PCFF is a community of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost close family members during the conflict. Together, they promote a long term reconciliation process through dialog and mutual understanding.
The Parents Circle - Families Forum is proud to share some of the highlights of our work on the ground in 2008. Despite the logistic challenges, we have managed to continue, to grow and to see the message spread to a much wider audience than ever before.
2008 started with a two month Israeli teachers' strike, nevertheless our team of 50 lecturers managed to exceed our target number and conduct 1,200 dialog meetings. This year our Israeli education coordinator directed much of his work to schools and youth movements who do not agree with our vision. Through comprehensive preparations we managed to open new doors, some of which had been shut for years to our message.
The Education Department created a new program for those students who had been exposed to our message and wished to carry the work further into their communities, thus the "Reconciliation Messengers Program" was created. The end of May saw the start of the first joint course of this program, attended by Israeli students of social work from Sapir College which is located near Sderot and has had its fair share of rockets, together with Palestinian university students from the West Bank. The initial seminar was a great success. Many difficult subjects and feelings were handled, but it soon became evident that nothing works better than these face to face meetings, especially in a reality where we do not know each other. The groups are continuing their contact and intend to carry a message of reconciliation into their own communities.
LECTURES AND ACTIVITIES IN PALESTINE:
The Palestinian coordinator recognized that the best way to get to a broader audience would be to work with more than 150 local civil institutions and Palestinian universities. More than 130 meetings were held in 2008. Considering the logistics involved, this is an amazing achievement. Meetings were held in Jenin, Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus as well as in universities on the West Bank. People who belong to the Hamas faction also participated in some of the meetings. We were happy to talk to them and to share with them our message of reconciliation.
We intend to expand the scope of this activity through 2009.
The Parents Circle - Families Forum, initiated a 10 chapter fiction drama which was aired in the second half of 2008 with great success. More than 550,000 viewers watched each episode. This was an extraordinary opportunity to spread the message. The personal and historical narratives of both sides were expressed through two women chefs, one Palestinian and one Israeli. A glimpse of an ordinary Israeli and Palestinian family, created an opportunity for empathy and a deeper understanding. The "Making of" episode was also aired. This showed the work of the PCFF and gave the audience an opportunity to hear our personal stories and perhaps to recognize that much of what they thought to be fiction is in fact true. We intend to use an edited version for our work in classrooms.
Nine members of our group were invited to attend a three day - conflict resolution workshop at Georgetown University. We are most grateful to Mr. John J. DeGioia, the President of the university and to all of his extraordinary academic team for this amazing gift. For some time now, we have felt a need for academic support for our work on reconciliation through dialog, and we can not think of a better partner than Georgetown. The seminar assembled some of the most brilliant minds in the field. Following this experience, we were lucky to have Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow to run a one day seminar for the whole group.
Their advice will surely be invaluable for our future plans for creating a reconciliation framework to be in place when political agreements are signed.
Two members of the PCFF were invited by Georgetown University to address the public as part of the 9/11 commemoration events.
PEACE DAY – 2008:
Kfar Aza - Ni'lin
The Parents Circle - Families Forum marked International Peace Day 2008 by commemorating our dead children, siblings, parents and partners who died due to the conflict. On this day our message is "Stop the Bloodshed". The day started with a visit to bereaved families in the Palestinian town of Ni'lin and to Kibbutz Kfar Aza which is near Gaza. The day ended with a ceremony for the whole group, and the annual awards which we present to people and organizations who have dedicated their time and efforts to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. This year the awards were presented to Israeli Yehuda Shaul and his organization "Breaking the Silence" and to the Palestinian Ayed Ahmad Morar for his work of non-violent opposition to the occupation. Ismail Khatib, who donated the organs of his son to be transplanted in Israel, received special mention. His son was killed by Israeli troops in Jenin. A further special mention was awarded to Buma Inbar for his efforts in organizing relief to Palestinian farmers and families and particularly to sick Palestinian children.
2008 was a very productive year for the Women's Group. With each meeting the relationships deepen and trust is built. There were smaller groups of art, dance movement and sharing of religions, these were so moving as the intimacy led to a much deeper knowledge of the personal and historical narratives. Without doubt the most emotional and unforgettable meeting took place in Beit Ummar, a village between Bethlehem and Hebron. Twenty five Israeli and 40 Palestinian women met to share their stories and get to know each other’s houses. The Palestinian children were amazed to see the Israeli visitors and accompanied them through the streets of the village to visit four houses of newly bereaved mothers. These mothers shared their stories, and once again the pain became the common denominator which led to trust, understanding and a hope for a better future.
