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Israeli-Palestinian Group Launches Antarctic Expedition - 2003-12-28

A group of Israelis and Palestinians have launched an expedition to Antarctica, in a bid to show their two communities can work together for the betterment of mankind.

A group of four Arabs and four Jews have joined forces for a project called Breaking the Ice. Their objective is to climb an unnamed and unexplored mountain near a plateau in Antarctica.

But the participants also have another goal, to build strong bonds in situations where they will be forced to depend on each other to survive.

The makeup of the team is a demonstration of how some Israelis and Palestinians are able to put aside their hostilities in pursuit of a common goal.

The group includes one Palestinian who served three years in Israeli jails for firebombing Israeli soldiers, and two former members of an elite Israeli commando unit. Another member is an Ethiopian woman who trekked across the wilderness of Sudan at the age of 14 to emigrate to Israel.

The team flew from Tel Aviv for Chile on Saturday to start their expedition. Shortly before departing, the members were seen hugging each other in excitement and posing for photos with relatives who came to bid them farewell.

The team is to set sail from Patagonia in southern Chile, and then anchor off the coast of Antarctica.

From there, the group will start preparing for the ascent of a previously unclimbed mountain and conduct a naming ceremony at its peak.

The expedition is being sponsored by Israel's Peres Center for Peace. The institute, named after the former Israeli prime minister and now opposition leader, Shimon Peres, seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The project also includes the making of a documentary film, set to be completed by the middle of next year.