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01/02/2010

Holon: High school Students meet with bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Families

The students listened to families from Israel and the Palestinian territories talk about bereavement and loss. One student's reaction: "All this time I've been saying 'Death to the Arabs', now I think I won't say it ever again."

Liad Grinboym, Maariv

The students from Yitzhak Navon High School in Holon took part in a very special activity this month. They met with bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families who told them about their loved ones who died, on both sides of the conflict. The students listened attentively to the stories, heard the families speak about the pain of loss and the desire for peace, and promised to be a little bit more tolerant in the future.

Liz Donsky, in charge of social activities at the Yitzhak Navon High School, was deeply moved after the unusual meeting she organized with the PCFF and the students:

"We decided that in the framework of the special activities we organize for the students on Zionism and tolerance, we have to bring the young generation in contact with people from different points of the spectrum of Israeli and Palestinian culture.

We wanted the children to get to know a little bit those people which are often presented to them as their enemies, to offer them maybe a new viewpoint. During the project's build-up, we contacted the PCFF, a forum which brings together Palestinian families who lost their loved ones in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israeli families who lost their loved ones in the same conflict.

The goal of the Forum is to build a constructive dialogue in order to achieve real peace, to show different viewpoints of the same situation. The representatives of the Forum came to our High School to talk with the students and to tell them their personal stories.

How did the students approach the meeting?
The truth is, there were a lot of fears in the beginning. We teachers hear our students express very radical views on political issues, particularly on Arabs. Many times, the students come with a certain opinion which they bring from home, or which they hear on the street or on television. We didn't know how they would react to the stories of the Arab families. We were afraid that they would insult them, or express animosity against them.

Were you positively surprised?
To our great surprise, it was the total opposite. The students sat silently and listened to the stories, talked with the families, and you could see that they were discovering a new viewpoint. You don't get to hear every day the Arab side of the story of the conflict. 
How do these families feel towards the Israeli side. At the end of the discussion, we read the reactions of the students, and one of them had written: " All this time I've been saying  'Death to the Arabs', now I think I won't say it ever again."


Translation: Oshrat Cohen







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