Israeli and Palestinian Victims
Break Cycle of Violence
The recent violence in Israel and Gaza is threatening to spiral into yet
another cycle of reprisals and counter-reprisals in this long and
intractable conflict. This ceaseless reality of violence, which has
engulfed Israelis and Palestinians for decades, has already caused
terrible damage severely affecting the social and cultural fabric of
both societies and substantially degrading the relationships between
I lost my beloved son David in this bloody conflict. He was pursuing a
master’s degree in the Philosophy of Education. He was part of the peace
movement and did not want to serve in the Occupied Territories when he
was called up for reserve duty.
For me, dialoguing with students in schools about reconciliation has
become the most meaningful way of commemorating his name.
I belong to a unique grassroots organization called the Parents
Circle—Families Forum (PCFF), comprised of Israelis and Palestinians who
have lost immediate family members to the conflict. We come from all
walks of life with one thing in common: we share the same pain and
recognize that if we—Palestinians and Israelis who have paid the
ultimate price—can understand the need for a non-violent solution to
this conflict then surely this belief can serve as an example for
Our long-term goal is to create a framework for a reconciliation process
that would be incorporated into any future political peace agreement.
Our power stems from the collaborative work of our members—now more than
600 families—half of which are Palestinian and the other half Israelis.
Our most important ongoing work on the ground is conducting dialogue
meetings in schools. They allow us to reach more than 25,000 students
every year. We speak to 16- and 17-year-old Palestinian and Israeli
students who, for the most part, have not met anyone from the “other
side.” Coming into a classroom of Jewish-Israeli students with a
Palestinian partner who tells his or her personal story and journey to
reconciliation opens their eyes to the humanity and narrative of the
For Jewish-Israeli students, this occasion may be the first opportunity
to hear what the daily life of a Palestinian living under occupation is
all about. For the Palestinians, this may also be their first encounter
with an Israeli not in an army uniform or who is not a settler.
Anyone attending a meeting with members of the Parents Circle cannot be
immune to the deep sense of trust between us. They listen to Nasra from
Nablus who lost two sons, together with Roni from Tel Aviv, who has also
lost two sons in the conflict. Together they stand in front of hundreds,
sharing their determination to prevent others from experiencing this
loss. This joint, heartfelt plea must be an example to all.
One of the most important elements we feel is missing in the
Arab-Israeli discourse is real human stories. For this reason, we have
recently introduced a program that uses personal narratives to build
trust, empathy and mutual understanding between Palestinians and
Israelis through a parallel narrative experience. The program offers an
opportunity for hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis to tell their
stories, sharing the most difficult consequences of the conflict.
Our latest efforts focus on social media as a means to cross the
forbidden border and create conversation between people on both sides of
the conflict. Called “A Crack in the Wall,” this initiative allows
Israelis and Palestinians to engage, tell their stories and get to know
one another directly. One Palestinian speaks, and 100,000 Israelis will
listen; one Israeli speaks, and 100,000 Palestinians will listen.
Our personal experiences have led us to a strong belief that any peace
agreement achieved between the Israelis and Palestinians cannot be
sustained without a substantial reconciliation process between the two
We have all watched politicians signing peace agreements on the lawn of
the White House, but this effort has led only to a ceasefire. We
understand that we must create the possibility for people to understand
the needs of “the other.” We have studied many other countries and have
realized that without a people-to-people peace process and a framework
for reconciliation that will suit the cultural needs of the two peoples
this conflict will go on forever.
In this period of uncertainty and change, we cannot afford to give up
hope and wait for new leaders. We who best understand the consequences
of violence will continue to work for the human dignity and freedom for
* Robi Damelin is a member of the Parents Circle—Families Forum,
Bereaved Palestinian and Israeli Families for Reconciliation. This
article is part of a series on the consequences of terrorism written for
the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, March 29, 2011, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.