Parents cry same tears at Israeli and Palestinian peace event

Invest in Peace speakers credit John RifkinHaving visited the Holy Land three years ago, and seen the effect of the conflict and its impact on ordinary people, Linda Rayner, United Reformed Church Coordinator for Fresh Expressions, shares how Israelis and Palestinians came together at a Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) peace event in Manchester on 12 November. 

The PCFF is a joint Palestinian and Israeli organisation made up of more than 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict. 

At the heart of the work of PCFF is a desire to end the conflict that has caused much suffering — and a belief that reconciliation is the first, necessary step. The event in Manchester, along with similar ones in Leeds and Glasgow, helps to give people a platform to talk, and was a continuation of a series held earlier this year in London for which the URC provided some funding along with the Methodist Church.

Linda said: ‘I have a lasting impression of pain, anger, deprivation and sorrow seen during my trip to the Holy Land. So, at the start of Interfaith Week, I attended an event in Manchester called Invest in Peace, organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.  Those who attended this moving evening were privileged to meet ordinary people who were extraordinary in their ability to forgive and move forward. I arrived with little expectation or understanding of what was to follow, and left in tears, having witnessed the astonishing courage and brutal honesty of two people who faced appalling adversity and yet chose to forgive.’

Linda heard the testimonies of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian Muslim who lost his ten-year-old daughter when she was killed by an Israeli gunman outside her school, followed by Robi Damelin, an Israeli Jewish woman whose lecturer son was shot by a Palestinian sniper on campus. 

‘Israelis and Palestinians are both passionate about their own cause,’ continued Linda. ‘Excuses were not made. Bassam and Robi understood that each side needed to view the other as humans, not terrorists. Most Israeli people have never talked with a Palestinian person – and vice-versa but Robi, Bassam, and more than 600 other bereaved families have chosen to channel their grief into finding an end to the conflict that caused their suffering.

‘To forgive is beyond difficult, that was obvious, yet incredibly each had forgiven. There is an underlying anger at the conflict, but not at the people, and they direct their anger into a search for peace, not revenge. Bassam and Robi have told their stories many times, but for those present at the event it felt like eavesdropping on something raw and personal.  

‘Their joint longing for reconciliation, has brought them together, believing that peace will begin among ordinary people when they learn to forgive and work together.  Robi told the audience “the tears of [bereaved parents] are all the same colour”.

‘Many people in the audience were hurting, their questions made that clear. There were hecklers who wanted to talk about the conflict, and made it difficult for others to hear, but this wasn’t about the rights and wrongs. This was about humans.’

Linda concluded: ‘Please pray with me for these extraordinary people, whose suffering and grief is fuelling a movement towards peace.’ 

Find more information about PCFF and its work.

Picture: John Rifkin