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June 2019
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Middle East Peace Programs

Briefing by Bereaved Families Forum Speakers

Most Israeli youths have never met a Palestinian. Most Palestinian youths have never met an Israeli other than a soldier. The Bereaved Families Forum sends pairs of Jews and Palestinians to speak in high schools. Each year they hold meetings in more than 1,000 schools. They also give briefings to MEPI groups.

“We can break this endless cycle of revenge and retaliation only by listening to the pain of the other,” said Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew whose fourteen-year-old daughter was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. When he heard the news of a suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda Street, near where his daughter was shopping that day, he went running through the streets and then to the hospitals. Finally he found her body at the morgue. “It was a sight I will never ever be able to forget,” he said.

Next, Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah said: “When I was nine, soldiers came into our house and took my older brother. He was suspected of throwing stones and beaten during interrogation. When they released him, his liver and spleen were damaged. We took him to the hospital for surgery, but a few days later he died.”

At age eighteen, Aziz was living in Jerusalem but didn’t speak a word of Hebrew because it was the language of his enemy. Finally he realized that to succeed in life he had learn Hebrew, so he went to a language school for immigrants. "The teacher was nice to me," he said. "The students wanted to be my friends. It was redeeming to see that we are all human beings.”

“If I am listening to the pain of my brother Aziz here—whom I really love like my own brother—I can expect him to listen to my own pain,” said Rami. “We can go on the long and difficult journey to peace together. We put cracks of hope in the wall of hatred and fear. If we can talk to one another, anyone can.”

A Jewish friend, whose own son had been kidnapped and murdered, invited Rami to a meeting where he met Palestinian bereaved families. There he saw an Arab mother who had a picture of her dead six-year-old child pinned to her chest.

“I’m not a very religious person,” Rami reflected. “I cannot explain what happened to me. But from that moment on I devote my life to go anywhere to convey to anyone one simple truth: it is not our destiny to keep murdering.”

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