsacker, the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Israeli President Chaim Herzog have in common?
They are all promoting a campaign to build an Arab-Jewish kindergarten in Tel Aviv. Titled “Stop Violence, Make Peace!” the new project is a joint venture by the Tel Aviv Foundation in Germany and Germany’s largest-circulation daily, Bild.
The paper’s editor in chief, Claus Laraes, used a front-page open letter recently to announce the project, whose goal is that “children will learn friendship instead of hate after 40 years of conflict in the Middle East.”
Von Weizsacker expressed his support for the initiative by saying, “I cannot think of a more peace-inducing action than to bring children together so they will learn through playing to respect and love one another.”
And Herzog wrote: “There is no alternative to peace in order to secure the future of the children in this area.”
Gorbachev said that during his visit to Israel this past spring, he learned how important mutual tolerance between Jews and Arabs is. “Their future depends on the way in which the young citizens of this Earth grow up,” he said.
The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, wrote of his conviction that the need “for people to live together in peace and harmony should be instilled at an early age.”
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who also is backing the campaign, wrote, “Children could lay the cornerstone of a new co-existence,” because they are still free of hatred.
The director of the Tel Aviv Foundation in Germany, Doron Schlesinger, said that since the initiative began, “I am filled with an enormous wave of sympathy for Israel as a tolerant state.”
The Tel Aviv Foundation was founded 14 years ago. An office in Frankfurt was opened after the Persian Gulf War. Its board of directors includes Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat and Frankfurt’s mayor, Andreas von Schoeler. Its honorary chairwoman is Rita Sussmuth, president of the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament.