AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
CATCHING Nader Al-Khateeb and Dan Alon working side by side, you would never guess that one is Palestinian, the other Israeli. That Al- Khateeb's parents had been forced from their home on a Jerusalem mountain 52 years ago. Or that not too long ago Alon roamed Al- Khateeb's hometown of Bethlehem carrying an M-16.
Right now, standing in the middle of what was once a war zone, the two men focus on a small bird of prey, the lesser kestrel, that summers in the region but whose numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. Chestnut red with gray and black, the bird, which weighs just over 5 ounces, may be something of a featherweight as raptors go, but it illustrates how the protection of nature can become a force to bring together old adversaries and maybe to heal old wounds: It is the avian centerpiece of a program devised by the two men to bring Palestinian and Israeli children together.
Al-Khateeb, 40, is a founder of Palestine's nonprofit Water and Environment Development Organization, a group that educates Palestinians about environmental protection. Alon, 34, is now head of the Israeli Ornithological Society, a bird-protection group.
The two peer through binoculars at a pair of mating kestrels on the clay-shingled roof of a stone home in Mosrara, a neighborhood facing Jerusalem's Old City. As they watch, the male flies off, circling over what was-until Israel captured the entire city in the 1967 Middle East War-the border between Israel's west Jerusalem and Jordan's east.
As bells toll in an Old City church and morning traffic roars past Palestinian laborers waiting for work in Israel, five lesser kestrels in the sky beckon the others east to the desert where they will hunt beetles and crickets before returning in the late afternoon. In a few weeks the females will lay as many as five eggs each in nooks of old roofs, in church steeples or in ancient walls surrounding Muslim and Jewish holy sites in the Old City. Perhaps one …