"Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength."
– Dalai Lama
There is no doubt that anyone who attempts to climb Mount Everest is climbing against the odds – 2,500 have died trying. But when you consider how many Israelis and Palestinians have died in the decades-old fight over the Holy Land and the numerous government leaders who create their own summits at a table in the name of peace, resulting in failure after failure â€¦ well, Mount Everest might not seem so difficult a challenge.
Filmed on location in Nepal, Tibet, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and the United States, former Los Altos resident Lance Trumbull's documentary, "Everest: A Climb for Peace," depicts the spectacular valleys, mountains and people as actor Orlando Bloom narrates some of the history of the lands and the personal stories of the climbers.
Climbers of Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths make the trek up Everest, along with several Sherpas, the indigenous people of the Himalayas, who know the mountains well and serve as guides. They practice Buddhism.
Gathered together in Kathmandu, Nepal, the climbers find their journey stifled when fighting breaks out among soldiers of warring factions – a curfew is imposed. Not a good sign for a journey with a mission of peace.
Base camp is set up at 17,000 feet, advance base camp at 21,000 feet and two other camps above before climbers make the final push to the top. Acclimating to the thin atmosphere and body conditioning are part of the trek as climbers move from base camp to advance camp and back down again.
There is not too much narration. The camera pans on the climbers as they converse – in particular, Palestinian Ali Bushnaq and Israelis Dudu Yifrah and Micha Yaniv. They do have differences and Trumbull is concerned – climbers cannot be bickering on a cliff. More arguing erupts when Yifrah reveals he served in Israel's special forces in the Gaza Strip.
Later, Bushnaq, Yifrah and Yaniv pile rocks to make a base for the Everest Peace Project flag, a symbolic gesture not lost to those who know the rock symbolizes the Palestinians' movement against Israelis, the intifada.
As the climbers ascend above base camp, the sheer physical exertion of the climb and the lack of oxygen start to take their toll on Bushnaq. Yifrah and Yaniv are concerned but amazed at his will to move forward.
The trek becomes increasingly perilous, particularly after the third camp when the climbers enter the dead zone where the body begins to shut down and the mind loses focus. The significance of the message is emboldened: In the name of peace, anything can be accomplished.
Do they make it? Suffice it to say that when a flag is hoisted at Everest's summit, an Israeli and Palestinian flag, sewn together, is lifted out of a pack and captured on camera.
For all the summits between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, following the roadmap to peace has not been successful. And after the glory of reaching their summit, the climbers' descent from Everest is likewise fraught with danger.
Trumbull's film is a success in its symbolism and celebration of the beauty of human spirit. More importantly, he has helped forge friendships that will last forever.
But as Yifrah pointed out, it is easy for people to be friends – but much more difficult for governments to be friends.