Nonviolence a new Middle East movement
by Philip Turner
May 03, 2007
WASHINGTON - - The most important story in the Middle East doesn’t show up on the nightly news or in daily headlines says a group of 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who are devoted to reconciling the conflict in the Holy Land through non-violence.
Parents Circle is a group that brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. To them, the world is missing out on a different aspect of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute - one that probes deeper than a suicide attack by a Palestinian, followed by a fierce reprisal from the Israeli military.
Ali Abu Awwad, once a stone-throwing youth in the first Palestinian Intifada, is one of the Parents Circle’s leading voices. It took seeing his brother killed, spending years in prison for insurrection and being shot in the kneecap before he understood what violence breeds: More violence, more death, another generation on both sides of the conflict living with hatred and anger towards the other.
“The whole world wants to join this side or that side,” said Awwad of popular support for either Israelis or Palestinians. “I learned that killing someone doesn’t make the pain any easier.
Together with Awwad and other bereaved families, Parents Circle spoke in a thousand Israeli and Palestinian classrooms last year about the need for reconciliation. They hold summer camps for children of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families. And they were recently awarded a grant to produce a TV show on the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. The show will air next year in the Middle East in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Robi Damlin, an Israeli,who lost her son David to the bullet of a Palestinian sniper, sought out the family of the shooter because she wanted to understand what caused his action.
What did she learn?
“That young man who killed my child had uncles die in the conflict, so he went out for revenge,” said Damlin, who knows that her impassioned activism for peace is treated with skepticism because of generations of fighting. “What I’m saying is, how many more need to join in the death before we figure out what the solution is?”
The group is sponsoring a ceramics exhibit that is traveling to cities across the United States this year in hopes of raising money for the cause of non-violence in the Middle East.
The art is on display at the World Bank until May 6. It will then travel to Seattle before going to the United Nations. It's meant to promote the human element to this story: Violence hasn’t solved the conflict and doesn’t ease the suffering of those who have lost so much.
“I know it’s like taking water out of the sea with a teaspoon,” said Damlin of trying to pluck individuals away from the history of conflict. “But it’s going to have a ripple effect.”
Both Awwad and Damlin are considered traitors by some members on the respective sides of the conflict. To them, the only traitorous thing is death, destruction and continued human suffering in the name of politics or religion.
“If we make enough noise, maybe things will one day change,” said Awwad.
• To prevent further bereavement, in the absence of peace
• To influence the public and the policy makers – to prefer the way of peace on the way of war
• To educate for peace and reconciliation
• To promote the cessation of acts of hostility and the achievement of a political agreement
• To prevent the usage of bereavement as a means of expanding enmity between our peoples
• To uphold mutual support between our members
We strive to offer a breakthrough in people's frame of mind, to allow a change of perception, a chance to re-consider one's views and attitudes towards the conflict and the other side.
The Forum activities are a unique phenomenon, in that they continue during all political circumstances and in spite of all tensions and violence in our region.
Our members initiate and lead projects throughout the Israeli and Palestinian communities.
135 ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN ARTISTS CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF RECONCILIATION ON BEHALF OF THE BEREAVED FAMILY FORUM
Orna Tamir-Schestowits, a true friend, who initiated the Friends of the Forum, designed a large size clay bowl naming it the "Bowl of Reconciliation". 135 Israeli and Palestinian artists, sculptors and photographers created from this bowl (the common, unifying and connecting denominator) their interpretation of the intrinsic values of reconciliation: Each embarked on a personal journey of the reconciliation narrative of coexistence, pain, loss, fracture and fusion. Each one presents a unique offering of reconciliation, of peace and hope, Art instead of hostility
This is a short exert from the documentary "Encounter Point" which follows the work of the Parent's Circle. Be sure to go to the link and read the personal stories of some of those who appear in this documentary.
"E ncounter Point is an 85-minute feature documentary film that follows a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict. Their journeys lead them to the unlikeliest places to confront hatred within their communities. The film explores what drives them and thousands of other like-minded civilians to overcome anger and grief to work for grassroots solutions. It is a film about the everyday leaders in our midst.E ncounter Point is an 85-minute feature documentary film that follows a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict. Their journeys lead them to the unlikeliest places to confront hatred within their communities. The film explores what drives them and thousands of other like-minded civilians to overcome anger and grief to work for grassroots solutions. It is a film about the everyday leaders in our midst."