San Francisco, Calif.—The San Francisco Bay Area should be proud that one of its own locally headquarted non-profits has assisted in helping bring together–in an historic first–both Israel and Palestine to remove landmines from a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Bethlehem this week. And, the effort would not have been possible without the financial assistance of Napa Valley winery Spiriterra Vineyards, which founded the landmine removal effort.
Roots of Peace, which spearheaded the historic Palestine and Israel agreement to remove landmines from the City of Bethlehem, will join Israeli and Palestinian officials at a ceremony in Bethlehem to begin safely removing and detonating mines left over from a 1948 territorial dispute in one of the holiest of cities to three of the world’s major religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish.
Heidi Kühn, founder and CEO of Roots for Peace, a landmine removal advocacy group in the San Francisco Bay Area, will participate in the at 10 a.m. April 24 explosion of the first landmine to be removed from the Husan Village in Bethlehem.
The project began when Daniel Yuval, an 11-year-old Israeli boy who lost his leg three years ago playing in the Golan Heights, appealed to Roots for Peace, an international landmine removal organization, to ensure the explosives were removed so no other child would be harmed. Present will be a 75-year-old Palestinian shepherd who lost his arm to a landmine as a young boy in the same field.
“This is an historic occasion made possible by the cooperation from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Ministry of Defense, Palestinian Ministry of Defense, and the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian Authority,” said Kühn. “We are honored to have played a role in bringing these concerned and thoughtful parties together to make this neighborhood safe again for humanity.”
“The 3 acre site, located 4 miles from Nativity Manger Square where Jesus Christ was said to have been born, will be cleared of mines during a one month operation conducted jointly by Palestinian and Israeli militaries working cooperatively. The area will be replanted with grapes as part of Roots of Peace’s Mines to Vines (Demine~Replant~Rebuild®) program.”
Governor of Bethlehem Mr. Abd Al Fattah Hamaye and Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn
The project cost was donated by well-known Napa Valley vintners Shirley and Paul Dean, owners of Spiriterra Vineyards, to Roots for Peace to pay the military for the mine removal.
“No child should be born anywhere in the world with the risk of losing life or limb to a landmine. This is an important first effort in the Holy Land and we hope to clear other fields when additional funding becomes available,” Kühn said.
During the past 3 years, Kuhn has worked with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to gain their support for her landmine initiatives.
Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn and Israel PM Netanyahu and Daniel Yuval, who lost his leg in a landmine explosion
Interfaith support for the landmine removal includes the Sheikh of Bethlehem. “We are pleased to put our hand in yours to demine The Holy Land and start from Husan Village in The Fields of Bethlehem where Jesus was born and his feet stepped once upon a time so as our children will step in the same place with peace and love,” the Sheikh said.
In a personal letter of support from Dr. Andy David, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, he wrote of the effort: “the work of Roots of Peace is in alignment with the Hebrew phrase ‘Tikkum Olam’ which translates into ‘Repairing the World,’ humanity’s responsibility to make good amongst our nation and others, and bring justice to all mankind.”
There are an estimated 1.5 million landmines and UXO (unexploded ordinance) in The Holy Land. Following the completion of her work in Bethlehem, Kühn aims to broaden the Roots of Peace demining efforts in Qasr al Yahud, the Baptismal Site of Jesus—respected by Muslims, Christians and Jewish alike.
About Roots of Peace
Roots of Peace an international humanitarian, non-political organization works to unearth dangerous landmines in war-torn countries and empowers the local communities scarred by these inhumane weapons. For more information visit www.rootsofpeace.org