“We All Spoke About Pain”

For many years MCC has been a close friend of The Parents Circle–Families Forum, which encourages dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. 

“In 1967, I was five years old. My parents, my five sisters and my two brothers and I lived in Jenin. We had to flee to Amman. My mother carried my little brother in her arms; my sisters were at her sides. 

I saw an Israeli plane approaching. It returned in less than one minute and sent a bomb. There were bodies everywhere. I looked at my mother and my little brother, whose face was cut into two. My sister Salwa’s leg was cut in two; she had also lost some of her fingers. Many metal splinters penetrated her body in different places. Metal splinters also penetrated my leg. My sister Asma was killed.

Since then, not a day, not a moment passed, that I thought I would ever speak to an Israeli. There was in me only blood, pain, and violence.

[Later in life], I was surprised to discover that there were meetings between [Israelis and Palestinians]. A man told of the death of his son in the explosion of a bus. The fact of seeing an Israeli feeling pain and loss led me to speak with him, to tell him what had happened to my family.

[Israeli and Palestinian families] all spoke about pain, and of what we had not gained with violence. That influenced me a great deal. I saw that there was a human aspect, which I was to discover more of. As of this moment, I felt that I had a mission, a national duty. The Israeli community must be able to see in me somebody who holds tightly onto the hand of peace.”

Jalal Khudiari is a Palestinian from Jenin.

“I came to Israel from South Africa in 1967. On March 3, 2002, my son David was killed by a [Palestinian] sniper, along with nine other people. It is impossible to describe what it is to lose a child. Your whole life is totally changed forever. It’s not that I’m not the same person I was. I’m the same person with a lot of pain. Wherever I go, I carry this with me.

The more time went by the more I wanted to work somewhere to make a difference. These past years have been an incredible experience for me. I’ve learned such a lot for my own personal growth, apart from the work I’m doing, which is almost the reason I get up in the morning, actually.

It was the beginning of understanding how not to be patronizing; that’s a really easy trap to fall into in this kind of work–“I know what’s best for the Palestinians, let me tell them what to do.” It took me time to understand, to look at the differences in temperament, in culture. 

It’s something I feel almost duty-bound to be doing; it’s not a favor that I’m doing for anyone else but a personal mission almost. I know this works. I believe removing the stigma from each side and getting to know the person on the other side allows for a removal of fear, and a way to understand that a long-term reconciliation process is possible.”

Robi Damelin is an Israeli who lives in Tel Aviv.

Read more stories at theparentscircle.org.

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