Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Families Support Reconciliation and Tolerance

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Many Israeli and Palestinian families have lost their loved ones due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. A special forum was formed for Israelis and Palestinians who have lost someone dear in the conflict. Our correspondent visited one the forum meetings for our next story.

A forum for bereaved families -- only Israelis and Palestinians who have lost someone dear in the conflict between the parties can participate in it.

They come together in order to talk and persuade school children and adults in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority to step away from the path of war and to choose peace, reconciliation and tolerance.

The only place where Israelis and Palestinians can meet without a certificate from the army is at the Everest Hotel in Beit Jala, near Jerusalem.

This time they came to hear the Conservative Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who came all the way from London to be with them.

[Tsurit Sarig, Bereaved Mother]:
"I lost my oldest son 14 years ago at the Western Wall tunnel in Jerusalem."

[Zurit Sarig, Bereaved Mother]:
"When we sat at home feeling that our world got ruined, with the terrible pain and a thought of how to keep on going from here, a heavy feeling of anger accompanied it. We had the feeling that if we let anger redirect our lives, we would not be able to live our lives at all. We joined the bereaved families forum, so that other families would not have to go through what we went through."

A Palestinian resident of Hebron, who lost two brothers, tells us in fluent Hebrew why he established the Palestinian branch of the bereaved families forum.

It was after bereaved families from Israel came to visit him at his home in 2002.

[Halad Abu Awad, Co-Executive Director, Bereaved Families Forum]:
"We realized that these people want peace between the two sides, Israelis and Palestinians. In each of their stories, I felt the pain was in their hearts."

The guest at the meeting is neither an Israeli, nor a Palestinian.

He is a Conservative rabbi who came to tell the story of his journey from Frankfurt on foot in order to study Jewish history on the banks of the Rhine River.

He tells the audience about his thoughts while he was walking.

[Jonathan Wittenberg, Conservative Rabbi]:
"Try not just to be on the Israeli side and try not just to be on the Palestinian side, please be on the human side because that is what we all are.

"Does the meeting between the bereaved families help participants?

[Halad Abu Awad, Co-Executive Director, Bereaved Families Forum]:
"Every day one needs to renew his faith in a harsh reality we live in. The meeting with the other always has an effect. It is to meet the witnesses from the other side, to get to know them. It is to hear them directly rather than through the pipeline or other media, but from a living human being. It's powerful, it's always the most powerful for me."

The key is society's ability to recognize diversity among its people.

[Jonathan Wittenberg, Conservative Rabbi]:
"... is the ability of the society to include, the ability of the society to have people participate fully and equally, whose religion, whose family, whose story are different."

In conclusion, despite the pain of bereavement, there is a message of optimism.

[Tsurit Sarig, Bereaved Mother]:
"If we, Palestinians and Israelis, each of us who have lost a loved one, can talk, -- then anyone can. Our leaders must do it."

Reporter:Aviva Grunpeter Photographer:Michael Ash

NTD News, Beit Jalla near Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority

Views: 1067


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Comment by Marie Russell-Barker on December 4, 2012 at 3:21pm

Humans first I think the people of these two countries want peace except for a few that are in power who are not listing. What is a piece of land to die for or start a war for it is not worth humans lives.  We all deserves peace and prosperity.  War brings on hate for another this can be solved by sitting down with each other and actually listing to what they each want not one take is  all a compromise is a good thing not bad at all it shows the humanity side of those who are in power. 

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