By sharing in sorrow, we can bring hope

Palestinian and Israeli bereaved family members uniting through the work of The Parents Circle - Family Forum (PCFF) (2019)' (Via Jewish News)
Palestinian and Israeli bereaved family members uniting through the work of The Parents Circle - Family Forum (PCFF) (2019)' (Via Jewish News)

Imagine sharing your deepest pain with the so-called “enemy”? Imagine turning an “other” into a partner in sorrow? Imagine walking together on a path towards reconciliation? Well this isn’t imaginary, it’s the very real mission of The Bereaved Families Forum (PCFF) – an Israeli-Palestinian grassroots organisation – which is bringing communities together in grief in more ways than one.

Last month Israelis and the Jewish diaspora once again commemorated the loss of Israeli soldiers. Now 70 years after first marking Yom HaZikaron, amidst the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they united to share in collective grief, sorrow and loss and to reflect as a community. In the same period, Palestinians also marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, reflecting on the ongoing grief they hold for the loss of home and life which has since formed part of Palestinian history and continues to shape the present.

As is often sadly the case, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’re often presented with such binaries and nothing else: the self vs. the enemy, Independence vs. the Nakba, military occupation vs. terrorism.

Indeed, these very different yet overlapping days of remembrance critically highlight the incredibly polarised narratives which surround the conflict – a conflict in which there is often no room for the lived experiences of “the other”. However, amongst the divisions, there are crucially also growing groups of people coming together; listening to “the other”, sharing their stories, empathising with them and working towards a resolution, not merely remembrance.

Last month, thousands of Israelis and their Palestinian neighbours gathered in Tel Aviv to mark these two anniversaries in a rather different way: by joining together in sorrow at the PCFF’s 13th joint Palestinian-Israeli memorial ceremony. Held on the eve of Yom HaZikaron and streamed worldwide for the world to see, this ceremony once again offered a critical beacon of hope in a divided region. Here, families from “both sides” came together to grieve as one and to build a future based on unity.

At the London screening of the joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv (Image: Yachad UK, 2019)

For many Israelis and Palestinians on the ground and diaspora communities alike, the idea of joining together with each other to share in grief may seem incredibly difficult to fathom. With the ongoing occupation of the West Bank coupled with the blockade on Gaza, unity with Israelis – above all in memory of fallen IDF soldiers – is not something that many Palestinians wish to be part of. Likewise, with continued violence erupting from Gaza and the West Bank (including recent events in Gaza and southern Israel) – and Yom HaZikaron specifically remembering fallen Israeli soldiers– such a ceremony may seem inappropriate for many Israelis and members of the Jewish diaspora.

The Parents Circle – Family Forum (PCFF) (2019)

However, with the ongoing occupation and violence on both sides continuing to heighten the wave of sorrow, grief and loss, Palestinians and Israelis have more in common than many people would believe and it’s recognising this sense of commonality that is the key to reconciliation and peace. Both Israelis and Palestinians know all too well that deep yearning for peace, for security, for critical self-determination and for independence free from war, violence and suffering. What’s more, for those who have lost family members – be they Palestinian or Israeli – the pain is even deeper. Such pain knows no nationality, no religion and no culture – merely the deep-seated loss of human life.

It’s heart-wrenchingly raw to hear the words of little Muhammed Ali Darwish, living in Aaida refugee camp in Bethlehem, recalling how his friend Abdul Rahman – not yet a teen – was shot and killed by an IDF soldier. Likewise, stories of children young and old, such as that of David – son of PCFF spokesperson Robi Damelin and studying in Tel Aviv – who was killed by a Palestinian sniper aged just 28, show us just how real and deep the pain of war, conflict and loss really is. It’s these shared stories, these dual realities and this collective sorrow which are critically laying bare the fact that we are both human.

Coming together and acknowledging “the other’s” pain is crucial. In sharing another’s grief and deciding not to replicate the circle of violence, such harrowing sorrow is presenting itself as a powerful force for change. Robi, Muhammed and many more within the PCFF are committed to peace – not revenge – and therefore a more stable, sustainable future for everyone.

