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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 17:14 GMT
Mid-East rivals seek polar harmony
Polar explorers
The expedition will put the team in life and death situations
A group of Palestinians and Israelis have set off on an expedition to Antarctica to prove that the two communities can work together.

The group believe the project - called "Breaking the ice" - will force people separated by political and religious differences to cooperate.

The four Arabs and four Jews will climb an unexplored peak in Antarctica after sailing 965km from southern Chile.

The group will name the mountain at a ceremony at its peak.

Mixed bunch

The group's members come from widely differing backgrounds.

Two of the Israelis are former members of an elite commando unit of the Israeli army, and one of the Palestinians served 10 years in prison for attacking Israeli troops.

Heskel Nathaniel
Heskel Nathaniel - property developer
Doron Erel - one of Israel's top mountaineers; served in the elite commando unit of the Israeli army
Avihu Shoshani - lawyer; also a former elite commando
Yarden Fanta - PhD candidate; trekked from Ethiopia via Sudan to Israel aged 14
"They are not all 'peaceful pigeons'," the man behind the idea, 41-year-old Heskel Nathaniel, told the BBC.

But the group is optimistic about the expedition's outcome.

"We can prove that we Israelis and Palestinians are going as one group, not two, and together we will overcome obstacles and dangers," Palestinian journalist Ziad Darwish told the Jerusalem Post's Lauren Gelfond before the group's departure.

"An Israeli will give me a hand and I'll give my hand to an Israeli - it's very symbolic."

Except for team leaders Heskel Nathaniel and Doron Erel, the rest of the group have no mountaineering experience.


The expedition is the first organised by Extreme Peace Missions, a charity that aims to bring people together through adventure and sporting endeavours.

Nasser Quos - football coach; spent three years in an Israeli prison for attacking Israeli troops with fire bombs
Suleiman al-Khatib - imprisoned for 10 years aged 14 for carrying out actions against Israeli troops
Ziad Darwish - journalist; his brother was killed in an Israeli army raid in 1982
Olfat Haider - gymnastics teacher; the only Palestinian on the Israeli women's national volleyball team in her time
The trip has received support from both sides.

Ziad Darwish visited the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to get his blessings.

"He told me: 'You know, Ziad, you have to go to the end of the world to show that Palestinians are looking to settle a peace," the journalist said in an interview with Lauren Gelfond.

From the Israeli side, artist Menashe Kadishman donated a painting for the yacht's main sail.

Antarctic setting for Mid-East peace bid
22 Sep 03  |  Middle East

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