As they unfurled two flags - one Israeli, the other Palestinian - members of the "Breaking the Ice" expedition marked the high point of their trip to Antarctica: 20,000 kilometers from the Middle East, after having climbed the summit of a snowy mountain on which no human had ever stood before, they named it: "Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship."
The man behind the expedition, businessman Heskel Nathaniel, admitted that the name might not be the most creative example of geographic nomenclature, but "It perfectly reflects our feeling that peace between Israelis and Palestinians has to be based on personal relationships and shared experiences," he said.
The eight members of the expedition completed their journey to Antarctica last week, after an arduous four-day climb to the summit. The severe weather conditions, and especially poor visibility, resulted in a two-day delay and blacked out communications channels. Eventually, at the end of a final climbing stage of four-and-a-half hours, in near-zero visibility, they reached their goal, a mountain peak 1,000 meters above sea level.
During the last days of the climb, the expedition's members were tethered to one another, their lives dependent on the stability and steadiness of their comrades. Thus, underscoring the entire aim of the expedition, they reached the summit through a demonstration of unqualified Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
The joint communique issued by members of the expedition reads: "The attainment of the summit and the completion of the mission prove that Palestinians and Israelis can live in mutual respect and trust. In spite of the differences between us, we proved that we can work together and carry on a significant dialogue. All of us reject the use of force as a means of solving problems, and declare that our peoples can and should live together in peace and friendship."
Since completing their trek, members of the expedition have been waiting along the bank of the Gerlache Strait in Antarctica for better weather conditions before attempting to sail through the Drake Strait. The expedition will presumably not be able to return to Chile by tomorrow, the originally planned date.
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