VISIT TO HEBRON
The Palestinian Hebron Rehabilitation Committee invited the PCFF members to see what is happening in the old city of Hebron and to see results of their work on the ground. Around forty Israelis and Palestinians from the group took part in the visit. The Palestinian police accompanied the group to the entrance of the city where they were met by representatives of Hebron's governor who escorted the visitors to the old city. The organization explained what work they are doing on the ground and how they are trying to encourage the Palestinians to come back and live in the houses which they have restored. It was hard for the group to see the living conditions of the Palestinians in Hebron and how some 400 Israeli settlers are violating the basic human rights of some 40,000 Palestinians.
During the trip a group of soldiers who came by, insisted on escorting us to our cars. Our protestations were not accepted. One of the members of the group said to the officer in charge: "open your heart and mind and look at this unique sight of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who walk and work together and maybe this sight will reduce the fear and reduce the hatred".
WEBSITE – TheParentsCircle.org
The tri-lingual website, Hebrew-Arabic-English, has become one of the most effective and dynamic tools of the organization, both as an open window to the world and as a platform for internal debate and exchange of information and views. Global interest, along with dedication and professionalism, led to an increase in the Website's entries, which rose from 5,000 to more than 20,000 per month from all over the world, including Arab countries.
Charlotte, NC: Invited by Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte: Lecture tour.
Catholic Relief Services One month lecture trip.
Washington: invited by Universal Peace Federation. For leadership Conference and Global Peace Festival
University of Minnesota: Prof. Mark Umbreit from center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking invited 2 members to attend a seminar.
Washington and West Coast to accept Search for Common Ground Award.
Invited by World Vision Canada. This was a first for the PCFF. We spoke in many venues as well as in the Canadian Parliament and met with important leaders.
A joint delegation of Israeli-Palestinian youngsters from the PCFF was invited by the municipality of Koganei for a tour which included meetings with the Japanese people. The group brought the message of reconciliation to the Japanese public and was invited to meet the Japanese PM. The newly elected PM, Mr. Taro Aso, addressing the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly used the visit of our group to Japan as an example of the peace strategy to be followed in the solution to the Middle East conflict.
Invited by Ms. Hayley Galgut: First appearance in South Africa, met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as many other architects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Invited by Norwegian Church Aid - NCA. Addressed many open meetings.
Rome: North Italy-South Switzerland: Invited by Confronti-Dialogo Seeds of Peace: Educational Tour.
Invited by Angelo Frammartino Foundation to launch the Foundation.
Bosco Marengo: Invited by The World Political Forum founded by Mikhail Gorbachev: Participate in General Assembly.
Bologna: Emilia Romagna Region: Meet representatives of regional peace schools to develop future joint programs.
Venice: Italian Coordination Committee of Municipalities for Peace and Human Rights invited two mothers of the PCFF to participate in the III European Conference of Local Authorities for Peace in the Middle East.
Invited by Swedish Christian Study Center BILDA: General lectures and meetings in Parliament.
Invited by Jewish Reform movement: Screening of Encounter Point.
Invited by Jewish Synagogues in North London. Lectures following screening of Behind the Intentions.
Limmud Conference: Lectures by the PCFF.
Invited by the Victim Empowerment Project.
Invited by the Victim Empowerment Project.
Over 2008 the PCFF has had several trips to Spain. We now have a "Friends Of" established and have many new and valuable contacts. The Forum met with Mr. Miguel Moratinos, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs three times.
Invited by Women without Borders. International Conference to create SAVE Sisters Against Violent Extremism.
MEETING FOREIGN DELEGATIONS
Spokespersons of the PCFF met 124 foreign groups, among them pilgrims, politicians, academics, journalists and peace activists as well as representatives of international organizations. We also addressed researchers and outstanding personalities interested in the special approach of the PCFF to reconciliation and the ways to peace in the region. These encounters help the PCFF to spread its message and enlarge the world community of friends.
The PCFF in the local international media
Hundreds of articles and electronic media items were produced and published during 2008, covering the whole world.
Once again the Parents Circle - Families Forum has been honored with some very prestigious awards over 2008:
GOLDBERG INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION
The Fourth annual Goldberg IIE prize recognized Aziz Abu Sarah and Lily Yaffe from the PCFF as an innovative Palestinian-Jewish team working together to advance peace in the Middle East. Aziz and Lily received the prize for their work with the Parents Circle Families Forum conducting educational activities that draw on their own very moving personal stories. The selection Committee for the Prize includes leading experts from academia, the non-profit sector, and government.
