TheFriedensmal shows as Tree of Life with its roots pointing towards Jerusalem, breaking through the “dark ring of violence” with eleven commemorative stones, which symbolize projection surfaces of an estranged and traumatized mind. The ring is also broken open from the outside with a bright and friendly area; a dance floor, a space for encounter. This is representing the dance of life and a spiritual and emotional growth through the encounter. The Friedensmal stands for the path inside; where peace begins, where it matters most.
A Tree of Life
In Judaism, theTree of Life represents the Torah (=Teaching, the 5 books of Moses). Rabbi Hillel spoke of these: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.” If man would just adhere to this principle, peace on earth would be nigh. In the Friedensmal, the Tree of Life can be recognized as a relief, from a bird’s-eye perspective. It means looking at yourself in an inner experience. In its symbolism, it helps visitors reflect on their own lives and encourages them to create space for one’s own good developments and those of others. The battle against the evil in the world might never end; however, how forceful is the recognition of the beautiful and the good inside oneself and others in repelling evil?
The roots of the Tree of Life point towards Jerusalem. It is a call for a “better world” as symbolized by Yerushalayim – the “heavenly Jerusalem”. This call is more than a location, Jerusalem is a state of beauty. This is how peace begins within, from which it affects the small in the world and from there into the big contexts. - Yerushalayim is written on the 12th commemorative stone, the Stone of Encounter. The theme is here: healthy boundaries. The Stone is located outside the Friedensmal at the border to the the hiking trail “facing towards the world”.
Path of healing through sanctificationThe inscription at the entry to the Tree of Life reads: “Recognize the sacred in your midst”. It is applied on the gray Threshold of Humility, which demarcates the Friedensmal outwards. To reach the middle, the visitor embarks on a “journey inwards”, overcoming this threshold. Humans carry holiness inside that is inviolable. Therefore: Human dignity is inviolable (1st article, German constitution). In self-knowledge, may we walk an inner path of healing towards peace and freedom, instead of projecting our own inner pain into the environment on other people and events.
The German word for healing contains the (abused) word "Heil", which is related to the JewishShalom. The impermanence in the world (entropy) means the eternal effort to restore, to heal and to live Shalom, without which there can be no further development. Not to lessen therein is also meant by "Recognize the sacred in your midst". Perfection will never be achieved. It's at the end about the way. To know that, may come as a relief: Be a human! The own inadequacy is allowed to be recognized. To believe otherwise would be delusion. But one knows this delusion well in Germany: If children were never told that they are valuable, not because of their performance, but already as a human. Consequently, that also applies to a whole society.
A delusion in a society is not healing with the same answers that led to delusion. It must be about breaking the vicious circle; also and especially in a living culture of remembrance. The phrase "Recognize the sacred in your midst" is therefore not an encouragement to narcissism; it is found in the Friedensmal written on the Threshold of Humility. "The actual human element is inadequacy and perhaps the most human thing is to acknowledge, accept, and forgive it, yet try to become its master, at least of the own inadequacy." (Source unknown) - It is, therefore, an encouragement in one's effort on the path of healing through sanctification and a conscious appreciation of the beautiful, the true and the good in one's own life and in one's own culture.
Healing deep woundsIn 1998, when the debate on the construction of a central memorial in Berlin to commemorate the murdered Jews of Europe was ongoing, I conceived of the idea for this project. I believe that the German culture of remembrance, focussed on admonishing memorials without a hope and light for the future, needs a positive approach that represents new life. This is the only way to gain access to this theme without the feelings of guilt, feelings that often put people in a defensive position. Admonishing and remembering alone is not enough. The painful memory of past events must be accompanied by life and hope. Above all, the deep wounds must heal. The integration necessary to proclaim that the lessons from the past have truly been learned only takes place after embarking on the journey towards healing. This would also prevent repeating the mistakes of the past in another form. The idea of the Friedensmal shows Germany another way of dealing with its past, a way which would be a blessing for the country. It is not an admonishing memorial for the past (Mahnmal), but a monument for awakening, change and peace in the present. Nelly Sachs expressed it as follows in one of her poems: “But to you, who did not shake the dust from your yearning, who stopped right there, where dust is turned to light.”
Dganit Daddo and students from Israel singing during the Celebration of Encounters within the Friedensmal in Germany.
From the inside outThe Friedensmal has 24 edges. Visitors can spend 24 hours and many days circling it only to realize that they circle around themselves. Only after pausing and reflecting, to subsequently take the two steps – the Threshold of Humility – with its inscription “Recognize the sacred in your midst” and stepping into the Friedensmal – only after letting go from oneself and turning inwards, can the visitor achieve inner realization.A part of the ring surrounding the Tree of Life is filled with dark gravel. Resting in the gravel stand 11 stone blocks from Odenwald quartz. They symbolize projection surfaces of the alienated mind. The limited mind categorizes and projects what people often take for the common truth. This causes friction in our interactions. It is also the space of mental seduction in which propaganda works and where captivity in ideologies is anchored. Are we looking for our hold here? Are we prisoners of our projections, ideas and fears or do we see the fullness of life? So we go through the dark ring and explore our "stones" in the soul, where they block our love.
