Parents Circle – Families Forum
Μια οργάνωση, που αποτελείται από εκατοντάδες οικογένειες Παλαιστινίων και Ισραηλινών, θύματα και των δυο πλευρών της σύρραξης στη Μέση Ανατολή. Επισκεφτείτε το site τους, διαβάστε τις προσωπικές ιστορίες. Η δουλειά που κάνουν, γίνεται και στο Ισραήλ και στην Παλαιστίνη, αγγίζοντας και τις δυο κοινότητες. Ενδεικτικές οι δύο που βάζω εδώ, στο site τους θα βρείτε κι άλλες πολλές…
Osama Abu Ayash
To all who are interested, my name is Osama Taleb Abed El Magid Abu Ayash. I was born and live in the village Beit Omar – Hebron. I was born on 11/02/1966, had a usual childhood and went to Primary school in the village. I learned to read and write and many other things about life. I got to know my relatives and my mother’s family who come from Nablus (Shechem). I came to know my country, my national home Palestine.
When I was eight years old I learned that my father did only light work as he had a heart condition as a result of having lost his father in the war on 12/05/1948 on our land in Etzion together with two of his uncle’s children and six fighters from the village.
My father told me of the pain and bitterness he felt after his father had fallen and the land was occupied by the Jews. He told me about the occupation of all of Palestine, about the ‘48 war and the ’67 war. I was then one year old and he carried me and walked with my mother, my grandmother, and me to the cave, which existed on the land owned by us in the name of Abu Ayash. The cave exists till today. My father was sickly and I was always worried that I would lose him. I loved him very much and could not imagine a situation that I would have to live without him.
I was 9 years old in 1975 when my father had a second stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. Life became unbearable and my father’s imminent death was closer than ever according to the doctors. I remained at school and worked after school with my mother on the land. We had many different fruit trees and we sold the fruit for our livelihood. My mother began to work at home on a manual-weaving machine and the burden of upkeep of our large family was hers alone. The burden was heavy. Our family consisted of our father and mother, 5 sons and 3 daughters. I am the eldest. Our standard of living went from bad to worse until we barely had bread to eat due to the expenses on treatments that my father needed. He died in 1982. He was born in 1922. I was seventeen in the eleventh grade so I left school and started to work in difficult jobs such as driving a tractor and such like. With my salary we bought a new electric weaving machine and then I went back to school and continued working. I continued to study and worked as a plasterer. I obtained a diploma in psychology but did not work in that profession.
Life was not easy. Everything was difficult because the occupation did not leave me in peace. I was arrested three times, the last time in 1990, an event I remember well and will never forget because the investigators invented all sorts of ways and means to hurt me mentally and physically. The methods used were: to leave me naked, put me into a small cupboard, they used electricity, hot and freezing water, tied my hands and feet whilst I was standing, not letting me go to the bathroom so I dirtied myself. The suspected me of having taken part in shots that were fired on a settlers’ bus on the way to Hebron. The perpetrators were apprehended and I was released and the investigator apologized to me for the torture I had been through. I did not belong to any political organization and did not participate in resistance to the occupation. I was investigated simply because I was busy trying to feed my large family. I started to take an interest in the Fatah movement after they chose the path of Oslo and peace .
I got married in 1992. My wife is from a simple and good family from Nablus consisting of 6 sons and 4 daughters. One brother, Louis, was wounded by a dumdum which burst in his breast when he and his sister, my wife, were watching the soldiers from the window of their house. He was 10 when he was wounded in 1988. My wife’s eldest brother was not present at our wedding as he was imprisoned for four years. He was released a year later. A second brother, Kamal, was 20 years old when he fell on 6.4.2002.
