A Palestinian Flag at Jewish Camps: No Need for Apologies

By Shiri Ourian, Executive Director, American Friends of the Parents Circle

 

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still love Israel. In fact, we must.

Last week, while Camp Solomon Schechter, a Jewish summer camp outside of Seattle, hosted Palestinian and Israeli youth from Kids4Peace to engage in dialogue and shared learning, another summer camp took place in Israel with bereaved and non-bereaved Israeli and Palestinian youth who also engaged in dialogue and narrative exchange.

In Seattle, where I live, in the absence of political violence and war, the visit ended with a deluge of backlash from the community. In Israel, where mounting tensions and violence were the backdrop, the camp ended on a high, with apprehensive parents finding their children at the end of the week with hope and possibility for a better future.

The difference has been attributed to the raising of the Palestinian flag at the Seattle based camp in an attempt by the camp’s leadership to foster mutual respect alongside the American and Israeli flags which caused outrage in the community. The members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum and staff, who have been running the summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian youth for more than 10 years will tell you that the only problem with raising the Palestinian flag is the meaning we assign to it.

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still feel safe as Israelis. In fact, it makes us safer.

We can raise the Palestinian flag and still love Israel. In fact, we must. We can raise the Palestinian flag and still feel safe as Israelis. In fact, it makes us safer. We can raise the Palestinian flag and not feel like traitors. In fact, we are bold leaders.

To the staff and leadership of Camp Solomon Schechter in Seattle, you need not apologize for loving Israel, protecting it, and being bold leaders. Your initial decision to show mutual respect and understanding in an effort to build bridges and work towards a peaceful future was exactly the example we must set for our youth and a glimpse to a future to which we can aspire.

To the Jewish and Israeli community of Seattle who were upset by the raising of the Palestinian flag, if the bereaved members of the Parents Circle, who have lost their loved ones to the conflict and have paid the highest price, can choose reconciliation, mutual understanding and respect, then anyone can.

This Road Will Only Lead To More Graves

By Robi Damelin, bereaved mother and International Relations Spokesperson of The Parents Circle- Families Forum

Translated from op-ed piece in Ha’aretz

Here we go again; how many people have to die before the cycle of violence finally turns for the last time? Revenge being the main tool, we kill, they kill, more force, more troops, and more rhetoric of fear and hatred. Are we on the brink of another war or uprising? How can the sanctity of human life just be political expediency? Decisions made by leaders sitting in rooms in the dead of night and at the last minute. Is there no thought for the consequence of no communication with our neighbors, instead of listening to the army and understanding that the shooting from the hip decision to place metal detectors outside one of the most holy places for the Muslims would lead to a violent reaction and more death? How can the man voted to be in charge of our future take a plane trip to a foreign land when there was a burning need for sanity and negotiation, to create a dialogue with our neighbors, and, perhaps, to calm down a situation just waiting to explode.

Seven people died over this weekend and for what? For an anger festering among both peoples, which can only get worse with time. Can the powers that be not take a breath and imagine what it is like for the families involved– of those innocents attacked by a crazed young man, who imagined that a future life in paradise would surely be better than this one, and the three Palestinians fighting for a cause they believed, also fueled by their religious leaders? Notice it is not the leaders who give up their lives, but rather young men who have no reason to hope for a better life, and who believe that they are protecting their holy site.

We have realized that violence begets violence, and for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must find a way to recognize the humanity of the other.

Let us think of another scenario– say our elected leader would have thought again and realized that more of the same, only more would be a solution, and had picked up the phone to the heads of State of Jordan and Egypt, who have no interest in any further violence. Perhaps if he had done so, and they had all come up with a plan which did not include more force, perhaps we would not have to watch the horrific bloody scenes, each side with its own interpretation on the Television and on the Web.

Imagine what the future will be like for all of the families of the dead: some will have their houses demolished, and others will die together with their children. They may not die physically, but nothing will ever be the same–nothing. Some will never have the joy of parents or grandparents, and others will start to think of revenge. Some will be so angry that it will effect their health, and others will simply wither away and look for solace at the graveside of their loved ones. We at the Parents Circle know the whole gamut of pain and indescribable sadness which never goes away. We have realized that violence begets violence, and for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must find a way to recognize the humanity of the other.

