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22/01/2009

Peace Day 2008 Kfar Aza

Saturday, the Jerusalem- Tel Aviv road was full with police cars. After one of our Palestinian members was held for a short while at checkpoint 300, all the members were approved and the car with our Palestinian members was let into Israel on its way to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

The idea was to express, at the same time, our empathy to people from both sides who suffer daily from the ongoing conflict. A group of mostly Israeli PCFF members and some Palestinian members went to Na'alin (near Modiein) and a group of mostly Palestinian PCFF members and some Israeli members went to Kfar Aza (near Sderot). In both places there are bereaved families from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who lost their dear ones in the last year. We, who experience every minute the unbearable agony of our loss, wanted to come, empathize and if possible to strengthen. 

The car with the Palestinians was stopped by one of the many police cars on the Jerusalem Tel Aviv road for a regular check. Even though all the passengers had been approved by the I.D.F. the police took 15 years old Khalil, who had no permit, to the station, along with the driver who was taken to the police because he had in his car a Palestinian with no permit. Aesha, Khalil's mom was allowed to accompany him because he is a minor. The PCFF Palestinian members obtain permits for activities in Israel on a regular basis and we are well known by the Authorities. From our experience, youngsters whose age is under sixteen can enter Israel without a permit when they are accompanied by their parents. This is probably why Khalil was allowed to pass the checkpoints without a problem. We don't know if this law isn't accepted by the Israeli Police, or if it changed because of Ramadan, at the time we just knew that members from Kfar Aza were waiting for us while we waited at Mevaseret Zion without the ability to do a thing. A bitter and familiar feeling sneaked in; no matter how much we'll talk, do, plan and initiate, in times of war there isn't a place for mutual peace activities (on both sides) and even the most humane initiatives will encounter hardships. This is what happens when one tries to build reconciliation in times of war.

The car was taken to the station with Khallil, Aesha and the driver and we walked to the police station asking the Ethiopian children who played in the streets where we could find it. A strict policeman hardly agreed to talk with us and decided to take Khallil and the driver to the main police station in Jerusalem where there was an Arabic speaking investigator. Time passed, no one listened, the fact that the army allowed Khallil to enter Israel didn't matter to the police (the relationship between the two isn't good) and it seemed as though our plans for the International Peace Day would end before they even started. PCFF Israeli members started to come to the station and among them our former Israeli General Manager, Boaz Kitaein. Boaz, an experienced Peace activist and a mediation expert, politely asked to speak to the head of the station. After talking to Boaz The station's commander asked his people to free Khallil and the driver without questioning them. The car was confiscated and the driver was asked to return on Sunday for questioning.  Khallil was allowed to continue with us but was asked not to stay in Israeli without a permit so he joined the group that went to Naalin.
So here we were on our way to Kfar Aza to a visit which for a moment seemed lost.

Khaled and Bahajat wirh Dudi

Orly and Duddi welcomed us to Kfar Aza. Orly, an old friend of Nir Oren (PCFF Israeli General Manager), told us that when Nir asked if we could come, she couldn't say no. We didn't know what to expect. We knew Orly and Duddi were to meet us, we knew that few Kibbutz members would come to see us and that we would see the place where the rocket fell and killed Jimmy Kdoshim, but we didn't know if Anna Kdoshim, Jimmy's wife, would agree to come out and talk to us.
At the entrance to the house, which was renovated after the heavy destruction left by the missile, a broken flowerpot was left as a memory. Orly called Anna and Anna Kdoshim came out and joined us. Khaled Abu Awwad, PCFF Palestinian General Manager gave her a token of appreciation and with warm and gentle words expressed our sorrow for her loss and our aspiration for different days where people won't die on this land. Anna listened silently and asked us to come in.

PCFF members with Anna Kdoshim

Visiting the Kdoshim family was one of the most significant and moving visits I experienced as a PCFF member. Quiet songs were played on the radio. Opposite the entrance was a memorial corner with Jimmy's photo. Jimmy was Israel's champion in parachuting with motorized parachutes. Lovely photos that he took or people took of him when he was parachuting were scattered around the house. A lovely photo of Anna and Jimmy on their wedding day captured my eyes. Anna told us that she was always worried something would happen to Jimmy but what happened took place while he was on the ground.

The broken flowerpot

A conversation developed between the Kibbutz members and the Palestinians. The Kibbutz members told us about the good neighborly relationships they had with the people from Gaza, especially with the farmers who worked on the Kibbutz. Duddi told us how they used to enter Gaza, riding their bikes to the sea after buying a falafel. Since the second Intifada, they support their former workers as much as they can. At the beginning, they used to meet at Karni checkpoint to pass bags of cloths, food and some money. Now ,as it's no longer possible, they transfer money through the bank. One of the farmers' sons had cancer and got a permit to enter Israel and get medical care at Tel-Hashomer hospital. His father didn't get a permit so the Kibbutz members stayed with his son in the hospital and collected money for a continuation treatment in Eygpt. A conversation about reconciliation and dialog developed in the living room and the head of the local council, Alon Shuster came to say few words.

Jimmy's memorial corner

Meanwhile; Khaled, Yael, Nir, Daniela and I listened to Anna's personal story. Anna described the last minutes before the explosion; how they decided to delay a drive because Jimmy wanted to tidy up the garden before a visit of friends from France that was planned for the next day, she told about a marriage proposal Jimmy was asked to carry on his parachute, how the whole family gathered to stick the "Will you Marry me" letters on the parachute, and how Jimmy acted out of character and by that saved Anna's life and another two Kibbutz members.

Ibrahim, one of the Palestinian members, asked Anna what would she like to say, if she could, to the man who shot the missile, and Anna answered, I would ask him what did you get from killing Jimmy. All of us, Israelis and Palestinians nodded with agreement.
Thanks to Anna Kdoshim who opened her heart and home for us. Thanks to Orly, Dudi, Dubush, Yarden and the rest of the kibbutz members who joined us and shared their daily hardships.

Sharon Kalimi Misheiker
Upper photo: Palestinian member near a concrete pipe which is used as a protection device during a missile attack.
 

Israeli, Palestinian bereaved families meet - Ynet News







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