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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


Bereaved family members put face on Middle Eastern conflict
Updated: 10/21/2002 9:16 PM
By: Jitin Hingorani

As the violence continues in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, mourning family members from both sides were in Austin Monday to initiate a dialogue of peace. These personal stories of loss put a human face on the 50-year-old conflict.

The latest incident of retaliatory violence in the Middle East happened Monday. A rush hour attack on a bus in northern Israel killed 13 people and injured more than 30. The Islamic militant group Jihad claims responsibility, in response to what it calls the "series of massacres" committed against Palestinians.

Here in Austin, people welcomed Mashka Litvak and Khalid Karoof -- one an Israeli, the other Palestinian -- who have lost their brothers in similar attacks. These bereaved family members hope when people see both sides sitting at the same table, facing the same situation, they will realize this is not a war between Israelis and Palestinians, but between human beings.

"If we sit together at the same table, bereaved families, Israelis and Palestinians, not hit each other and want to kill each other, maybe our leaders can sit together and talk about peace," Litvak said.

Besides sharing their personal stories of loss, Litvak and Kharoof are also seeking international support for their cause.

"The bloodshed has to stop, Kharoof said. Both people are losing lives, and the only solution -- the minorities are dictating what's going on there."

And the U.S. stance? White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, "The administration, the president condemns the most recent attack in Israel."

But the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, the organization that sponsored Mondays event in Austin, believes simply condemning an attack is not enough.

As JAJPs David Albert put it, The Bush administration should get active and go out and push Sharon and Arafat to become peace makers. And they're not doing that, so I think Americans need to stand up and get involved and speak to those issues."

Litvak and Kharoof's experiences have attached a personal subtext to the images most people see on the news -- images that are frightening, but can be hard to relate to.

But UT senior Courtney Lipsitz, who attended the event, said it helped her relate to the violence: "When you watch the news, you see buses getting blown up, and you don't really think about there's people who live there or that people are getting hurt or it affects their daily lives."

And although forums like these are only initiating dialogue, Litvak and Kharoof are proving instead of hatred, you can turn loss into reconciliation.

The Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families Circle will visit 14 cities in our country to share their message of peace and look for international support for their cause.

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