This weekend a series of meetings between Jewish and Palestinian families was held under the auspices of the "Parents Circle," a group connecting bereaved families from both sides.
The Palestinians listened to the accounts of families of individuals who were killed by Qassam rockets, while the Israelis heard stories from Palestinian parents who have lost their children in the West Bank village of Naalin. Both sides agreed that peace must prevail to stop the bloodshed.
"Our organization is very special," said Nir Oren, the Israeli chairman of the Parents Circle. "Everyone of us has lost a family member as a result of the conflict. Each one of us is working for peace so that neither side will gain more bereaved families."
The delegation at the Kdoshim family home (Photo: Sharon Mishkyer)
Oren said that on Saturday a group of 20 Palestinians and 10 Israelis visited the Kibbutz Kfar Aza home of the late Jimmy Kdoshim, who was killed by a mortar round. "The encounter was exciting, and everyone sympathized with the pain Jimmy's family was going through and the fear of rockets that still looms over this kibbutz," he said.
The second encounter took place in the village of Naalin. The group visited the homes of Ahmed Musa and Yousef Amera, who were killed during demonstrations against the construction of Israel's security barrier. "They (Palestinians) told us about how the (security) fence is affecting their daily life, we toured the area where the fence will be constructed and heard their reservations," added Oren.
"We are dealing with people who are losing their livelihood. Ahmed's father told us that he is only interested in peace, his land and bringing the person who shot his son to justice. It's only been 40 days and he is speaking with a tone of appeasement," he said.
Oren added, "the residents of the village understand the security interest in putting up the fence and they are only fighting to change its route. The Israeli group even had a settler who told us stories about living with the Palestinians from the village."
'Get dialogue going 'After the meeting, a ceremony was held in Beit Jala where peace activists were cited for their work. One of the recipients was Ismail Hatib, who donated his son's organs to an Israeli. Hatib said, "The most important thing in the world is human life. If I lost my son and I can help another human being, Israeli or Palestinian, that is what is important."
Co-chairman Abu Awwad then spoke about his delegation's experiences while visiting Kibbutz Kfar Aza and said, "We talked to the residents about the co-existence and agricultural cooperation that occurred prior to the year 2000 and how the only contact now is through violence.
"We later visited Jimmy Kdoshim's widow. It was very difficult to hear about her experiences. She lives with the images of the event and we can sympathize with her because we have all been there. My brothers were killed by the IDF, everyone in the Palestinian delegation sympathized and opened up about their own experiences," he said.
"What makes her story more tragic," said the Palestinian chairman, "is that she and her husband worked towards peace and deliberation between the two sides.
"We continued to discuss the different factors and the situation itself and how we can promote dialogue. The important thing is that we get dialogue going between us, the ordinary people. We need to understand each other, with the main problem being the dislike for the different. As soon as we change that, we can move that change further up the ladder," said Abu Awwad.