Main Events

Prince El Hassan bin Talal of

Alan B. Slifka, founder and
chairman of the Abraham Fund,
and Prince El Hassan bin Talal

Prince El Hassan bin Talal and
Judith Eigen Sarna

Nina Boxer and the Prince

Prince Of Peace Pleads For
Interfaith Understanding

Text: Nina Boxer
Photos: Tim Boxer

ECLARING he’s “a Marxist of the Groucho kind,” Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal waived royal protocol. The prince, younger brother of the late King Hussein, took his jacket off, stood up in his white shirt, and spoke for peace and reconciliation between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

“In bad times,” he said, “it is important to say good words.”

He sprinkled his remarks with appropriate one-liners that delighted the 320 black-tie guests at the Abraham Fund Initiative’s 11th annual coexistence benefit at the Pierre Hotel in New York.

Co-founded by Alan Bruce Slifka and the late Rabbi Eugene Weiner, the organization seeks to improve relations among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.

Newly installed president Ami Nahshon reported the event raised $425,000.

The prince said he was speaking as an NGO, which he jocularly defined as “a nongovernmental organism.” A British officer once asked, “I am in Her Majesty’s airborne. What are you?”

“I am in His Majesty’s chairborne,” the prince replied mischievously.

In his speech Prince Hassan showed off his perfect command of Hebrew.

He recalled the day he was at the White House to meet President Bill Clinton. He turned to say a few words in Hebrew to Shimon Peres.  Everybody applauded. He thought it was patronizing.

“Why don’t you clap when Peres says some words in Arabic to me?” he said.

He told the Abraham Fund dinner guests how he and Shimon Shamir, Israel’s first ambassador to Jordan, hosted a conference on “the fear of peace.” Christians, Muslims and Jews met on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to talk peace. “If we observed strictly, we would never have met,” he said with a wide grin.

He decried the “inhuman and obscene bombings” that take both Israeli and Arab lives. And he urged both sides to “stop demonizing the other.”

Jews and Arabs are closer to each other than to Christians, he said. “It’s time we reminded ourselves of our enlightened tradition.”

Quoting in Hebrew from Ecclesiastes that “there is a time for peace and a time for war,” he indicated this is a time to pursue peace.

“I believe Prime Minister Sharon is a man with whom one can negotiate,” he said.

“He’s a large figure. I’m not as big as he is,” he quipped.

“I plead with you for the establishment of a new initiative – or finishitive,” he added, to emphasize a point.

Prince Hassan proposed the establishment of an international nondenominational peace corps. “Shimon Peres spoke of blue overalls rather than blue helmets.”

He said the time has come to look afresh at the texts of history and accept responsibility for words and actions. “We must recognize the political and social dimension of our interfaith dialogue.”

The prince’s vision would culminate in a center for Mediterranean humanities to teach Latin and Hebrew, “that fusion of esthetic and spiritual renaissance.”

“I am jealous of the statement that Israel is the only democracy in the region,” he said.

“Our shortcomings – our mismanagement and corruption – are our doing. Political emancipation is a precious right we must preserve for Jews and Arabs. The strengthening of the Jewish spirit, Jewish talent, Jewish power, Jewish genius is an inspiring force all over the world.”

Shortly after this successful fundraising event, Slifka, founder and a managing principal of Halcyon/Alan B. Slifka & Company, a hedge fund in New York, married Dr. Riva Golan Rivo, a neuroscientist and child therapist, at their New York home. Mazel tov!

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