נאומו של מוחמד דרוויש בטקס יום הזיכרון הישראלי-פלסטיני 2019

מוחמד דרוויש בן ה- 14 גר במחנה הפליטים עאידה, בית לחם. חברו הקרוב עבד אלרחמן שאדי עבדאללה ז״ל נהרג בשנת 2015 מכדור תועה בעת עימותים במחנה, והוא בן 10 בלבד. השבוע הוא נאם בטקס יום הזיכרון הישראלי-פלסטיני וסיפר: ״רק אחרי שהאנשים רצו לכיוונך והצטופפו סביבך, צועקים: ״הילד מת״, נודע מה קרה. התקרבתי ופילסתי את דרכי בין האנשים המצטופפים כדי לראות אותך מוטל, מתבוסס בדמך. איבדתי את התחושה של גופי וצעקתי עליך: "קום, עבד! מה קרה לך?" תוך רגעים ההמון לקח אותך ונעלמת לעד. היום אני יודע שבסכסוך המקולל הזה שמלא בשנאה וקנאה אף אחד לא יוצא דופן ואין רחמים אפילו לא על ילדים תמימים. חברי עבד אלרחמן: אני יודע טוב מאד שאתה יודע איפה אני עכשיו ושאני מדבר על אודותיך ושאני מספר על המוות שלך לאלפי אנשים אשר מאמינים בחיים ובאנושיות, שתדע, שלא מתת לשווא. חברי הקטן עבד אלרחמן, כדור אחד סיים 12 שנה של חברות, צחוקים, משחקים. אני מבטיח לך שאני מספר על המוות שלך כדי להחזיר את החיים למסלול האנושי שלהם ובשנים האחרונות אני בוחר להנציח אותך באמצעות פעילות למען השלום.״צפו ושתפו את נאומו המלא של מוחמד –>محمد درويش إبن ال 14 سنة، يعيش في مخيم عايدة للاجئين، بيت لحم. قُتل صديقه الحميم عبد الرحمن شادي عبد الله (رحمة الله عليه) سنة 2015 برصاصة طائشة خلال مواجهات في المخيم. وكان بسن ال 10 فقط. هذا الأسبوع، ألقى كلمة في إحياء الذكرى السنوية الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي، فقال: "فقط بعد أن ركض الناس باتجاهك وتجمهروا حولك، صارخين: "الولد مات"، علمت بما حصل. إقتربت وشققت طريقي بين المتجمهرين كي أراك ملقياً، تسبح وسط دمائك. فقدتُ الشعور بجسدي وصرخت عليك: "إنهض، عبد! شو صارلك؟" خلال ثوانٍ، أخذتك الجموع واختفيت للأبد. أعي اليوم أنه في هذا الصراع الملعون المليء بالكراهية والحسد، لا أحد مستثنى ولا شفقة حتى على الأطفال الأبرياء. صديقي عبد الرحمن: أعلم أنك تعرف جيداً أين أنا الآن وأنني أتحدث عنك وعن موتك لآلاف الأشخاص الذين يؤمنون بالحياة وبالإنسانية، إعلم أنك لم تمت سدى. صديقي الصغير عبد الرحمن، رصاصة واحدة أنهت 12 سنة من الصداقة، الضحكات، الألعاب. أعدك أنني أتحدث عن موتك كي أعيد الحياة إلى مسارها الإنساني، وفي السنوات الأخيرة، أختار أن أخلّد ذكراك بواسطة العمل من أجل السلام." شاهدوا وعمموا كلمة محمد الكاملة –>

פורסם על ידי ‏פורום המשפחות השכולות Parents Circle Families Forum منتدى العائلات الثكلى‏ ב- יום שישי, 10 במאי 2019

Here in the UK, we can learn a lot. Weaponised by some and misunderstood by many in the Jewish, Palestinian and even wider Muslim communities, we’ve all seen how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also dividing people and creating conflict close to home. We must therefore come together, just as Palestinians and Israelis are doing, in support of conflict resolution in Israel and Palestine and more harmonised relations here in the UK too.

By acknowledging, understanding and sharing our (different) stories, experiences, pain and grief, we can build a better future founded on hope, friendship and tolerance, instead of fear, hatred and division. For as the late Amos Oz so honestly said: “A conflict begins and ends in the hearts and minds of people…

So, let’s unite – for by sharing in sorrow, we can bring hope.

About the Author
Elizabeth Arif-Fear is a writer, activist and British Muslim. She is a member of the steering committee for the UK Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum (FBFF).
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