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Interfaith leaders launch daylong unity fast for Mideast peace

While the violence escalates in Israel and Gaza, a movement is taking hold that unites Jews, Muslims and others in a campaign for peace.

On Tuesday, a daylong fast is planned as part of a public effort to show unity in the fight against war and violence in the region.

Using the Twitter hashtag #HungryforPeace, the cause started in Israel and gained strength in England, promoted by Yachad, a U.K.-based pro-Israel, pro-peace group. Last weekend, it was announced in temples, mosques and churches in the U.S.

Pastor Steve Norman of Kensington Church near Detroit used Twitter to call his 10,000-strong congregation to join him in the fast after reading about the efforts of Muslims and Jews to publicly stand together.

"It just seemed right to follow their lead," said Norman, whose church sponsors several trips to Israel and the West Bank each year.

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July 15 is a Jewish fast day (17th of Tammuz) and the beginning of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of the two Jerusalem Temples. It occurs this year during the Muslim observation of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast for a month during daylight hours.

The religious observances coincide with a public cry from many in Israel who have had enough.

"Sanity must prevail. Inertia cannot take over," wrote Robi Damelin in a July 10 editorial in The Huffington Post. Damelin, who lost her son, David, to the conflict in 2002, concluded, "We must come out and demonstrate to the powers that be. Stop the violence."

As part of the Parents Circle-Family Forum, Damelin meets with Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost children in the conflict.

The latest series of clashes between Israel and the Palestinians are blamed on the kidnapping of three Israeli young men who were later found dead, as well as the reported revenge killing of a teenage Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. In the words of Lee Ziv, an Israeli peace activist, "The tears of an Israeli mother over her dead son are identical to those of a Palestinian Mother."

Ziv started a Facebook page called "The Bus of Peace" and is organizing a bus to drive from Jerusalem to Gaza with flowers and peace slogans to demonstrate the goodwill of many Israelis toward the people of Gaza. In the past, she has gathered blankets and other supplies to donate to those living in Gaza.

"We know there is massive grass-roots desire to end the fighting and live in peace," said Scott Cooper, an American Jew and co-owner of MEJDI Tours, a company that includes both Palestinian and Israeli "narratives" in Holy Land pilgrimages. "Tomorrow is just one way to bring attention to a movement that is rarely in the headlines."

The fast begins at sunrise Tuesday and concludes at sundown.

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July 17-30, 2015

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