Roots Of Peace helps honor landmine victim's request

July 4, 2013 9:20:09 PM PDT
A Marin County humanitarian organization has made a historic mission to the Middle East to honor a little boy's request. That child lost a leg to a landmine in Israel and his wish to free the world from landmines started a movement. It ended, with Israelis and Palestinians working together in the fields of Bethlehem.

A little boy skipping along a path through a field doesn't realize just how dangerous the path is. He takes a shortcut through an old minefield in his village in the fields of Bethlehem.

Daniel Yuval is a young boy who started a campaign to get rid of landmines. He won the attention of a California mother who runs a non-profit to remove landmines. What happened is making history. Israelis and Palestinians are working together to remove old landmines, turning a deadly field into a land filled with opportunities.

Mines killed nearly half a dozen children at that location and many adults. However, the Marin County humanitarian organization Roots Of Peace stepped in to get rid of the mines.

The founder of Roots Of Peace, Heidi Kuhn, delicately negotiated a historic partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. She said that partnership "allowed us, Roots Of Peace, to be the first ever humanitarian demining organization in the Middle East, helping bring forth food security and jobs."

"As we remove these landmines from the earth, we pray the children may walk safely and shepherds may tend to their sheep," said Kuhn.

The villagers are extremely grateful to Kuhn -- a California mother of four who answered the call of young Yuval.

Yuval's right leg was blown off by a landmine in Israel's Golan Heights in February 2010. He was playing in the snow with his brothers and sisters. They didn't know it was a minefield. He was only 11.

Jennings: "What did he say to you?"
Kuhn: "He asked me, as a mother, if I could help him create a mine-free world."
Jennings: "How many years did it take you?"
Kuhn: "It took three years."

San Francisco Israeli consul general Dr. Andy David provided immense support.

"It's just the proof that Israelis and Palestinians can work together, can bring peace together," said David.

Yuval and his family came with Kuhn to visit ABC7 News just a few months after he convinced Israel's government to pass a bill to ban landmines that aren't needed for defense. Daniel partnered with Kuhn and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jerry White in that effort. White also lost a leg to a landmine near the same area as Yuval.

The money for the project came from Napa Valley vintners Paul and Shirley Dean who donated $500,000.

Kuhn flew between California and Israel more than half a dozen times. She met with top leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas and religious leaders. She persuaded a retired Israeli army colonel and a Palestinian mother of four to team up for this project.

"We look to see the Israeli children and Palestinian children playing in the lands without mines," said Fadwa Abu-Laban from Roots of Peace West Bank.

And Kuhn met with the leader of the Catholic church in Jerusalem, who gave her the first-ever Peace Medal in the church's history to honor her life-saving work, in the name of a young hero -- Yuval.

"This little boy helped change the face, not only of his nation, but across borders all over the world. And we are well on track to helping him achieve his dream for a mine free world," said Kuhn.

The next Roots Of Peace project is aimed at removing landmines near the Jordan River, near the baptismal site of Jesus. There are several churches near a popular tourist path which are filled with booby traps and landmines. This is a $20 million project.

How you can help: rootsofpeace.org

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