The Circle of Peace shows a 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. They are made from Odenwald quartz, which is typical of the region. The ring is also broken open from the outside with a bright and friendly area; a dance floor. It is representing the dance of life and a spiritual and emotional growth through the encounter.

The Circle of Peace isn't dedicated to politics and its utopias in the external world, but to our own inner peace; where peace begins, where it matters most.

A Tree of Life

In Judaism, the Tree 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 Circle of Peace, 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 this
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 Border Stone. The theme is here: healthy boundaries. The Stone is located outside the Circle of Peace at the border to the the hiking trail “facing towards the world”.

Recognize the Holy within your midst

The inscription at the entry to the Tree of Life reads: “Recognize the Holy in your midst”. It is applied on the gray Threshold of Humility, which demarcates the Circle of Peace outwards. To reach the middle, the visitor embarks on a “journey inwards”, overcoming this threshold. Humans carry a holiness inside that is sacrosanct. Therefore: Human dignity is inviolable (1st article of the German constitution). May we go the inner path of self-knowledge towards peace and freedom, instead of projecting our inner turmoil onto the environment and other people and events.

Healing deep wounds

In 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 Circle of Peace 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 in the Friedensmal (monument)Dganit Daddo and students from Israel singing during the Celebration of Encounters within the Circle of Peace in Germany.

From the inside out

The Circle of Peace 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 Holy in your midst” and stepping into the Circle of Peace – 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 the projection surfaces of the mind; our limited understanding all too often tends to categorize and takes projections as a truth, held by many to be absolute. This causes friction in our interactions. Are we prisoners of our projections and fears, or do we recognize the abundance of life? We wander through the dark ring and explore the “stones” in our soul that restrict our capacity to love.

Circle of Peace with Border Stone

A Christian elucidation of the symbolism: 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
Circle of Peace – 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 (Border 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.

Friedensmal in the evening

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". 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 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 Jerusalem

The Rose of Shalom is located in the middle of the Circle of Peace. 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). The white "Rose" made from marble, granite and Odenwald quartz is also a reminder of the resistance group called "The White Rose". Those young people found their values and their strength for their resistance in their lived christian faith.

Dance performance

Shalom (peace, salvation) begins in one’s own soul. The Circle of Peace 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, in the Garden of Freedom, 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 becomes an idea of Jerusalem in German-Jewish relations.

Rose of Shalom in the Tree of Life

The Rose of Shalom consists of the flower of a “White Rose” with a star resting on it: A living heart! This star also represents the connection between “Heaven” and “Earth”, between Spirit and Matter. The Rose is located in the middle of the Tree of Life in the Circle of Peace: 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 all revolves around experiencing.

Entrance in the Tree of Life

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 Circle of Peace 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.

Evening ambience

Evening atmosphere at the Friedensmal

A view from the Circle of Peace unto the Rhine Plain and the SchUM city of Worms (Jerusalem on the Rhine)

Make a fence around the law! - (Proverbs of the Fathers, 1st chapter, 1st verse)

The law, the Torah is a Tree of Life it is said in Judaism. In the Circle of Peace, the Tree of Life is the central element. The Garden of Freedom forms the frame around the Circle of Peace, meaning the fence around the law. The word "garden" comes from the Indo-European word "ghorto" that means ring fence. At the border of the garden stands the Border Stone on which Yerushalayim is written. The "fence around the law" was not included in the original planning for the Circle of Peace. The Garden of Freedom was unexpectedly brought by life. The story went like this:

First contruction plan for the Circle of Peace

The local authority issued a special permit in 2012 for the construction of a paddock fence on the neighbouring property. Our monument shows the Tree of Life that breaks through a dark ring (for the dark past) towards Jerusalem and is thus a symbol of freedom. The new fence was to be built directly before the breakthrough of the Tree of Life. This counteracted the artistic message of the monument. It also meant that the originally planned memorial design with approved 33 large memorial stones lacked the freedom in order to be able to work in the intended way. A monument that feels overwhelming is not suitable for transporting a message of peace and freedom and attracting visitors.

This is how the Circle of Peace finally was built

The artist removed 22 stones in the monument circle and replaced them symbolically in the sense of the artistic message of the monument design by a (Jerusalem) Stone at the border of the property. With that, he opened the "dark ring" of the monument to the other side facing away from the fence. These measures were able to bring a relieve to the overall appearance of the landscape again. On the Border Stone, the message of peace reads: "That we overcome the fences in cooperation...". In addition, with the design of embankments (angel wings) on the sides of the monument area and a levelling around the monument circle the fence got a different aesthetic function: from a blockade in front of the Tree of Life, the fence became part of a frame; a safe space for the Circle of Peace. That's how the Garden of Freedom first came into existence.

With the
Border Stone and the Garden of Freedom, the fence was successfully integrated into the monument design as a new, clearly visible border. It was an artistic response to the problem and it eventually led to a different much more developed design, both in terms of content and aesthetics. The design was thus created in a process of dealing with life. At the beginning of the year 2019, during an internet research, the artist came across the passage "Make a fence around the law / Torah" (Proverbs of the Fathers). Life itself has made this directive for the Circle of Peace within the Garden of Freedom become a reality. But there was even more: It should turn out later that on the side facing away from the fence, towards which the monument had to be opened because of aesthetic reasons, formerly there was in the valley the "Jerusalem on the Rhine".

Next chapter:  Border Stone

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  © 2018 | Text, Images | Friedensmal Wendepunkt