The conflicts in the Middle East, particularly the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, are regarded by many as the most difficult international conflict to be resolved. Many Israeli/Palestinian peace initiatives at the highest political levels have been undertaken throughout the past 20 years, including signed peace accords, without leading to any major achievement towards peace. Failed political processes for years have led many people to believe that peace is either not possible or presently achievable. However, when politicians at the highest levels fail to agree on peace, different initiatives and successful peace projects can often be found within civil societies, especially among people at the local levels. Cheap Fjallraven Kanken Kids The Parents Circle is such an example. Here, victims among both Israelis and Palestinians have found common ground. Bereaved families, victims from both sides, have started a joint reconciliation mission. All the members have lost immediate family members due to the conflict and they have come to the conclusion that instead of seeking revenge and instigating further violence, they have sought to reconcile with victims from the other side that have similar experiences. Following is a quote from Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus, Letter to The Parents Circle – Families Forum, April 2004: “Peace is possible when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable (…) the members of the Parents Circle have experienced this truth In the depths of their Suffering and loss. They have found that there Is more that unites us than Divides us, that we are All members of one family, the human family (…)” It is, indeed, a powerful message when the people that have suffered the most, loosing a family member in the conflict, decide to reconcile with the other side, realising that continued violence will only lead to increased suffering. When politicians cannot conclude peace deals, ordinary people on both sides can decide to reconcile and work together to spread the message that peace is possible among people, step by step, and build a momentum that involves more and more people in the societies. As stated on their homepage (www.theparentscircle.org), they strive to offer a breakthrough in people’s frame of mind, to allow a change of perception, a chance to re-consider one’s views and attitudes towards the conflict and the other side. The Forum’s activities are a unique phenomenon, in that they continue during all political circumstances and in spite of all tensions and violence in the region. The members initiate and lead projects throughout the Israeli and Palestinian communities. Following are some personal stories from some members (source: www.theparentscircle.org):  

Understanding the other side

Story of Robi Damelin Robi came to Israel from South Africa in 1967 to work as a volunteer after the Six Day War, thinking that she would only stay there for a couple of months. In her home country she had been active in the anti-apartheid movement, but grew tired of the infected and ugly debate and decided to leave for Israel. What began as a plan of only staying for 6 months eventually turned into marriage and two children. When she later got divorced, she moved together with her two sons, David and Eran, to Tel Aviv. When David told her that he wanted to join the army, Robi was very surprised. He was a very gifted musician and out of his art class he was probably the only one who chose that path. However, David was torn because he didn’t want to serve in the occupied territories and as time went on he told his mother about his questionings and doubts. David, who became an officer, joined a group of other officers that did not want to serve in the occupied territories and went to all the demonstrations they had. After the army, David went to Tel Aviv University to study and eventually started teaching. Later on, when he got called for military service, his previous issue once again came into question; he didn’t want to go and especially not in the occupied areas. He eventually decided to go since he didn’t want to let his soldiers down. He wanted to set an example to the younger ones and treat everybody, Palestinian or Israeli, with respect. One day, Robi received a call from David that filled her with a terrible premonition. David explained that he had done everything he could, but he felt that he was stuck in a terrible place. The following morning Robi couldn’t sleep and went to work earlier than she used to. She had a restless feeling and didn’t want to be at home. Soon she found out that David was killed by a sniper at a checkpoint, together with nine other people. After losing her son, Robi felt as if her life was totally changed forever. Still the same person, but with an aching pain that she carries with her everywhere she goes. Chaussure Adidas Daily activities were no longer important and Robi felt that the projects she had been involved in earlier no longer had any meaning. When Yitzhak Frankenthal, the founder of the Bereaved Families Forum, came to visit her, she hesitated at first but decided to join a seminar. She didn’t feel convinced at first, however, the more time she spent there the more she felt that she wanted to be a part of something that could make a difference. nike air max 2017 wit Robi says that one of the first things she learned was how to not be patronising against Palestinians, thinking that she knows best, and to be a much less judgmental person than before. About the work in the Bereaved Families Forum Robi says; “It’s something I feel almost duty-bound to be doing; it’s not a favour that I’m doing for anyone else but a personal mission almost. I know this works. I believe removing the stigma from each side and getting to know the person on the other side allows for a removal of fear, and a way to understand that a long-term reconciliation process is possible”.  

