When was the first time you met a Palestinian?
Ninety minutes of listening with the heart can reverse prejudices and break down walls of years of alienation. This honest truth is the basis for our Dialogue Meetings. A ninety minute, frank dialogue on bereavement and loss, anger, compassion and reconciliation as a result. Ninety minutes with inquisitive teens who are meeting “the enemy” for the first time and realizing that he or she is just like me. Thousands of students are exposed every year to the notion that reconciliation is possible despite what they were told. For twenty years, Israeli and Palestinian members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum have been invited to schools to demonstrate a different side of the existence that can and should be here. Just last month we met 11th grade students at Leyada High School who later said:
“It’s not every day we have a chance to listen to a Palestinian. Especially someone from a bereaved family. It was very painful to hear them speaking. It was a very emotional experience and the powerful message that resulted from the encounter is to listen”.
“I felt it was the first time we had a discussion where the other side was listened to and empathized with. The encounter enriched my perspective and attitude. It’s different when you hear someone from the other side talking about their experience themselves, as opposed to hearing of it. The understanding is then much more powerful”.
“It was a very moving and significant experience. I’d like there to be more. Seeing things from the Palestinian perspective really opened my eyes. It all starts and ends with knowing the people. Without a discourse we can’t create peace and I’m going to share my exciting experiences from the encounter with my family and friends”.
“The encounter provided an opportunity to discuss the differences between us and the prospect of coexistence and brotherhood. I leave the encounter with many sentences and facts that I think will guide me through life”.
“I benefited from my participation. I left with a sense of hope and optimism. The encounter enlightened me on the Palestinian side and brought home values of love of fellow man, empathy and peace”.
“It was important to hear the stories though it was hard to hear them. And the discourse between the facilitators and students was informative and enriching and it impacted me and will continue to do so in the future. The conflict affects everyone’s life and as the next generation that will have to deal with it and decide where we go from here, we must learn about the other side”.
Even if at times background noise accompanies the meetings, their educational contribution in shaping the personalities of the teens is undoubted. The principals who believe that high school students are strong and wise enough to contain a complex discourse, continue to invite us back year after year.
Interview with the PCFF Co-General Directors pursuant to the extreme right-wing protest
Osama Abu-Ayash and Yuval Rahamim, Co-General Directors of the Forum, in an interview on MAKO-Arabic (with subtitles in Hebrew and Arabic)
A huge thank you to all the contributors – from now, on you are partners too!
About the 2021 New Year’s fundraising campaign
Thanks to you we raised over NIS 120,000 to fund our most significant activity – the Dialogue Meetings. Knowing that you believe in our cause and refuse to surrender to the demoralizing reality, gives us the strength to carry on. Your funds help us bring our message to places we have not yet been to. With your help we will prove that yes, there is someone to talk to.
Tree planting in memory of 20 Israelis and Palestinians killed in the conflict
Once again on Tu BeShvat we planted trees; due to the Sabbath Year, we planted only on Palestinian land (The Sabbath year is when agricultural activity is forbidden by Jewish law)
It has become a tradition. Every year, on Tu BeShvat, PCFF members plant olive trees in memory of the victims of the conflict on both sides. Mothers and fathers, boys and girls, brothers and sisters, dig holes with shovels and hands for the saplings of peace. There is something moving about their insistence to keep up hope. There is something embarrassing about the fact that it is them trying to convince us all that it is possible. People for whom the conflict is not a political issue, rather a scar in their souls that tells their life story.
Visit to the home of the al-Halak family
This month Forum members visited the al-Halak family in Wadi al-Joz in Jerusalem. Their 30 year old son Iyad, who suffered from autism, was shot and killed two years ago by Border Police.
Iyad’s parents talked about their son who had the mental development of a nine year old. He understood what’s going on around him, but was very scared by noises and crowds. Iyad studied to be a cook and that awful day he walked to the school for the last time to get his certification and work at one of the hotels in Jerusalem. Iyad very much wanted to get married and had a girlfriend who studied in the same class. The wedding was supposed to take place in the period between the holidays and their house was all ready for them in the al-Azariya neighborhood.
They talk repeatedly of the horrible way in which Iyad was shot for no reason by a Border Police soldier. The trial of said soldier that is taking place now reopens the tormented family’s wounds. Iyad’s uncle talked about the pain and suffering of Iyad’s parents and sisters, both special-ed teachers.
Osama Abu-Ayash, the Palestinian Co-General Director of the Forum said: “We are here to tell you that we are with you. Both sides lost loved ones because of the Occupation. Ours is a path of peace and dialogue alone.”
Yuval Rahamin, the Israeli Co-General Director of the Forum invited Iyad’s family to join the ranks of the organization and add their voices and pain to the Forum’s message of preventing further bereavement on both sides.
When we parted, Iyad’s parents said we are always welcome in their home. They hope and pray that the conflict will end and we can all live in peace.