Tel Aviv, Israel – In January 2007, Bassam Aramin’s 10-year-old daughter was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. She just went out to buy candy with her sister and two friends.
Alamin was devastated. It was only two years ago that he began working with Israeli peace activists to form Peace Warriors, a group that aims to expand understanding between Palestinians and Israelis and demand that Israel end its second siege of Palestinian land since 1967. occupation.
“I can’t blame an 18-year-old boy for shooting an innocent 10-year-old girl,” Alamin told ynetnews at the time.
Speaking at a news conference the night of his daughter’s death, he recalled: “Especially now, we need to redouble our efforts to achieve peace… I have five other children to protect.”
Where are you going?
Alamin’s other children survived, as did his commitment to a warrior for peace and a message that people can put aside their hatred and work together to end the occupation.
In late April, Aramin, 55, helped organize a joint Memorial Day — a commemoration of all Palestinians and Israelis who have died since 1947 — at Tel Aviv’s Ganei Yehoshua Park, when Zionist militias began mobilizing at least 750,000 Palestinians landed from their homes and killed at least 15,000 people. Palestinians commemorate it as Nakba (the Arabic word for disaster).
Organized by the Fighters for Peace and Parents Circle Family Forum (PCFF), Joint Memorial Day is an alternative to Israel Memorial Day, which commemorates all Israeli soldiers who have died since the founding of Israel.
Neither Peace Fighters nor the PCFF have a single vision for the future of peace, but instead focus on the first steps: dialogue, reconciliation, and agreement on the need to restore pre-1967 borders. Their annual commemoration of both sides’ losses has grown from 200 in 2005 to 15,000 this year.
When asked to determine the cause of the current conflict, Alamin weighed his words carefully. He told Al Jazeera that the problem “is not with any one side, but with the situation, which is the occupation”.
While he said it was “clear” that the occupier was responsible for the occupation, he declined to directly blame Israel because his goal was to make it clear to the Israelis that they were to blame.
“It’s possible to use our pain in different ways. Not just keep our children ready to kill and be killed,” Alamin said.
parallel but different
Memorial Day in Israel is a nationwide military event that begins at sunset of the previous day, accompanied by the sounding of sirens for a minute and ends the next day.
Even longer sirens sounded the next morning, a day filled with prayers for loved ones’ graves, memorials and memorial services for senior Israeli soldiers and politicians.
An equally sombre but pacifist atmosphere permeated the joint forces as people gathered to mourn their loved ones and celebrate their decisions to foster peace.
This year at the joint memorial service, Israelis and Palestinians who lost loved ones to the conflict took to the event stage to share their stories of loss, reconciliation and hope for the future.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant denied travel permits to Palestinian speakers and attendees from the occupied West Bank, but his decision was overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court a day before the event.
However, the two Palestinian speakers did not have time to arrange their travel, so their recorded addresses were played for the audience.
Mohammed Abu Rnan, a 27-year-old Palestinian member of the PCFF from Ramallah who was able to attend, told Al Jazeera he came because of “peace among the Arabs”. [Palestinians] Jews are the most important thing in the world”.
Not many Palestinians or Israelis agree with Abu Rnan. Alamin said it was unacceptable for them to acknowledge the suffering of both parties on the same stage.
Israeli right-wing protesters stood outside during the event, shouting “shame” and “traitors to the left” into a megaphone.
The shouts were drowned out by the speakers, but on a few occasions the speakers had to be paused, momentarily interrupted.
“Palestinians,” Alamin said, “want to remember the Palestinians who died in the conflict, not the soldiers who killed them.
“Israelis want to remember their … soldiers without thinking about the ‘terrorists’ who killed them,” he added, using a term widely used in Israel.
Uri, a 20-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv, said the continuation of the activities despite the protesters gave him hope and deepened his “commitment to fight for justice and equality”.
A Palestinian’s Lost Story
Today, Aramin is an important figure in Peace Warriors and PCFF and fully embraces their philosophy.
Young Alamin is a freedom fighter who resists the occupation in a way that gives him a “feeling of dignity”.
At the age of 17, he was arrested after a group of Palestinian fighters with whom he was associated threw grenades at Israeli soldiers.
In prison, he watched a film about the Holocaust and began self-reflection, which eventually led him to reject violence in favor of peace.
Years later, Alamin learned that the film, Schindler’s List, was influential because it encouraged him to start thinking about the Holocaust differently.
“At the time, I thought the Holocaust was a big lie because [Palestinians] Nothing is known about it,” he said.
The film made him realize that Palestinians “pay the price for crimes we never committed and we don’t know about”.
And so began what Aramin calls “the long process of changing myself.”
With the beginning of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Alamin “realized that we needed to change the way we approach our goals of freedom”.
“Palestinians have the right to resist,” he said, but over the past 100 years, violence beckoned violence. He added that, in his view, all efforts to resist the occupation would only lead to “more pain, more blood, more victims”.
Time and time again, Alamin was asked to relive the moment his daughter was killed and explain how he felt.
Is it really possible for him not to doubt his belief in nonviolence, even for a moment?
His answer didn’t change. “I didn’t even think about revenge because we need to coexist.”
An Israeli’s Lost Story
Yuval Sapir, 53, an Israeli, spoke at a joint memorial service for his sister Tamar, who was killed in a bus suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 1994.
He told Al Jazeera that it was difficult to remember exactly what he was feeling in that moment, other than sadness and grief. For him, “one of the best ways to deal with trauma is to shut down all emotions,” he explained.
In Sapir’s speech at the ceremony, he likened the closure to a “black hole” that has followed him since. As a scientist and scholar, he was steeped in grief on the job in the decades after Tamar’s death.
Recently, he was finally able to relive his loss.
While he knows that “hatred, anger and wanting revenge are easy and natural”, he said he “never experienced anger or hatred because sadness overshadowed everything”.
A few years ago, he heard right-wing protesters prevented a bereaved Israeli from speaking about his grief at a high school because he wanted to speak with a Palestinian. Sapir recalled being so angry that he felt he had to do something.
He decided to join PCFF because, as he told Al Jazeera, “I believe this is the best way to use my feelings and my loss for the good of my people and this country.”
At the joint memorial service, he emphasized his belief that through dialogue and acknowledgment, “the flames of hatred will die and there will be room for reconciliation and life.”