The Dalai Lama has endorsed a unique expedition by a group of Palestinians and Israelis who jointly scaled the summit of an unclimbed mountain in the Antarctic on January 15, 2004.
The expedition, consisting of four Israelis and four Palestinians (two women and six men in total), began on January 1, 2004, from Puerto Williams in Chile and was named “Breaking the Ice.” Fifteen days later, including a one-day delay due to bad weather, the expedition reached the summit of mountain near Prospect Point on the Antarctic Peninsula.
The organizers, Extreme Peace Missions, said, “memorable extreme experiences can bring people together for life…these experiences can fuel a sustainable form of conflict resolution – because nothing connects people better or more permanently than the shared experience of facing and overcoming a challenge.”
The Dalai Lama, in his message of support to the expedition, described it as a “unique mission of peace” and said he is “confident that it will contribute towards greater trust and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“It has always been my belief that if we adopt the right approach and make a determined effort, even in circumstances where great hostility has come about over time, trust and understanding can be restored. This is the approach I have adopted with regard to the Chinese authorities concerning the issue of Tibet. Therefore, I am happy to give my full support to Breaking the Ice and wish the expedition every success,” the Dalai Lama said.
Extreme Peace Missions is a non-profit organization, established by outdoor-sport enthusiasts and funded through contributions and sponsorships. Beginning with Israel and Palestine – and expanding to areas of conflict around the globe – Extreme Peace Missions is introducing an innovative approach to intercultural programming, offering young people from various environments and backgrounds a shared base.
The six men and two-woman unit included an Israeli special forces veteran and two former Fatah activists. The eight participants climbed the mountain roped together in mixed groups and unfurled the national flags of Palestine and Israel, according to a report in the Guardian, UK, on January 20, 2004. They read a declaration in support of a non-violent solution to the Middle Eastconflict.
“We have proven that Palestinians and Israelis can cooperate with one another with mutual respect and trust,” it said. “We hereby declare that our peoples can and deserve to live together in peace and friendship.”
Among others who endorsed the expedition were UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and Zeddy al-Refai, the first Arab to climb Everest.