AFTER the War of Independence in Israel in 1948-49, I had a dream to develop cooperation and promote friendship between Jewish and Arab youths in the newborn state of Israel. I wanted to work toward the elimination of the hatreds that had developed during the war. We had to begin a new — to build bridges between Jews and Arabs, to foster mutual understanding and knowledge of our different cultures. At that time I served as world head of Youth Aliyah, a movement created to rescue and rehabilitate Jewish children who had miraculously survived the Holocaust in Europe, and those who had lived under adverse conditions in the North African and Arab countries, where tension was created between the Jewish and non-Jewish population after the War of Independence. To implement my dream, I envisioned a center to be established for the educational and cultural programs that would be developed toward this goal.
The Dream Fulfilled
Others were dreaming of ways to foster international understanding in Israel. One such group, who were good friends of Youth Aliyah, was an American Interfaith Committee under the leadership of Dorothy and Murray Silverstone (20th Century Fox Film Company President). They had collected funds to build an International Cultural Center for Youth in Jerusalem (ICCY). I envisioned it becoming a national institute, bringing to Israeli youths the cultural inheritance of other countries through music, films, lectures, exhibits and visits, a center that could serve the whole country. By building this center in Jerusalem — a city close to the hearts of Christians, Moslems and Jews — it might serve as a model for similar institutions in other countries to overcome narrow-mindedness and extreme nationalistic approaches. The idea appealed to Murray Silverstone, who brought it before the New York committee, and in the spring of 1960 my dream became a reality. In Emek Rephaim (the Valley of the Giants) a large white walled building, set in garden and trees, opened its gates to youths, educators and tourists visiting the City of Peace from all over the world. Soon, other centers around the country were established to become affiliated with the main one in Jerusalem. Two annexes were established, in the eastern part of the city and in the Old City, where the majority of Moslems and Christians reside. On Mount Carmel near the city of Haifa, we founded a center in the largest village of the Druze population. It fosters our programs for children and adults in the Druze villages in the area of the country known as the Galilee. We opened a center in the Arab village of Baka-el-Garbia in the central area of Israel known as the Triangle, and two centers to serve the Moslem population in the Galilee in Tamra and Magdal Krum. Today the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture places a high value on the ICCY's educational achievements. The exhibits produced by the ICCY's staff travel in mobile units to 650 schools in towns and villages around the country, serving as a museum on wheels. Consistent with its spirit of brotherhood, about half of the ICCY's staff are Arabs, who apply their skills to the activities in the community centers in East Jerusalem, as well as in the branches of the heavily Arab populated areas of Israel. In addition to the after-school activity programs in the main Jerusalem center, folk dancing and folklore programs keep the building open until close to midnight. Each year thousands of local and foreign visitors attend the entertaining and cultural programs featuring Yemenite ethnic dances, Arab drumming, Israeli folk dances and community singing. This past summer 30 members of the ICCY's folk song and folk dance groups joined 20 other Israeli performers to tour southwestern France and Switzerland. They performed at folklore festivals, community centers and homes for the aged. We are proud of the Bronze Medal awarded to our Yemenite dance ensemble for their performance in the community of Dijon, France.
To encourage others to work toward peace and understanding, the ICCY grants monetary awards annually to outstanding candidates (one award is in the name of Herbert W. Armstrong). Happily the ICCY itself was the recipient in April 1983 of the "New Outlook Magazine Peace Prize in Memory of Sylvia Shine" for its unique work in ongoing education toward coexistence between Arabs and Jews. We point with pride to the newly granted award, which we received, together with two other recipients, from the Speaker of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in recognition of our work. On the international scene, UNICEF and UNESCO maintain close cooperation with the ICCY and express their appreciation for our program in fostering international understanding among youths. Herbert W. Armstrong, the President and Founder of Ambassador College and the Ambassador Cultural Foundation, has played an important role in the work of the ICCY. I first met him when he visited Israel in 1969. I was called upon to welcome him and his associates to the Knesset, in my capacity at that time as cabinet minister in the Israeli parliament. At the luncheon held in the Knesset we laid the foundation for an "iron bridge" between Ambassador College, the Israel Archaeological Society, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the International Cultural Center for Youth in Jerusalem. This cooperative effort has produced very positive results. Since then groups of students from Ambassador College have come to Israel to participate in the archaeological diggings in the Old City and are invited to the ICCY to attend many different types of cultural programs. This spirit of cooperation soon led to participation in other projects in the city of Jerusalem, e.g., a children's playground in the Liberty Bell Park was built and bears the name of Herbert W. Armstrong. In honor of his continued dedication to the programs and goals of the ICCY and for his success in building bridges between leaders of nations to promote peace in the world, the Board of Directors of the ICCY has named the square at the entrance to the ICCY building in Jerusalem the Herbert W. Armstrong Square. The leaders of the excavation projects in the Old City, Professors Benjamin Mazar and N achman Avigad, have expressed their gratitude for the roles Ambassador College and Herbert Armstrong have played in this outstanding archaeological achievement. Joseph Aviram and Professor Yigal Yadin of the Israel Archaeological Society have paid tribute to Ambassador College's involvement in these archaeological activities. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, has praised Mr. Armstrong as an outstanding personality of our time. As honorary treasurer of the Israel Archaeological Society, I, too, applaud the contributions made by Ambassador College and Foundation to this important work. Let us continue to work together toward our common goal — peace in our time.