Tools for Peace

Story of Aziz Sarah Aziz grew up in Jerusalem and like many others, he saw people around him die because of a “worthless conflict”. Aziz sympathised with them but his life continued on just as it always had, until that one day when disaster hit Aziz’s own family. It all started one early morning in the spring of 1990. Aziz and four of his brothers, who shared a room, were awoken by Israeli soldiers who burst in where the boys were sleeping. They asked for their identity cards and started to question them. The soldiers wanted to know what they had been doing the previous night and especially if they had been throwing stones at them. The brothers didn’t answer so the soldiers took Aziz’s 18-year-old brother, Tayseer, with them. It would take 11 months until they would be able to hold him again. After being interrogated and beaten, Tayseer admitted to throwing stones at the Israeli cars and was kept in prison without trial. During his time in prison his health became worse and when he was finally released, his condition was critical and he was rushed to the hospital. There, he only lasted for three weeks until he died after a surgery. At that time Aziz was 10-years-old. He could not accept the death of his brother and started to become very bitter and angry. He felt that someone was responsible for the unnatural death of his brother and Aziz grew up with a constant need for revenge. In high school, he started to write for a magazine. There he became a diligent writer who used his pain to spread hatred against the other side. The articles earned him success and the position of editor at the magazine. However, the more he wrote, the more he felt an emptiness building up inside him and eventually he grew tired of the anger and quit the magazine. During his high school years, Aziz had refused to learn Hebrew thinking that it was the enemy’s language. But now he found himself stuck since it was necessary to know Hebrew to attend the university or to be able to get a good job. He started studying at an institute for Jewish newcomers to Israel. There, his understanding and ideas of the Jewish people was completely demolished. Scarpe Nike He saw faces different from those of the soldiers that had taken his brother and found that these students were the same as him. For Aziz, his time at the institute became a turning point in his life. He started to realise that he had a choice in life. He could put aside the rage and abandon the feelings of revenge he had felt his whole life and instead, choose to love and forgive those around him. It’s not always easy work, but Aziz has realised that hatred begets hatred. “Maybe I will never see the world restored to perfect humanity, but I still feel obligated to believe that the tools for peace are not tools of violence and hatred. More than this, I feel obligated to use my pain to spread peace rather than using it to fuel a hatred that would have eventually consumed me. I believe we are all obligated to do our best to create peace, and not wait until it hits home. After all, there is no good war or bad peace”.  

