On June 13, 2018, SodaStream hosted Israel’s largest Ramadan event ever at the company’s plant in Rahat, Israel. The facility, which is known as the “Island of Peace,” supports diversity and coexistence by employing 2,000 people from all walks of Israeli society, including Bedouins, Israeli Arabs from East Jerusalem, Jewish Israelis from all backgrounds, new immigrants as well as Palestinians from Judea and Samaria.
The highlight of the event was a kite flying demonstration by SodaStream employees, led by CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The kites, which were printed with the word “Peace” in Hebrew, Arabic and English, were flown toward the Gaza border, which is only 22 kilometers from Rahat. One large kite, 6 foot x 5 foot, was made of a tapestry of pictures drawn by children of Jewish and Muslim employees – with an olive branch tied to the kite tail.
“They say that coexistence is complex and difficult, but at SodaStream, Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side together every day,” said SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. “I am proud of SodaStream’s Muslim employees, who on the occasion of the Ramadan event decided to send a message of coexistence and brotherhood, not only to their Jewish colleagues, but also to their Muslim brothers on the other side of the Gaza border. With our kite flying display, we choose the message of hope and peace. Nothing could be more symbolic than giving kites back to the children – as a toy rather than a vehicle of destruction and terror, for which kites have been recently used. Perhaps the leaders on both sides could learn from this message and work to focus their attention on lasting peace, rather than perpetuating the conflict.”
Attendants of the event included Talal Alkernawi, the mayor of Rahat, ambassadors in Israel from Canada, Russia, Austria, Ireland, Georgia, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, the Philippines and Panama and local religious leaders. The event also included a special greeting from the President of Israel, Mr. Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin who said that “SodaStream is a company that inspires hope and reminds us all that we can and we need to work and live together.”
In addition to a meal to break the traditional fast, guests enjoyed a joint performance in Hebrew and Arabic by Jewish Israeli singer Bat Ella, Arab singers Haitham Jashi and Said Terbia, and a choir of 100 Muslim and Jewish children.
SodaStream has garnered extensive media coverage as a target of boycott activists. In spite of this negative attention, SodaStream continues to be an advocate for coexistence through a “Peace Economy” based on equal pay, benefits and opportunities for its entire work force.