In Jerusalem, Making Hugs, Not War


Jerusalem — It was 102 degrees here earlier this week, but that didn’t deter a few hundred Israelis, Palestinians and others from gathering outside the Old City of Jerusalem for The Jerusalem Hug, an annual event designed to open hearts and heal the world.

As curious tourists outside the bustling Jaffa Gate looked on, participants in this, the Fourth Hugfest, joined hands and formed a circle around a group of drummers whose Far Eastern sounds were gentle and soothing. Eyes closed, deep in prayer or meditation, they tried to bring forth some positive energy, which they hoped would touch troubled Jerusalemites and, in turn, people of all nations.

Walking around the Old City walls to the louder beat of Middle Eastern drumming, they met up with like-minded groups stationed in the Arab section of East Jerusalem. Groups in U.S. and elsewhere around the world conducted parallel events.

Organized by a group called the Lovers of Jerusalem, the event attracted touchy-feely Jews, Christians and Muslims, many of them in colorful attire. According to the group’s website, the hug was open to all the city’s “varied populace.”

“You needn’t be a Kryon-channeling New Ager to enjoy the hug,” the website said, though that pretty much sums up who showed up.
Israeli Dvora Pearlman, the guiding force and earth mother figure behind the project, said she felt called to the endeavor.

“The spirit of Jerusalem called me. It was the [second] intifada and everyone was running away from the city. Jerusalem was telling me how to help the people. She asked me to have a big hug.”

To Pearlman’s delight, she discovered that others “felt the same calling,” she says. “It’s not like I had to convince anyone.”

Why hold the event in Jerusalem and not, say, New York or Paris?

“Jerusalem is the heart of the world,” Pearlman says. “People throughout the eons have acknowledged this from within, and the heart of the world needs a hug. When the heart is full of love, the body is full of love. When Jerusalem will be full of love, the whole world will be full of love and then we’ll have the Moshiach. But not in a religious sense.”

For Pearlman, redemption means a “time when hearts will open and there will be unity among all the people on the planet. It cannot be a Moshiach of the Jews but not of the Muslims or Christians.”

Maybe. But in the world of realpolitik, Pearlman might take as a victory the comment of a Turkish TV producer who was covering the hugfest. Asked by The Jewish Week why he and his crew found the event interesting, the producer replied, “We’ve done so much on the conflict, we thought it would be nice to cover something positive in Israel.”