Ancestral Motivation of Peter Avram Zuckerman

My fascination with the Patriarch Abraham started when I learned about the Jewish/Hebrew name given to me by my mother. She rebelled against her Orthodox Jewish background, and named me after a Catholic saint: Peter. But my Jewish name became Avram or Abram, which was the name of Abraham before his Covenant with God.

The religious education given in the Hungarian public schools exposed me early to the Old Testament. Thus I learned, in the Book of Genesis, the story of creation, the ark of Noah and the generations thereafter, until the migration of Abram to the land of Canaan. I was about nine years old when I learned about the Covenant with God, when Abram became Abraham. I found fascinating the story of his children, Isaac and Ishmael, and how they had to become separated.

Later, my interest in ancient and medieval history made a further connection to the biblical story. In the Book of Genesis Abraham had to send Ishmael with his mother Hagar into the wilderness, away from his son Isaac. In the wilderness Hagar despaired for her son's life, but the angel of God proclaimed: "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast by thy hand, for I will make him a great nation." The Old Testament probably became compiled during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, about 300 B.C. Then came the Prophet with his divine message, and the divided Arab tribes occupying the Arabian peninsula became unified. Thus about 1,000 years after the Old Testament's prophecy, the conquest of the Middle East and North Africa indeed made the descendants of Ishmael a great nation.

In spite of the continuing conflict between the Arabs and Jews for the control of Palestine, I continued to believe in the kinship of the two sons of Abraham the Patriarch. This feeling was reinforced by the Arab connection to the advancement of Islam. I was raised in Hungary. That country in the 16th century became part of the Ottoman Empire. This lasted for 150 years, when the Germans of Austria gained control over Hungary. But the relative tolerance of the Muslim empire, in contrast to the harsh rule of Austria, gave me a favorable impression of Islam. Even today in Budapest there is a monument to the saintly Gul Baba. I learned a poem about the Prophet's encounter with the stray cat, and his merciful attitude toward the poor creature. I also learned that during much of European history the Jews were persecuted, while Muslim countries treated the Jews much more tolerantly.

My personal experience with Arabs took place in 1945. I became swept up in the Holocaust in 1944, with imprisonments in such places as Auschwitz. I was liberated in 1945 by Arab soldiers. This happened because my last place of imprisonment was in Camp Wiesengrund, which was in the path of the French Army advancing into Germany. Much of the French Army included soldiers recruited in North Africa that was unoccupied by the Nazis. The unit that liberated the labor camp consisted mostly of Arab soldiers, with only the officers of French nationality.

I found the conflict that developed in the last sixty years over the control of Palestine very disturbing. Surely the two people, both claiming a common ancestry from the Patriarch Abraham, ought to be able to reconcile and form a common ground for their co-existence. I started to think that perhaps the biblical story about Abraham and his two sons was only a myth. But recently a scientific study of the Y chromosome, which is usually passed unchanged from father to son, confirmed this common ancestry. "The findings indicate that Jews and Arabs share a common ancestor..." Thus the ethnic unity is not only cultural, with Arab and Hebrew languages similar in vocabulary and pronunciation, but also genetic. I found it amazing that modern scientific research proves the truth of a religious document developed thousands of years ago, with a prophecy that became a reality with the emergence of a great Arab nation in the 8th century.

Today the once great Arab nation is fractured into a divided Arab World, now even associated with terrorism and other strifes threatening human progress and survival. Because of my belief in the Patriarch Abraham and his descendants, I hope to assist the transformation of the Arab World into an advanced, and once again a great Arab Nation. In this process their genetically and culturally related neighbor, Israel, would become a facilitator and participant of the Confederation of Abraham. This peace confederation, modeled after the European Union, would not only stop the rise of fundamentalism, but result in economic, social and political development greatly facilitating human progress and advancement throughout the world.