For the second time in history, a President of the Palestinian Authority visited Colombian territory. President Mahmoud Abbas arrived at CATAM airport in Bogota on October 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm, but he wasn’t received by President Santos until Tuesday, October 11, according to the diplomatic agenda.
And while he waited to exchange greetings, supporters of the campaign Let’s Raise our Voice: Peace in the Holy Land gathered in the Plaza de Bolivar of Bogota, near Palace of Nariño, to applaud President Santos’ position of finding ways to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict.
With the conviction that peace in the Holy Land is possible, hundreds of people in white shirts holding banners were present along with national and international media.
9:15 AM - The arrival of Palestinian flags stood out among the crowd:
[Palestinian Manifestations]: “You damn people are bought by money…”
A moment of tension invades Plaza de Bolivar.
[Palestinian Manifestations]: “Down with the state of Israel…”
But with a respectful attitude, little by little, the atmosphere began to change. Campaign supporters remained silent to attentively listen to the request of the people:
“Long live the Palestinian people, long live the Colombian people, long live you all…”
—Mr. Alí Nofal. National Leader of the Palestinian Community—
“I truly liked when they let us, as Palestinians, express our opinion. Expressing myself, to me, was a great joy, talking to people, expressing what we Palestinians feel.”
An attitude that also made it possible for the other side to be heard.
The reading of the letter sent from the Peace in the Holy Land campaign coordinator to the President of Colombia completely faded the negative perception about the campaign volunteers.
"...It is evident, Mr. President, that you have made the wisest and most prudent decision, and that is why we are expressing our support to you…”
And despite differences in cultures and beliefs, barriers were broken by a single voice, strengthening the plea: “Peace in the Holy Land…Peace in the Holy Land… Peace in the Holy Land…”
9:45 AM - Israeli flags gradually began mixing into the crowd; and like oil and water, two opposing sides were formed again. “Israel… Israel… Israel…”
Once again, the peaceful attitude of the campaign supporters managed to calm the tension, showing the other side of the world that it is possible to resolve conflict through dialogue.
[Leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian communities shake hands]
—Professor Marcos Peckel, President of the Israeli Center of Bogota—
“Yes, there was a dispute, but it didn’t escalate. Each side shouted their slogans, they have every right to do so, there is democracy. We are making use of the democracy that a country like Colombia gives us to express our views, and the others came, and they also have the same right; two opposing views…”
—Mr. Alí Nofal—
“I respect Mr. Peckel and Mr. Rosental greatly, they are two brilliant people… two people who have been… despite the differences between us, we are friends; even though we have differences, friends can also have differences. It’s when there are differences that we can also come to an understanding.
—Professor Marcos Peckel—
“Each side gave their opinion, but as you just saw, we reconciled with the leader of the Palestinian community, Ali Nofal…”
—Mr. Alí Nofal—
“Because we can have a lot in common. It’s the search for peace…”
—Professor Marcos Peckel—
“We both believe that there should be a Palestinian state next to Israel, both in peace…”
These words seemed to be echoed by the high-ranking government officials.
—Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Colombia—
“And we have always supported negotiations as the adequate process to reach the situation we all want… Our position in the United Nations Council has been to try to find that common goal of having two States living in peace… Frankly, we believe that we are close to reaching the objective that everyone wants. And they have requested that we use our resources to see if it is possible to sit and negotiate as quickly as possible.
It was necessary to show President Santos that despite Colombia being the only South American country in history to be in this position, he was not alone, and he was paving the fertile road to peace.
—Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority—
“We do not intend to isolate Israel or take its legitimacy; on the contrary, we want to coexist with Israel and make peace with them. Mr. President, we desire with gratitude that the efforts you will make end successfully, and that negotiations are renewed at your hands.”