To turn the bad into something good

Story of Rami Elchanan Rami has a personal story that he thinks begins and also ends on a particular day of the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur in October 1973, Rami was a soldier caught up in the middle of a war. There, he lost many of his good friends and Rami found himself to be an angry and cynical man after getting out of the war. When he was released from the army he started to build himself a new life with family and career and on another Yom Kippur evening in 1983, his daughter Smadar was born in Jerusalem. Rami lived together with his family in what he calls a calm and happy bubble surrounding them. However, this bubble abruptly burst on a September afternoon in 1997, just a few days before Yom Kippur. Smadar and her 14-year-old friends had gone to buy some books for their upcoming school year when two Palestinian suicide bombers detonated bombs that killed five people that day, among them Smadar and her three friends. The following week, Rami and his family were constantly surrounded by supporting and comforting people all day and all night. But eventually these people disappeared and Rami and his family found themselves alone in their grief. Rami had to decide what do next and where to go from there. What would he do with his new and unknown terrible ache? He had suddenly become a completely different person and didn’t know what to do now that all his previous priorities suddenly had vanished. His first instinct was the most natural and immediate one; the one of unlimited anger and a strong need for revenge. But Rami eventually started to reason differently. Would the killing of another human being in revenge bring back his daughter or ease his pain? He found that the answer to that question was no and instead he began asking himself what he could do to prevent this kind of suffering from happening to others. One day, Rami met a man that he remembered as one of the many people that had come to see his family those days following his daughter’s death. The man’s name was Yitzchak Frankenthal and he told Rami about his son who had been kidnapped and murdered by Hamas in 1994. He also talked about this organisation of people that had lost their family members due to the war, but who were working together in peace. Rami was offended about the fact that this man had come to his house to talk about peace. The man kept his calm and instead invited Rami to a meeting. At the meeting, Rami found himself to be detached and was cynical and reluctant. But then something happened that made him undergo a complete change. He saw a group of Arabs getting off a bus and approaching him. Women and men of all ages greeted him with hugs and they started to share theirs stories and tears with each other. From that day on, Rami says he got a reason to get up in the morning. “Our blood is the same red colour, our suffering is identical, and all of us have the exact same bitter tears. So, if we, who have paid the highest price possible, can carry on a dialogue, then everyone can!”  

Experiences that unite

Story of Osama Abu Ayas Osama grew up in a family where he was constantly reminded of the effects of the ongoing conflict. Osama’s father was only able to do light work since he suffered from a heart condition as a result of the loss of his father in the war in 1948. He was told about the pain and bitterness his father had felt towards Osama’s grandfather’s death and the fact that Jews had occupied the land. Osama’s father’s health deteriorated and in 1982, when Osama was 17-years-old, his beloved father died which made life even more difficult. The occupation also made daily life anything but easy. Osama was never engaged in any resistance to the occupation and was not involved in any political party. He was simply just trying to make a living for himself and his family, yet still he was arrested three times. The last time was in 1990 when he was suspected of having taken part in shots that were fired against a settlers’ bus on its way to Hebron. When arrested, he was tortured by the investigators who used all kinds of means. Eventually they arrested the real perpetrators and Osama was released with an apology for the torture. Nike Air Max 2016 Goedkoop However, Osama’s personal story really begins when he met his wife Antisar, whose family was also deeply affected by the conflict. One of Antisar’s six brothers was wounded by a dumdum bullet that burst in his chest when he was 10-years-old. Another brother could not attend Osama’s and Antisar’s wedding in 1992 because he was imprisoned, and in 2002, another brother, Kamal, died at the age of 20. Kamal had sworn to take revenge on some Israeli soldiers that had stopped and beaten him severely at a checkpoint that he used to pass when going to work. However, he could not find the guilty soldiers and although he did not fire his gun, he was armed and as a result became a wanted man and eventually killed in April 2002. A vicious circle was established. Tayseer, Kamal’s younger brother swore to revenge his brother but a year later, Tayseer was also killed for the same reason as his brother. The deaths of her brothers broke Antisar down. Osama had to quit his job to take care of her and their children. A few months later, his wife’s condition had improved. One day Osama saw an Israeli car parked nearby his sister’s place where they had gone to visit. When he found out they were Jews he became angry with his sister who had brought home the same people that had killed his wife’s brothers. He was told that they also had lost dear ones in terrorist attacks and that they only wanted to speak with him. He was reluctant but decided to listen to what they had to say. He was told about the Forum of Bereaved Families and Osama finally agreed to join them as a member. When he told Antisar about the Forum and the people he had just met, she didn’t believe him, saying that Israelis are murderers and that they couldn’t understand her ache. But Osama got more involved and when he was invited to participate in a conference, he convinced his wife to join him together with his sister and her husband. There they met several bereaved families and Antisar got to speak to Israeli families who had also experienced loss. “She felt, for sure, that the pain was the same pain, the suffering the same suffering, and the tears the same tears with the same salty taste”.

 

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