Kamal’s story and his joining the resistance in Nablus began when he was 18 and worked for a garage not far from his home. He used to walk to work and one day on the way home Israeli soldiers stopped him and checked and interrogated him. They asked for his I.D.’ asked where he had come from and what his destination was and he answered. One soldier asked: “why are you laughing? And he answered: I am not laughing. I just have a smiling face. He soldier insisted, you are laughing at me and besides what is all the black stuff on your hands, were you preparing a bomb or a belt? No, Kamal answered, it is dirt caused by my work at the garage. You can come to the garage and see. The soldiers starting beating him with their hands and feet and their guns until he fell on the road. They left him bleeding and went on their way.
Kamal did not die but he was badly wounded and lost a lot of blood from his ear. Eyewitnesses and passers by took him to the hospital in Nablus where he told his family and friends what had happened and what he thought about it. He decided to take his revenge on these soldiers even if it would cost him his life. He said to his friends that he has a job, and he has money with which he will buy a gun, that he will search for the soldiers and take revenge. He felt that he would never forget their villainous faces.
Kamal was released from hospital and did what he threatened to do. He bought a gun and started looking for the soldiers. Everyone knows that the soldiers are rotated and Kamal did not find the same soldiers. He did not shoot at other soldiers even after a year of carrying a gun. However, because he was armed he became a wanted man by the Israeli forces who had heard that he was armed from collaborators. Kamal was wanted until he was slain on 6/4/2002 when he was 20. He was killed but they did not succeed in disarming him. Tayseer, his brother aged 19 inherited the gun and he decided to revenge his brother, Kamal. Tayseer fell a year later for the same reason and by the same method.
The importance of the above story is what happened to my wife after she lost her brother Tayseer on 1/5/2003. On that day I was working on a cement truck. Shaab, also my wife’s brother, called me and told me what had happened to Tayseer and requested me to bring my wife to Nablus but to tell her that Tayseer was badly wounded and not that he was killed for fear that she will collapse on hearing the bad news. I immediately returned home and found her crying because someone had told her that Tayseer was wounded. I took our four daughters to my mother’s house and we left for Nablus. The journey was difficult because of the curfew, the checkpoints and the obstructions. It took us 10 hours to get to Nablus as opposed to 2 hours normally. We transferred from vehicle to vehicle and walked until we reached the family home. We saw lots of people milling around the house and my wife felt at once that Tayseer was not wounded but was dead. Tayasir’s body was still in cold storage in the hospital. My wife broke down completely and we called a doctor who gave her a tranquilizer and other pills but she insisted on seeing her brother. In the hospital she saw her dearest and best loved brother for the last time. On the following day we took the body from the cold storage to be buried. We stayed one more day and returned, with the same difficulties, to Beit Omar.
At home the real problem began. The tranquilizers had lost their effect and Antisar, became befuddled, screamed, cried and called for Kamal and Tayseer. She began to act wildly. Our little girls saw their mother’s behavior and also started shouting and crying. We again called a doctor to give her more tranquilizers. I left my job and stayed with her because she was in a very bad state. The social worker was no help. As I had stopped working and we had no money our lives became very difficult since here in Palestine there is no one to help the numerous victims. A few months later, my wife’s condition improved and I wanted to take her out in the car for a drive.
Outside I saw an Israeli car parked nearby the house of my sister and her husband Razi. I asked who the visitors were. When I heard that they were Jews I said to Razi: how can you bring home Jews who killed your brother, have you forgotten his blood? He told me that his visitors had lost dear ones in a terrorist attack. Please, he said, they are here enter and speak to them. If they don’t find favor in your eyes you can leave. I said that I will not leave and it is they who will go and not return. However, when I entered I met someone by the name of Rami Elchanan who respectfully stood to greet me. He shook my hand. I felt as though he was about to kiss me. I asked: what he is you doing here? Aren’t you afraid? He said: aren’t we all human beings? He started to tell me how he had lost his beloved daughter and how much he missed her. He encouraged me to speak about our pain. He told me that he recognizes the Palestinian pain and feels that it is imperative that a Palestinian state be established. It is necessary to put a stop to the occupation. He told me that he is working to that end with the Forum of bereaved families both Palestinian and Israeli. Rami spoke about the Forum, its members, objectives and activities. His words were strong and convincing. I also told him about our loss. He invited us to join the Forum, to become members. I said I would join but that my wife is in a bad state. I agreed to become a member of the Forum at that moment. Later I told my wife about the meeting with Rami and told her that there are Israeli families who suffer and cry when they lose their dear ones. She did not believe me and said they are murderers and don’t cry but let the Palestinians cry.