If we can, then surely this is an example to all.

It is not too late for change. Watch a bereaved Palestinian mother embracing an Israeli mother in our group, and understand that we recognize that we share the same pain. Watch us continue to work under the most difficult of circumstances to the extent where we will still run our summer camp this Sunday and will plant the seeds of understanding reconciliation in the next generation. If we can, then surely this is an example to all. Please refrain from spitting at us or throwing bags of urine, and take that energy into trying another way, for the way we are going– with more of the same– can only lead us to share the land with graves.

“Breaking the Walls between Us”

By Robi Damelin

Early Friday morning, buses left from all over Israel and Palestine and some 200 women came to be together and discover the humanity in the other in honor of International Women’s Day. It was thrilling to arrive and see how many new faces, friends of the bereaved members chose to spend the day together. This was such an opportunity for the Parents Circle to share our message with those who had never heard it.

This year we marked international Women’s Day in the West Bank so that Palestinian women from Jenin, Nablus, Beit Omar, Deheisha Refugee Camp and many other villages would be able to attend without having to ask for permits. After all, freedom of movement is a basic human right.

READ MORE

Children’s Deaths Unite Moms Across Cultures

Atlanta Jewish Times

by Patrice Worthy

An Israeli-Palestinian movement of mothers who have lost sons to the conflict is connecting with American mothers whose sons have been killed to form a united front against gun violence.

Israeli Robi Damelin founded Parents Circle Families Forum, an organization for bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families, after a Palestinian sniper killer her son David. She was angry, but she’s trying to channel that energy to do good.

“Right now is the most important time to use your voice for change,” she said. “You have to talk to people you don’t like or agree with; if not, they only become more radical.”

Damelin brings together other mothers who have lost sons to gun violence and hate.

She recently spoke about PCFF at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights with Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old killed in Florida by Michael Dunn in 2012 for playing loud music at a gas station.

READ MORE

Why do we call each other “brother”?

Arab Aramin and Yigal Elhanan, 2016 Memorial Day Ceremony
Arab Aramin, left, and Yigal Elhanan, 2016 Memorial Day Ceremony

My name is Arab Aramin. I am Palestinian, 22 years old. And my name is Yigal Elhanan. I am Israeli, 24 years old. We should hate each other. But instead, we call each other brother. Why? We both have lost our sisters in the bloody and violent conflict. We are united in our shared vision: no one else should lose a sister or any family member to this conflict.

The Parents Circle’s new Young Ambassadors Program will help train 25 bereaved Israeli and Palestinian young adults ages 18-27, like us, to become the next generation of peace leaders.

We ask that you make a contribution today to the end of year campaign to help us raise the $30,000 needed to carry out this program. In order to take our leadership to this next level, we require training, capacity building and more opportunities to meet each other, learn about each other and gain tools to break the silence.

We met each other in the summer of 2014 at the Parents Circle’s Youth Program – a week long summer program that brings bereaved and non-bereaved Israelis and Palestinians together. Over time, we have become united in fighting injustice together. This struggle is often lonely and cold. We need others to join us to break the cycle of violence.

 

In memory of our sisters, Abir and Smadar,

Arab Aramin and Yigal Elhanan

 

A Thanksgiving Message from Tal and Ibrahim

"I am thankful for all the blessings in the world. I think it's the best way to start and finish your day." --Ibrahim Shatat
“I am thankful for all the blessings in the world. I think it’s the best way to start and finish your day.” –Ibrahim Shatat

“My name is Ibrahim Shatat. I’m 25 years old, and from Beit Jala, Palestine. My sister, Irene, was 12 years old when she had an accident. She was hit by a car. And because we live in an occupied country, the Israeli army had closed the streets so cars could not get through. The army did not let the ambulance take her either, so she bled to death. She died in our arms.”
“I hope no one will lose their loved ones because it is so hard.”

Read more.


 

"I am thankful for the hope that still exists." --Tal Oren
“I am thankful for the hope that still exists.”
–Tal Oren

“My name is Tal Oren. I’m 20 years old, and from Herzlyia, Israel. On July 24, 1995, my grandmother, Zehava, was killed by a suicide bomber while riding the bus to Tel Aviv. I joined the Parents Circle following the footsteps of my family. I participated in many of the youth activities.”
“As a bereaved grandson, I know today that neither revenge nor violence will bring back my grandmother.”

