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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


Bereaved Israelis and Palestinians Visit Chicago
by Abigail Pickus

After the first intifada 15 years ago, Amiram and Tilda Goldin felt the only way to a lasting peace was to bring Arabs and Jews together. When their 20-year-old son was killed this past August after a suicide bomber blew up the bus he was riding back to his army base in Safed, the Goldins became more convinced that dialoguenot destructionis the only way to end the bloodshed.

My son was killed out of revenge," said Amiram, who lives in the Galilee. But this endless circle of revenge and hatred wont get us anywhere. The easiest way is revenge. We dont look for the easiest way, we look for the right way."

On Oct. 15, the Goldins, along with Dr. Rihab Essawi, a Palestinian, and Tamara Rabinowitz, an Israeli Jew, all members of the Parents Circlean organization of Israeli and Palestinian parents who lost children as a result of the violence in the Middle Eastaddressed over 60 people at Congregation Solel in Highland Park. The event, titled Moving Forward: Hope and Healing, Tikva vshalom," was sponsored by the Israel committee of Congregation Solel and Brit Tzedek vShalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace. The representatives of the Parents Circle came to Chicago as part of a 14-city tour of the United States.

The main thing we are sharing is the feeling that it is enough bloodshed. Our relatives are victims for no reasonits a waste of life for nothing," said Amiram Goldin. What we want to show is that if we citizens can do it, eye to eye, and be human to each other, then why cant our leaders? Lets make them rethink how this can be done."

Since its establishment in 1995 by Yitzhak Frankenthal, an Orthodox Israeli Jew whose 19-year-old son was killed by Hamas, the Parents Circle has brought 200 bereaved Palestinian and 200 bereaved Israeli parents together to push for peace through dialogue, education, and media campaigns. Using the late Prime Minister Yizhak Rabins words as a motto, Better the pains of peace than the agonies of war," the organization has gone into schools to lecture about peace; created a display of over 1,000 symbolic coffins representing the lives lost on both sides of the conflict, to show the reality of the violence; and set up an automated telephone system to allow Israelis and Palestinians to speak to each other. Recently, the group achieved media coverage in Israel when nine Palestinians donated blood to help Israelis after an attack, and nine Israelis donated blood for Palestinians. While members admit they havent changed the climate entirely, little by little they say their message is getting across.

At Congregation Solel, each bereaved parent shared personal stories of loss, and urged American Jews to push for negotiations and peace over continued violence. We want you to help get those big people back to that damn negotiating table. We raise our voices and we need your help to make a difference in whats going on at home," said Essawi.

Essawi, a professor of education, has been hit hard by the violence. She lost a brother, a nephew, and her mother during the fighting over the past few years. Her 26-year-old brother was a student in Lebanon when he was killed by a rocket launched by Israel. Her 17-year-old nephew was shot and killed outside her house by Israeli soldiers who thought he was throwing rocks at them, she said. And her elderly mother suffocated and died from tear gas sprayed outside her home. The curfews have also affected her personal life. Her husband, a doctor, is living in Ramallah and cant gain permission to come back home to East Jerusalem to see her and their 5-year-old son. Despite all this, she is committed to dialogue.

At the beginning I tried revenge. I was in jail myself, but I found you lose one person, you lose another, and life gets worse and you decide to do something different. Maybe [dialogue] will work. Thats why I joined the Parents Circle," she said.

Tamara Rabinowitz came to similar conclusions from different life experiences. Born in London and raised in South Africa in a Zionist family, she said she was euphoric when they made aliyah in 1960. That feeling changed after she lost her son in 1987 in Lebanon.

Its very easy to [point to] the suicide bombers and blame and blame, but where will it get us? Were only getting further and further into a hole, and our country is losing the ethics we had been so proud of," she said.

We can say were not happy with Sharon and Arafat because we care about Israel. Israel is very dear to us and we are prepared to do something to help it change," she said. The most unnatural thing in life is for a parent to stand over the grave of her child. It should be the other way around. We do not want to bury our children. That is something that has come through to all of us, and one ripple at a time, we can make a difference."

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