In time I got to know about the Forum more thoroughly and believed in their message. I was invited to participate in a conference under the heading; Conciliation. The participants were from Israel and Jordan, people who had chosen the path of Peace. I persuaded my wife to join me and my sister and her husband, Razi, also accompanied us. There we met additional bereaved families. My wife was amazed to see Salma the Israeli Druze who lost her brother and two sons who were serving in Zahal and were killed in Lebanon.
On the second day of the conference, my wife Antisar wandered amongst the participants chatting to them in English. When we met at the end of the day, she told me she had spoken to bereaved Israeli families and heard their stories. She felt, for sure, that the pain was the same pain, the suffering the same suffering, and the tears the same tears with the same salty taste. I couldn’t believe that this was my wife talking in this vein. She asked how could she become a member of the Forum. She did not know that I had become a member from the first meeting in Raz’i’s house and I explained that I was unable to tell her at the time because of the difficult state she was in. Thus we both became members of the Bereaved Families’ Forum. My wife succeeded in enlisting her parents, brothers and sisters as well as tens of bereaved families in Nablus as members of the Forum.
This is my personal story and I pray to God that we will be able to pass on the message of the Forum, to prevent bereavement that the nations of the area are suffering from, and to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the manner which we believe in and will reach an agreement which honors the national rights of both sides.
With high hopes,
Osama Abu Ayash
I came to Israel from South Africa in 1967; I came as a volunteer after the Six Day War, thinking I’d be here for about six months. I really wanted to leave South Africa because I’d been active in the anti-apartheid movement and it was getting very pressured and ugly. I actually wanted to live in the States, then I came here and I’ve had this sort of love-hate relationship with this country ever since. I went to a Hebrew language program, got married and had two kids, worked for the Jerusalem Post, and then with immigrants to help them find employment. After I got divorced I came to live in Tel Aviv.
I brought up my children in a very tolerant and loving liberal way; David and Eran, it was kind of like a triangle– the three of us. David went to the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts because he was a very gifted musician. Out of his whole class he was probably the only one who went to the army. I was really surprised when he chose that, but I think you can’t take responsibility for somebody else’s life, even if it is your child. Even in his regular army service David was torn because he didn’t want to serve in the Occupied Territories. He became an officer and was called to go to Hebron. He was in a terrible quandary and came to me and said, “What the hell am I going to do? I don’t want to be there.” I said, “If you want to go to jail I’ll support you, but are you going to make a difference if you go to jail” Because basically, if he were sent to jail, when he got out they’d put him somewhere else [in the Occupied Territories]. It’s a never-ending story. If it would have created a huge noise then maybe that would have been the right choice; but you can also go [to your military post] and lead by example, by treating people around you with respect.
I saw the scars in both of my children after serving the military, from having to be in the first intifada. They grew up in a home that never made any fuss over one’s creed or color; we just liked people. All through this army service that was what happened all the time [debating whether to serve in the Territories], and then this group was formed of officers that did not want to serve in the Occupied Territories and David joined and went to all the demonstrations; he was also part of the peace movement.
After the army David went to Tel Aviv University and studied philosophy and psychology and then started to do his Masters in Philosophy of Education. He was teaching philosophy at a pre-military program for potential social leaders and he was also teaching at Tel Aviv University. Then he got called up for miluim and the whole issue came up again: he doesn’t want to go, if he goes he doesn’t want to serve in the Occupied Territories. If he doesn’t go he’s letting his soldiers down, what kind of example is it for these kids who are going to be inducted into the army in two months, if he goes he would treat anybody, any Palestinian, with respect, and so would his soldiers by his example. I said, “Maybe you are setting a good example [by refusing to go]” and he said, “I can’t let my soldiers down and if I don’t go someone else will and will do terrible things.” I keep telling everybody that there isn’t really black and white.
