Jun 09 2003

Richard Gere Visits Palestine

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles

Ramallah — The scene at the Qalandia check point between Jerusalem and Ramallah was surreal. Hollywood superstar Richard Gere riding in a white Ford van attempting to cross an Israeli check. On the other side of the checkpoint a huge host of television and still cameras.

As the van slowly moved away from the Israeli checkpoint closer to Ramallah a few photographers come closer to the van and take a peak inside. They see a man with gray hair and suddenly the sea of cameras pounces on the van taking photos from different angles. Gere tried to avoid the media onslought explaining that his visit is aimed at learning about the conflict and that he didn’t want to talk to senior political figures or to the media. The cameras kept clicking as the photographers insisted on shouting the name Abu Sukar. It seems that Gere’s gray hair was mistaken for the oldest Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Abu Sukar who was being released as part of an Israeli peace gesture on the eve of the Bush, Sharon, Abbas summit in Aqaba, Jordan.

Richard Gere decided to visit Ramallah despite the fact that it was under curfew that was imposed by the Israelis. His decision, against private Israeli security guards, won him praise among Palestinians. Ziad Abu Amer the Palestinian Minister of Culture told the visiting actor that his visit during curfew encourages Palestinians. ‘Your visit gives us hope that the dark days of occupation will be over soon.’

The Ramallah visit was organized by the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University. Gere toured different parts of Ramallah including the destroyed headquarters of PLO leader Yaser Arafat. He met at the home of Palestinian legislature Hanan Ashrawi where the discussion centered on the possibility of using artistic celebrities to advance peace. An October international event for peace to be held in Jerusalem was envisioned in the discussions with Ashrawi.

Gere also met with Palestinian filmmakers, artists and NGO activists. George Khleifi a leading filmmaker and the deputy director of the Institute for Modern Media shared with the Hollywood star the possibility of exchanging ideas and training between Palestinian filmmakers with their American counterparts.

In the meeting with the NGOs, Gere, who is a convert to Budhism and a supporter of the struggle of the Tibet had to gently correct Palestinian human rights activists Mustafa Barghouti who said that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the longest in history. “I believe the occupation of Tibet has been going on longer.”

Gere, had decided to visit Palestine as part of his attempt to better understand the Middle East conflict. The Peacemakers Community a US-based international NGO aimed at promoting peace and understanding between peoples invited him.

In Jerusalem, as the guest of the Palestinian National Theatre Gere explained his personal philosophy as trying to put together different parts of a puzzle. “Businesspersons, the media and celebrities all must be involved together in order to bring tangible results,” he told Palestinian artists. Bernie Glassman, the leader of the Peacemakers Community which invited Gere explained how the visit came about. “I had visited Palestine in April and was asked if I can help bring leading celebrities, and when I returned I received a call from Gere saying he felt bad about what was happening to the Iraqi people and he wanted to be involved. Glassman also explained his organization’s philosophy as working in circles trying to get people to better understand each other in this manner. Peacemakers Community has branches in many parts of the world and are planning to establish a Palestinian branch as well as a Middle East branch to be based in Amman, Jordan, Glassman said. He is planning to visit the region again in July which will include Palestine and Jordan.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.