“How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.” (Psalm 133:1)
Immediately after dusk on Monday evening, approximately 30 members of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JS Chamber) gathered for the traditional Islamic Iftar meal that marks the end of the daily fast in Ramadan. The meal symbolized a new approach to coexistence that focuses on economic issues with the aim of offering alternatives to both Israelis and Palestinians in a manner detached from the political sphere and focused on the daily needs of ordinary people.
“We are working out of a vision to bring about mutual productivity and equal partnership in all economic-business aspects between Israelis and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. We are currently engaged in building infrastructures that will enable broad and comprehensive processes at the regional, political and international levels,” said Avi Zimmerman, one of the two founders of the JS Chamber.
The meal was hosted at the home of Ashraf Jabari, a Palestinian community leader and businessman from Hebron and the other founder of the JS Chamber. “It is a great honor to host all of you in my house,” Ashraf Jabari opened with his remarks. “This meal is a reinforcement of the growing and continuing trend in which the economic-business connection and the strengthening of relations and friendship are leading us all to a more positive place. Breaking the fast together, at a joint meal in the city of Hebron, clearly symbolizes our ability to bridge all gaps.”
Also in attendance was Heather Johnston, executive director of the US Israel Education Association, an organization that is constantly working to inform members of the US Congress and American diplomats about realities on the ground in Judea and Samaria as well as regarding the growth of Israeli-Palestinian partnerships.
“The willingness of all the participants in this special meal is one,” said Heather Johnston. “Our desire is to create a united front in bringing about a breakthrough on the economic issue. In a clear voice, we are calling for a separation between economics and politics, and we hope to achieve productive cooperation in this regard. From our point of view, this would require the continuation of strengthening existing ties between the US Congress and operations here in Judea and Samaria that are driven by the principle of economic equality.”
Monday night’s meeting took place less than three months after the USIEA and JS Chamber hosted an Israeli-Palestinian economic forum in Jerusalem. The participants included leaders of Israeli local councils in Judea and Samaria as well as Palestinian Mukhtars all of whom have been working to promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation at the local and municipal level. US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman stressed at the forum that “political solutions are important, but pieces of paper are not creating peace, relations create peace, investments create peace, friendships create peace, this is the peace that will last, that is the kind of peace that is sustainable.”