David went to his reserve service and I was filled with a terrible premonition, of fear I suppose. He called me on that Saturday and said, “I have done everything to protect us. You know I love my life, but this is a terrible place, I feel like a sitting duck.” He never shared that kind of stuff with me, ever. My kids never told me what they were doing in the army. They always told me ridiculous stories thinking that I was going believe them. The next morning I got up very early and ran to work hours before I had to be there. I didn’t want to be at home, I had a very restless feeling.
David was killed by a sniper, along with nine other people. They were at a checkpoint, a political checkpoint, near Ofra. Two days after he was killed it was pulled down; they removed the checkpoint. I suppose all of my life I spoke about coexistence and tolerance. That must be ingrained in me because one of the first things I said is, “You may not kill anybody in the name of my child.” I suppose that’s quite unusual, an expected reaction to that kind of news.
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. You try to run away at the beginning, but you can’t. I went overseas. I went to India, I came back again, but it just goes with you wherever you go. I had a PR office and I was working with National Geographic and the History Channel and food and wine and all the good things in life, as well as with coexistence projects with Palestinian-Israeli citizens. I wasn’t particularly politically involved, it was much more on a social level: animal welfare, children, coexistence projects. I always did a lot of volunteer work; I put a lot into those kinds of things, it’s always been a part of who I am. But my work began to lose all joy for me. My priorities changed completely. To sit in a meeting and decide whether a wine should be marketed in one way or another became totally irrelevant to me; I couldn’t bear it. I was just very lucky, I had wonderful girls working with me in the office and they really ran the office for me for a year until I decided I couldn’t bear it anymore, and I closed the office.
Yitzhak Frankenthal had come to speak to me; he was the founder of the Bereaved Families Forum. I wasn’t sure that was the path I wanted to take, but I went to a seminar. There were a lot of Israelis and Palestinians from the group there and I didn’t really feel convinced yet. But the more time went by the more I wanted to work somewhere to make a difference. 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, in all these things, to be much less judgmental than I’d always been. I think David was a much more tolerant person than I am, or a less judgmental person. I learned a lot of lessons from him, and the pain created a space in me that was less egocentric– that I know what’s best for everybody.
David was killed on March 3rd 2002, on October 2004 the sniper who killed David was caught, which for me was a huge step. That was really the test. Do I actually mean what I’m saying or am I just saying it because… that’s the test of whether I really have integrity in the work I’m doing. Do I really mean what I’m saying when I talk about reconciliation.
I wrote a letter to the family. It took me about four months to make the decision, many sleepless nights and a lot of searching inside myself about whether this is what I really mean. I wrote them a letter, which two of the Palestinians from our group delivered to the family. They promised to write me a letter. It will take time; these things take time, I’m waiting. It could take five years for them to do that. They will deliver the letter that I wrote to their son who is in jail. So in my own personal development, this was the big milestone for me.
When he was caught I didn’t feel anything; not satisfaction, except maybe satisfaction that he can’t do it to anybody else. There is no sense of revenge and I have never looked for that. 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’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. That’s also based on my background as a South African person, seeing the miracle of South Africa and how that all happened and that it was actually possible.
On David’s grave there is a quotation by Khalil Gibran that says, “The whole earth is my birthplace and all humans are my brothers.”
This for me is one of the most difficult letters I will ever have to write. My name is Robi Damelin, I am the mother of David who was killed by your son. I know he did not kill David because he was David, if he had known him he could never have done such a thing. David was 28 years old, he was a student at Tel-Aviv University doing his masters in the Philosophy of Education, David was part of the peace movement and did not want to serve in the occupied territories. He had a compassion for all people and understood the suffering of the Palestinians, he treated all around him with dignity. David was part of the movement of the Officers who did not want to serve in the occupied territories but nevertheless for many reasons he went to serve when he was called to the reserves.
