Words by Alastair Thompson pics by Rebecca Thomson
Moriah College children help plant an olive tree of peace
An olive tree of peace in remembrance of former Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin was today planted on the fringes of Wellington's Civic Square.
Mayor Mark Blumsky represented the city at the ceremony attended by around 50 member of the Wellington Jewish community and a party of children from Moriah College.
Click for Big Version
Children from Moriah College watch their class mates
Guest of honour at the ceremony was Colonel Ra'anan Gissin who is (rather ironically thinks Scoop) a hardline adviser to right wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon .
Leader of the Likud Party Ariel Sharon is widely blamed for starting the last two months of violence in the Holy Land through a provocative visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount. Ariel Sharon’s Likud Party is opposed to the peace process.
Today in Israel eight Palestinians have died in continuing violence among them two men who were shot by soldiers whom an Israeli Defence Force spokesperson said had been aiming at the legs of the protestors. The death toll today has been the highest on any day in the latest wave of violence.
Today’s ceremonial peace planting in Wellington began with a rendition of the national anthem followed by a minutes silence in remembrance of Rabin which was cut short by feedback on the public address system.
Wellington Mayor Blumsky pitches in and give the kids a helping hand
The first speaker explained the significance of the olive tree as a symbol of peace in the Bible, through the story of the dove which brought an olive branch to Noah on the Ark symbolising the new beginnings of the world.
The guest of honour was then introduced by the Israeli Ambassador as a “leading adviser on strategic issues” from Israel. No mention of Ariel Sharon.
Colonel Ra’anan Gissin
Colonel Gissin took over the loud-hailer. "I stand here on a sombre momennt," he said. "On a day when we are commemorating the death of Yitzhak Rabin and on which is wife Leah Rabin is being buried in Israel. On a day on which the Palestinians have chosen to mark the anniversary of the establishment of their Palestinian State in a hail of bullets."
Colonel Gissin likened Israel to a country that was afloat on a stormy sea. "The captain [Rabin] is no longer at the wheel."
The mayor et all admire the unveiled plaque
The ceremony ended with the unveiling of a plaque made out of 3500 year old rock from Jerusalem and the shovelling of more soil around the base of the olive tree of peace.
Speaking privately to Scoop, Colonel Gissin said Israel has been saying for 14 months that violence is futile. "Everytime the Palestinians use violence, nothing is achieved."
"Rabin would have acted differently. He always had two feet stuck firmly to the ground of reality."
"And what about God? What would he think of recent events", asked Scoop.
"God should save us from those who are obsessed with war and from those who are obsessed with peace," the Colonel replied, "peace is sometimes more painful than war."