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An Israeli and a Gazan blog for peace

Two men build a friendship in cyberspace, bridging a violent divide between them.

(Page 2 of 2)

In Israel, too, where the firing of hundreds of Qassam rockets resulted in one fatality last week, there is hostility toward those who openly talk to Palestinians. "Who's that traitor that's writing that damned blog," Liron Amir, an Israeli sitting at a pizza restaurant in Sderot, replies when asked about the blog. "He should go live with them. We don't want any connection with them."

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The bloggers met about two years ago through an Israeli-Arab dialogue group sponsored by the Center for Emerging Future in Boise, Idaho, which obtained Israeli army permits for Peace Man to cross into Israel to attend dialogue meetings in Jerusalem and Sderot.

Danny Gal, the Israeli coordinator for the center, said the group encourages Israelis and Palestinians to set up joint peace ventures.

They originally hoped to establish a joint summer camp for kids from Sderot and Gaza, but since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israeli border permits have become very difficult to obtain unless it's for medical care. Though they continued to speak on the phone frequently, the frustrated pair decided to take their conversation online.

In the same way that blogs have experienced popularity as an alternative to mainstream news reports, a desire to "correct" the portrayal of the conflict in both Israeli and Palestinian media is another purpose of the blog, says the Sderot blogger.

"If you turn on Channel 1 in Israel, you will not see a balanced picture. That's understandable. I'm not blaming anyone. We're just trying to represent our reality," says Hope Man.

"There's a tendency of the media – especially when there's an escalation – not to say things that are against the mainstream or the policy of the government. They try to show solidarity with policy."

Talking by cellphone from his Gaza home, over the background thump of Israeli helicopters, Peace Man says that hope for peace among Gazans has nose-dived ever since Middle East leaders gathered in Annapolis, Md., to announce the resumption of peace negotiations.

Desperate for a respite from the violence, the blogging pair recently started calling for a one-month truce in the fighting, which they say will give a chance for the anger to ease on each side and for leaders to think creatively about searching for a solution.

"We just need a breather," says Hope Man. "We may be a little naive, but its better than sitting around and waiting for everything to destruct around us."