OPINION: No reminder needed

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OPINION: No reminder needed

Robi Damelin, who lost her beloved son David to a sniper, reflects victims of terror around the world from the perspective of a parent

Robi Damelin
Robi Damelin

Today is the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. However, no-one who has lost a child, a mother or father, brother or sister, to a violent conflict needs a special day to be reminded. Every day is a commemoration, every day you feel that your heart is being torn out. What are the choices you make? Some die with their loss, not physically, but remain in their pain. Some chose to take that pain and harness it into action to prevent further loss. We, that is the Israeli and Palestinian bereaved members of The Parents Circle – Families Forum, chose to take this pain and use it to prevent further bloodshed and loss through dialouge and educating the next generation.

The pain of loss is the same for everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity or color. The tears that fall onto a graveside, whether they be from a Palestinian or an Israeli mother, are the same color. Once we understood this, we knew that our voices, if we could stand on the same stage, that is, bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, and shout out for non-violence and reconciliation, could act as a catalyst for changing hearts and minds.

We understand the sanctity of human life, and that nothing, no piece of land no matter how precious can make up for the loss we have experienced. We know that the violence must stop or else we will share this land with graves and monuments. More wars and violence will not bring peace; we must plan for a framework for a reconciliation process to be an integral part of any future political peace agreement, otherwise, at best, all we can expect is a cease fire, until the next time. This is the reason for our work.  It is to prepare the public for a reconciliation process in the future.

Hope is a really important component of what we do in the Parents Circle – Families Forum.We understand that without hope there can be no future of peace.  All the work we do for the general public, on both sides of the conflict, in Palestine and Israel, is geared to bringing another alternative to the ongoing violence. We use our personal transformations and stories to illustrate to all who listen all over the globe, that people can change, and if we – who have paid the highest price – can find a way to reconciliation and understanding, then surely this could be an example to all.

We believe that education of the next generation to peace and reconciliation is the key for creating hope. Therefore, one of our main mission is to go into schools all over Israel. A Palestinian member of the group and an Israeli go into a classroom of 17-year-old students. Almost all of the class has never spoke with a Palestinian before. They are shocked when they hear a personal story of loss and a choice for non-violence and reconciliation. This is not what they have been fed on the media or by society in general.  They might  not become  peace activists instantly, but we do know that they get a chance to see the humanity in the other and perhaps they will take that experience into their military service the next year. We do the same work in clubs and houses in Palestine.  When starting a dialogue group in a private house one can feel a sense of hostility at the start, but after hearing our personal stories, there is a change in attitude. After all, most of the people we meet in Palestine have never met and spoke with an ordinary Israeli civilian, all they know are soldiers and settlers.

I wish you could have been a fly on the wall at the summer camp last week which was our annual camp for Palestinian and Israeli youth. Some of these Palestinian children lived in a village where a 10-year-old boy was killed by a soldier a few days before.  They were reluctant to join, but their parents and the Director of the Parents Circle persuaded them to go.  It took approximately 24 hours for them to understand how important it was for them to join together with Israeli children and to share their sadness. Nobody wanted to go home at the end of the camp.

There is a powerful women’s group working within the Parents Circle – Families Forum. They had not met since the beginning of Covid 19 and finally were able to meet in the West Bank. There was such a sense of joy for these Palestinian and Israeli women to meet in person after such a long time. It should be said however, that using Zoom has its advantages. No one has to ask permission from the authorities that be, to travel to Israel, and we could visit each other with safety and dignity with no one to stop us.

Our families chose life and hope over anger and revange and dedicated our life to peace and education. I want on this International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism that people will remember that the way to prevent future violence lay in dialouge and education rather then hate and revange.

  • The writer is Robi Damelin, who lost her beloved son David. She is a part of the Parents Circle-Families Forum



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