Numerology: In Christian mysticism, the number 11 is considered the number of sin. More precisely put: “A human is estranged from the core of being (God), from other beings, and from the self” (Tillisch, Lexikon der Theologie). 1 is the will of God, 0 is the receiving principle, the creation. As such, 10 symbolizes the will of God in the creation as well as the 10 instructions (commandments). With 11, another will is added, the will of mankind, that has fallen out of order. 11 bears the task to align this will with the “Core of Being” again. Therefore, the number 11 is also a number of liberation.
After leaving the Friedensmal – where inner peace can be found – visitors find themselves "outside the circle" again, in "the world", where the aim is peace and freedom for the world. Here, the 12th Stone (Encounter Stone) with the inscription “Yerushalayim” is located. (Regarding the number 12: Imagine a triangle. The upper point (spirit) in the middle integrates the line – duality of the world – underneath it. The 12 represents finding unity with God, the core of being; therefore, it represents serving God. The Torah paints a similar picture: The Israelites found their freedom (the exodus from Egypt) to serve God, or because they wanted to serve God.
The Tree of Life concerns the relationship to one’s own soul. The tree breaks through the dark ring from the inside. Just as a healthy tree connects heaven and earth, man also has life in it. Also to the outside above the "tree crown" the dark ring is already broken open - by a beige dance floor. It stands for the true relationship to the other human being, which may be like a dance. The religious philosopher Martin Buber – who lived in the neighboring town of Heppenheim up to 1938 – expressed it as follows: “Through the Thou a person becomes I" (Philosophy of Martin Buber). We recognize our own blind spots only when to us another person in his / her essence becomes a mirror. The "dance floor" is located in the "inner space", as we create the space to meet the others in ourselves and as we cannot veraciously see others without seeing ourselves first.The salutary answer is therefore the silent turn inwards – it is a space for meditation and prayer – which also provides as well a cheerful connection to the dance of life. A 26-metre-long rainbow in all seven colors made from glass mosaic will be placed around the “crown”. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant of God with men. The diameter of the crown from the Tree of Life (around which there is the rainbow) is 16.60 m. This is a reference to the only biblical verse with this number, namely Ezekiel 16:60: “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”
Shalom JerusalemThe Blossom of Shalom is located in the middle of the Friedensmal. It is a sign for Shalom, which means harmony, salvation, wealth, and peace. The Jewish poet Nelly Sachs described Shalom as a "butterfly zone of dreams" (source). This blossom made from white marble, granite and Odenwald quartz is also a reminder of a resistance group named after a white blossom: The White Rose. Those young people found their values and their strength for their resistance in their lived christian faith.
Shalom (peace, salvation) begins in one’s own soul. The Friedensmal is a space for encounters and healing. It shows the walk to the inside, where we have the power to effect real change. Then, peace can radiate outwards, into our society. The individual is also part of a cultural society with its own characteristics and history. Therefore, with this monument, reference is made to "Jerusalem" as the deepest root of European culture and to the profound violation in this relationship.
This might provide an important societal impulse for our country to find itself again in a new way through an understanding of "Jerusalem" and it becomesan idea of Jerusalem in German-Jewish relations.
The Blossom of Shalom bears the Seed of Life (sacred geometry). It consists of twelve white petals and a star resting on it: A living heart! This star also represents the connection between “Heaven” and “Earth”, between Spirit and Matter. The blossom is located in the middle of the Tree of Life in the Friedensmal: a human being can connect heaven and earth inside himself, similar to a tree. From a Christian perspective, this is a man or a woman that is filled with the Holy Spirit.
There are two triangles in the star. The triangle with the brown spot in the top points towards the Rhine Plain and what used to be “Jerusalem on the Rhine” (Earth). The other triangle with the brown spot in the base points towards Jerusalem in Israel (Heaven). The Turning Point for Life is embedded at the center of the star, with the inscription “Chai” (Life). The entire peace and freedom monument was constructed in relation to this one point in the center. There is no ideology in this one point that is connecting everything. Here is Shalom - harmony, salvation, wealth, and peace. This point at the center is located exactly 72 cm above the plane (outside) in front of the 1st step of the Threshold of Humility. This is a reference to the 72 names of God; it's about experiencing.
People took off their shoes as they entered the Tree of Life. This signifies the surrender of habits and prejudices, opening oneself for experiences that emanate from the heart. Shalom can be found here in this soul's center. The Friedensmal can resensitize people to their internal yearning for holiness. We need signs of hope that touch the good inside of us. The greatest calamities in a society are made possible not by “evil people” but by the lack of recognition of the potential for good in it! Taking responsibility for life is a positive expression. It strives to express itself in the involvement of freedom-loving and responsible citizens. In this sense, this project has been realized on a private estate after many years of voluntary work. Peace in freedom may prevail over Earth; light, love, and life.
A view from the Friedensmal unto the Rhine Plain and the SchUM city of Worms (Jerusalem on the Rhine)
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