Read more.

 


Both of these incredible people have chosen to become Young Ambassadors for Peace.

Please make a year-end gift so Ibrahim, Tal, and 25 other young Palestinian and Israeli adults can receive leadership and peacebuilidng training and become Young Ambassadors for Peace.

"As a human, I know the only way to end our conflict is the way of peace, reconciliation and dialogue." Tal Oren
“As a human, I know the only way to end our conflict is the way of peace, reconciliation and dialogue.”
Tal Oren

PCFF Members to speak at locations in OH, IN and more

We are excited to announce that 3 of the Parents Circle’s members– Rami Elhanan (the new Israeli General Director of the Parents Circle), and George and Najwa Sa’adeh– will be speaking at churches, synagogues, and elsewhere in the Midwest in October and November 2016.

Plymouth Congregational Church UCC (Fort Wayne, IN)

“Israeli and Palestinian Parents Grieve, Work Together for Justice and Peace” October 25, 6:30 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church of Fort Wayne. Organized by the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.

ft-wayne-event

First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh (Tecumseh, MI)

Their first speaking event is to be held at First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh in Tecumseh, MI. The event, “Israeli and Palestinian Parents Grieve and Work Together for Justice,” will be on Wednesday, October 26.

tecumseh-mi-event

Bluffton University (Bluffton, OH)

The 3 will be speaking at Bluffton University in Bluffton, OH on Thursday, October 27.
READ MORE

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN)

On Friday, October 28, they will be speaking at a public event in Elkhart, IN at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.parents-circle-ambs

More information about this event can be found at the AMBS webpage.

Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism (Highland Park, IL)

They will be speaking at Lakeside Congregation on Wednesday, November 2.

north-shore-chicago-event

Our Lady of the Brook (Northbrook, IL)

Rami, George, and Najwa are to speak at Our Lady of the Brook Catholic Parish on Thursday, November 3.

pcff-flier-northbrook-version

The three are to speak at other locations in the Midwest in October and November. Make sure to check here and our twitter to stay up-to-date.

Read Rami Elhanan’s story

News article about the Sa’adeh’s

 

If They Can Choose Peace…Anyone Can

We are excited to launch our 2016 Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to raise $15,000 so that we can connect and engage with bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who have not yet joined our organization, provide them with Parents Circle program scholarships and encourage them to join us in using their stories of loss to inspire hope and reconciliation.

We need your help! We have already raised 40% of our objective. Please make a donation and help us reach our goal. You can donate here.  

The Parents Circle doesn’t want new members; we want the cycle of violence to end, but this conflict continues to take innocent lives on both sides. Help us continue our efforts to reach out to the bereaved and invite them to take part in our programs. Our members are our greatest resource in combatting hatred and divisive propaganda, in the pursuit of a lasting peace and an end to the cycle of violence and bereavement.

Help spread the word about our campaign through emails, social media, and word of mouth. We hope to reach new supporters and audiences through this campaign in addition to reaching our funding goal of $15,000. Share this page with your friends!

The funds we will raise will help our outreach coordinators meet with new members and will provide 15 scholarships for new members to participate in dialogue meetings, narrative workshops, and peacebuilding activities as they become advocates for peace and reconciliation.

You can help a little or a lot – please reach out to Christopher Beachy (americanfriendspc@gmail.com) if you have any questions about how to be involved.

In peace,

American Friends of the Parents Circle-Families Forum

Reconciliation Defeats Revenge

Picture12

While watching the bereaved African-American mothers on the stage at the Democratic Convention, I thought just how much we mothers, who have lost children, have in common, regardless of color, creed or national identity. I thought that all bereaved mothers in the world should rise up together and say, “Enough! Stop the killing. Let our children live out the course of their lives. We cannot continue to have the dreadful task of burying our sons and daughters and of continuing our motherhood by tending to graves and pretending that planting flowers and plants brings solace.”

Read the rest of this HuffPost blog article by PCFF spokesperson and bereaved mother, Robi Damelin, here.