“An abomination to be stopped at any price?” by Robi Damelin

Robi masked

by Robi Damelin
Bereaved Israeli mother
Parents Circle – Families Forum

February 12, 2024

The people of the book have spoken. The anvil poised to come down on a novel of two men and their daughters divided by history, united in grief. The name of this novel by the world renowned Irish author Colum McCann is Apeirogon: a shape with an infinite number of sides. It is about the power of love and culture and tradition, and the life of two bereaved fathers.

The New York Times: “Apeirogon is an empathy engine, utterly collapsing the gulf between teller and listener.”
The Guardian: “A beautifully observed masterpiece. – for all its grief, Apeirogon is a novel that buoys the heart.”
Washington Post: “Apeirogon  – a loving thoughtful, grueling novel, brushes up against those outer bounds.”

And yet the powers that be in the Haifa Municipality have spoken. This novel is not to be launched in the well revered halls of Bet Hagefen an Arab-Jewish cultural center founded in 1963 as a pioneer in the field of intercultural dialogue.

Who are these two seditious men of whom we speak? None other than Rami Elhanan who lost his beloved daughter Smadar in a suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian man whose beloved Abir was shot in the head by a border policeman.

Rami Elhanan (left) and Bassam Aramin, the protagonists of the novel Apeirogon

How did it come to be that they found solace in the pain of each other and decided that they would not look for revenge, but rather would embark on a path of reconciliation and would devote their lives to the ending of the bloodshed? 

They have traveled the world with their message of peace, have won prizes , have inspired young people both in Israel and Palestine to understand the need for empathy and indeed the end of an occupation by nonviolent means. Their relationship is beyond the conflict; they are brothers in a battle to preserve life.

These beliefs are for some of the people of the book, an abomination and should be stopped at any price. It would be safe to say that Apeirogon has just come out in Hebrew and they have not yet read it. This is reminiscent of a recent Minister of Culture and Sport, who was wont to try to ban documentaries which she had not seen.

How easily we can be swayed by the vitriolic posts on social media, without any knowledge and with an attitude which could only be described as provincial.

We— that is, Bassam and Rami, who are members of The Parents Circle – Families Forum, an organization of Palestinian and Israeli bereaved families, working for nonviolence and reconciliation— do not claim the monopoly on truth and respect the views of other bereaved parents who do not agree with us. However, we would expect the same from them. Not to mention the fact that the members of government owe us, who have sacrificed our children and family members, the exact same respect as they would give to those who are bereaved and do not agree with us.