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE INTERNATIONAL'S MOST PRESTIGIOUS AWARD, THE EISNHOWER MEDALLION
Aziz Abu Sarah and Rami Elhanan have accepted, on behalf of the PCFF, this prestigious award during their 18th Worldwide Conference in Cairo, Egypt. On the last evening they were invited to dine with Mary Jean Eisenhower - PTPI President/Chief Executive Officer and Dwight D. Eisenhower's granddaughter. During the dinner Ms. Eisenhower went from one table to the other and asked the attendees what was their highlight of the conference. People mentioned Aziz and Rami's presence and the PCFF as a unique and moving organization which it is important to help and to promote. Notable recipients of the Eisenhower Medallion awards include amongst others: His late Majesty King Hussein of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (posthumously); The Honorable Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu; Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Posthumously); Mother Teresa and President Anwar El Sadat (posthumously). The nomination for this award was presented by the Board of Directors member Ambassador Theodore Britton who heard Rami and Aziz lecturing last summer.
THE JERUSALEM FOUNDATION
The Parents Circle - Families Forum was selected to receive the Martha prize for Tolerance and Democratic values in Jerusalem. This prize is awarded annually to those who instill democratic ideals in the city and which would enable them to promote an educational program in the spirit of the prize. The Palestinian Co-General Manager, Khaled Abu-Awwad and the Israeli Co-General Manager, Nir Oren have accepted the prize behalf of the PCFF. We are thrilled to have been awarded this prize; nothing is more fitting as we are starting a special project with schools from East and West Jerusalem and creating an environment for them to meet. We were also honored that the prestigious committee headed by Prof. Menachem Ya'ari, a member of the Jerusalem Foundation Board of Governors and winner of the Israel Prize, recognized the value of the work we are doing.
SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND
The PCFF was among the list of prestigious honorees who received the 2008 Search for Common Ground awards. The PCFF received the award for peace building in the Middle East. The common denominator of the evening ceremony held in Washington was the determination to see the humanity of the other and to illustrate the power of a national apology. Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin accepted the award on behalf of the Parents Circle - Families Forum and were given a standing ovation after they brought their message of hope and reconciliation.
We as members of the Forum, come together on an ongoing basis to provide support and encouragement to one another, Israelis and Palestinians alike, sharing the same pain and sense of loss. This mutual support serves as a source of strength and enables us to continue acting for the greatest common goal - reconciliation and peace.
Wholehearted thanks to our supporters in 2008 (In Alphabetical order)
American Friends of Parents Circle
Austrian Development Agency
Bread for the Hungry
Friends of Bereaved Families Forum UK
Georgetown University (in kind)
Kennedy Leigh Trust
Nordelbisches Missions Zentrum
Norwegian Church Aid
Rosenzweig Coopersmith Foundation
Spanish Foreign Ministry
Stichting Het Solidariteitsfonds
Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs
You can also become an important part of the Parents Circle by supporting our efforts to end the bloodshed, violence and circle of hate. To ensure the continuation of our projects your generous support is needed. The Parents Circle - Families Forum is a USA registered 501c3 not-for-profit organization
DONATIONS MAY BE MADE THROUGH:
In Israel & Palestine
Asia House, Tel-Aviv
Swift Code: Poalilit
IBAN: IL 93-0125-6700-0000-0293-505
In North America:
American Friends of Parents Circle - Families Forum
114W. 26th Street
In United Kingdom:
Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum (FBFF)
Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace
31 Coleridge Walk, London NW11 6AT
(Registrated Charity no. 1118221)
Parents Circle – Families Forum
Bereaved Families Supporting Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance
18 year old student, Aloney Itzhak, 8/12/08:
“I was very connected to and moved by the story of "my side" but when I heard the story of the Palestinian I felt his pain. It was difficult for me to hear that our side is also not always right, but I've learnt from the meeting that on the other side there are also people…It was sad listening to the stories but I am happy to know that there is a dialog and that people from both sides want peace.”
12th Grade student, Petach Tikva, 24.10.08:
“I learnt about the pain of the other side. I learnt that the other side, whom I thought I hated are the only evil part, are just like us, and it is as difficult for them as it is for us… The Palestinian lecturer Muhammad opened my eyes and my views are now more tolerant.