What makes our children do what they do, they not understand the pain they are causing your son by now having to be in jail for many years and mine who I will never be able to hold and see again or see him married , or have a grandchild from him. I can not describe to you the pain I feel since his death and the pain of his brother and girl-friend, and all who knew and loved him.
All my life I have spent working for causes of co-existence, both in South Africa and here. After David was killed I started to look for a way to prevent other families both Israeli and Palestinian from suffering this dreadful loss. I was looking for a way to stop the cycle of violence, nothing for me is more sacred than human life, no revenge or hatred can ever bring my child back. After a year, I closed my office and joined the Parents Circle – Families Forum. We are a group of Israeli and Palestinian families who have all lost an immediate family member in the conflict. We are looking for ways to create a dialogue with a long term vision of reconciliation.
After your son was captured, I spent many sleepless nights thinking about what to do, should I ignore the whole thing, or will I be true to my integrity and to the work that I am doing and try to find a way for closure and reconciliation. This is not easy for anyone and I am just an ordinary person not a saint I have now come to the conclusion that I would like to try to find a way to reconcile. Maybe this is difficult for you to understand or believe, but I know that in my heart it is the only path that I can chose, for if what I say is what I mean it is the only way.
I understand that your son is considered a hero by many of the Palestinian people, he is considered to be a freedom fighter, fighting for justice and for an independent viable Palestinian state, but I also feel that if he understood that taking the life of another may not be the way and that if he understood the consequences of his act, he could see that a non-violent solution is the only way for both nations to live together in peace.
Our lives as two nations are so intertwined, each of us will have to give up on our dreams for the future of the children who are our responsibility.
I give this letter to people I love and trust to deliver, they will tell you of the work we are doing, and perhaps create in your hearts some hope for the future.
I do not know what your reaction will be, it is a risk for me, but I believe that you will understand, as it comes from the most honest part of me. I hope that you will show the letter to your son, and that maybe in the future we can meet.
Let us put an end to the killing and look for a way through mutual understanding and empathy to live a normal life, free of violence.
Η δήλωση του PCFF για τον πόλεμο στη Γάζα:
μετάφραση από εδώ
“Για άλλη μια φορά ο νότος παγιδεύεται στο αιματοκύλισμα του πολέμου, δημιουργώντας ένα καινούργιο κύμα από οικογένειες που θρηνούν. Εκατοντάδες νεκροί και τραυματίες. Αυτοί οι άνθρωποι δεν θα είναι ποτέ ξανά ίδιοι – όχι μόνο σωματικά – το τραύμα θα αφήσει το άσχημο σημάδι του. Ο Κύκλος των Γονέων – Φόρουμ Οικογενειών ( The Parents Circle – Families Forum) για την Ειρήνη και την Συμφιλίωση είναι πεπεισμένος ότι:
Η λύση στη σύγκρουση δεν θα έρθει από τη βία, αλλά από το διάλογο και την διαπραγμάτευση.
Μόνο μια αληθινή και διαρκής ειρήνη θα θεραπεύσει τον πόνο και των δυο κοινωνιών μας, και θα βάλει τέλος στις απώλειες, που είναι η συνέπειες του πολέμου.
Η συμφιλίωση ανάμεσα στους λαούς είναι η μόνη εγγύηση για ειρήνη που θα διαρκέσει.
Η συμφιλίωση είναι εφικτή, το αποδεικνύουμε κάθε μέρα με τη δουλειά μας στο Parents Circle – Families Forum, και προσφέρουμε τη δουλειά μας σαν παράδειγμα για όλους, με το σύνθημα ‘Αν εμείς μπορούμε, όλοι μπορούν.’ “