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Settlers hand out chametz to Arabs

    For a third consecutive year, last week Israeli settlers gave their chametz to their Arab neighbours as part of an effort to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Settlers from seven West Bank settlements gave their leavened bread to a group that distributed the food to Palestinian families. The bread would otherwise have been burned ahead of Passover, in keeping with tradition.

    The initiative was the creation of Eretz Shalom, a pro-peace movement whose head, Nachum Pachenik, said he works from within “the hard core of the conflict [the West Bank] to strengthen the forces of dialogue and tolerance and good neighbourly relations”.

    On the subject of Passover, the Hebron native said: “It’s a holiday that celebrates our freedom, but there is a people on the other side that also deserves freedom.”

    Mr Pachenik said that for the most part, the Palestinians are open to the group’s activities, although there is always a minority — on both sides — who view their actions with a skepticism.

    The group was inspired by the controversial late rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa, Menachem Froman. He was known for efforts in bringing Palestinians and Israelis together and his stated desire to remain in Tekoa even if it were to come under Palestinian rule.

    Mr Pachenik said he also drew inspiration from a visit to Northern Ireland, where he “saw how they managed to make peace without separating people, and this is one of our goals — to make peace without transferring or expelling people from either side”.

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