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Four Middle East nations celebrate a ‘Peace Tree’ in Birmingham


By Greg Garrison | ggarrison@al.com

Officials from four Middle East countries who are in Birmingham for the World Games gathered Thursday morning to dedicate a site to plant a “Peace Tree” in Marconi Park.

Representatives of Israel, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Morocco attended the event, along with city, World Games and Olympic officials.

“The tree will be planted and cared for by the Jones Teaching Farm, one of our beloved nonprofits who works closely with Birmingham City Schools,’’ Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “Rest assured that the spirt of unity represented in this event will be passed on to our youngest, as well.’’

The tree will be a celebration of the Abraham Accords and in honor of the World Games, officials said. Because of the July heat, the tree will be planted later in the fall when temperatures are cooler.

The Abraham Accords, which are normalization agreements signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020, are paving the way for a new era of peace in the Middle East. These historic agreements have already resulted in countless collaborations and partnerships between the signatory nations as well as meaningful people-to-people relationships among their citizens.

Israel, Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE all have athletes competing at the World Games in Birmingham.

Those attending the ceremony included Birmingham City Council members Crystal Smitherman, Valerie Abbott and Clinton Woods; Alex Gandler, deputy consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States; Rose Sager, trade representative from the Kingdom of Bahrain; Azza Bint Sulaiman, assistant secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee, the United Arab Emirates; Fatima Zahara Aboulfaraj, political counselor with the Embassy of Morocco; and World Games CEO Nick Sellers.

“Just as history is being made here, in Birmingham through these World Games, today, we are experiencing another historical moment,’’ said Kathy Boswell, executive vice president of community and volunteer engagement for the World Games. “We will plant a tree to recognize the importance of how planting values of listening, serving, respect, collaboration, hope, and faith in the world can grow to become a place where we can live in peace.’’

Birmingham will host the International Peace Conference in Birmingham May 2023, which happens to coincide with the 60th commemoration of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.

“As always, we remain dedicated to the principles of freedom, and this tree will stand tall as a bond between all our countries,’’ Woodfin said.

Mayor Woodfin presented proclamations to each of the four delegates, declaring July 14 as Abraham Accords Day in Birmingham.