Memory and peace 2019

פורסם: 13/05/2019 ב-אישי אבל ציבורי

[Following the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony by Combatants for Peace and Bereaved Families Forum],7340,L-5506659,00.html

When I went up to speak in front of more than 8,000 participants at the Joint Memorial Day ceremony, I knew that I would speak to an audience with open hearts and a great desire to take part in this "journey of life" – from bereavement to reconciliation.

But do I understand the protestors against the ceremony? Of course, I myself have been there, most of my life. When my father was killed in the Six-Day War, I resolved to avenge his blood. I knew that when I grew up, I would go to the army and have the chance to kill as many Arabs as possible. Flying my F4 Phantom plane I'll bomb them, shootdown their MiGs like flies and crush their camps. I was very serious about these romantic plans and even went to a military boarding school to prepare myself for my mission.

Then another war broke out, and another followed, and more operations, attacks, intifadas, peace processes, wars again. I understood the simple truth – the wars create bereavement, destruction and more rage, hurt families and produce circles of pain that spread like a stone in a puddle. No home in Israel has escaped these ripples of pain.

Yes, I understand the rage and hatred. I hated as only an eight-year-old could hate the enemy who killed his beloved father. But I understood that Kill the Arabs would not bring rest to the grieving soul or redemption to my aching heart. I understood that I had to try to break this vicious circle and this is how, about a decade ago, I joined the Bereaved Families Forum .

I do not delude myself for a moment that the Palestinians sitting with us are our brothers. They are also bereaved, lost brothers and sisters, sons or mothers, but they are still our enemies. I do not forget for a moment where I came from and what side of this conflict I belong to. I am an Israeli, a Zionist – they are Palestinian Arabs – and we are fighting over the same holy land. For them, sitting with us  is part of their struggle for Palestine, a nonviolent but still a struggle. And this struggle permeates our conversations, discussions and operations in the organization’s daily life. Participating in these discussions are colleagues in bereavement, enemies from both sides of the barricade – not lovers. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in establishing reconciliation and discourse capabilities that are a model for the entire world. We have found the way to overcome a bloody conflict, to acknowledge one another's needs, to respect our cultural, existential, religious and political differences.

There is a huge gap between us and them. As Israelis, we have fulfilled our desires for our independent state, and it is wonderful, developed and thriving. Our national needs have been fully realized and we are sending our children to the army with pride of victory over our tragic past. The young State of Israel was forced to fight for its existence, but our wars have long since produced neither security nor peace. The war being waged in our back yard is seen as one big terrorist act, a nuisance, a violation of the security and quiet we so desire.

For the Palestinians, the struggle for liberation represents their national, social and personal reality. They did not come to rest, and certainly not to the inheritance. Their daily life is existential fear and a struggle for survival. And we, who seem to us to be victims of the conflict, are seen to them as cruel rulers.

Wars always end in agreements. There is no point in a military victory that does not bring peace to all sides – the victors and the vanquished. We have not yet managed to transform all our strength and victories into a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This requires no additional technological means and security budgets, but courageous leaders who can sit with the enemy, look into his eyes, understand his language and needs and through determination, firmness and some concessions, to lead negotiations that will liberate the entire country from the cycles of bloodshed.

And if you do not know how, you're invited to us, we've been with the enemy for twenty years, not just on Memorial Day.

Yuval Rahamim
A member of Bereaved Families Forum,
Chairman of the Israeli Peace NGOs Forum

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