Yael Armanet - Chernobroda, has been a member of the Parents Circle - Families Forum for two years. Recently, she collaborated with German film director Marcus Vetter—who created the film "The Heart of Jenin”—to make a film about her meeting with the family of the terrorist who killed her husband, DovChernobroda, and many others in the Matza restaurant (Haifa) in 2002.
When the visit became realistic, Yael wanted a PCFF's representative to accompany her. Ali Abu Awwad and myself, Nir Oren accepted this uneasy mission. Dov’s eldest son Yoav, and Yael's closest friend, Bluma, also joined the visit.
Before leaving, we made all the required arrangements and received permits to enter Jenin. We were asked to sign legal documents, which stated among other things: “I was warned and am aware that in the closed area (Area A) there are various security and safety risks especially for Israeli citizens and residents. Although, I may hurt my body and property, I wish to be given permission to enter the area". There were also additional waivers to sign absolving the State of Israel of responsibility for bodily or property damage.
Right to left: Nir, Yoav, Yael and Bluma
After a short delay, and after being questioned by soldiers who wondered about our purposes in Jenin, we passed the Jalame checkpoint near Gilboa and headed toward Jenin. The checkpoint was filled with cars with yellow numbers (Israeli numbers), but all of them but us, were Israeli Palestinians. Lately these cars enter Jenin regularly, for relatives' visits and shopping.
Naturally, the difficulty of the meeting and preparations raised many emotions. The most common remark Yael and Yoav received regarded their courage in making the journey.
Yael and Yoav were also understandably concerned and apprehensive about how they would be accepted at the Tubasi household and how they themselves would respond to the meeting. Ali and I were also concerned. On the one hand the German team avidly made preparations with the Jenin family, and spoke of the family's will to host the Chernobroda family. On the other hand we were very uncertain about the preparation process. In retrospect the planning turned out to be useful, yet it wasn't clear enough at the time. Marcus and the German team accompanied the whole visit, photographed and helped with every single detail.
The Tubasi family received us warmly. After sitting down, exchanging a few greetings, and receiving some refreshments, we experienced a few awkward silences and embarrassed glances. Ali and I tried to figure out if we should intervene in this difficult but natural process. In the end we interjected sparingly. We blessed our hosts and told them about the PCFF we described its activities in Israel and Palestine, and emphasized the importance of the visit. Bilal Zacharana (received PCFF's 2007 Peace Sign), who is from Jenin and active in PCFF's Project:"Messengers of Reconciliation" also joined the meeting and offered his blessing.
Nir on the right, with Yoav and Abu Amjad.
The women conducted the first part of the meeting separately. Shadi Tubasi's mother was very excited and nervous. She was very worried about Yael and Yoav''s accusations. She felt their pain and was relieved when they expressed their desire for reconciliation and acknowledged the Tubasi family as victims of the conflict. Yael also tried to calm her by remarking that all sides had suffered enough and should look towards the future, for the sake of the children and grandchildren.
When the women came back into the room, they helped develop the discussion. We asked the families to also speak about Dov and Shadi.The Tubasi Family heard a lot about Dov from the German Crew. The fact that Dov was a peace activist, who truly believed in this philosophy, helped them agree to the meeting. Yael and Yoav said that Dov was an architect who built many buildings in the Arab sector and acquired many friends there including Faisal Husseini. Dov met Arafat and introduced him to Israeli politicians such as Roni Milo.
Shadi was described as a man who refused to settle down, and was under a lot of pressure to get married after his younger brother had wed. We asked the family why they thought he had decided to become a suicide bomber and kill others. It turned into a long discussion about the difficult and painful life in Jenin during the second Intifada. His best friend was killed beside him and many others lost their lives through no fault of their own. The family home, located on Main Street adjacent to Jenin refugee camp, was broken into by IDF soldiers in response to events in the camp.
Neither his parents nor brothers tried to justify his actions. Even though the family did not openly say they were sorry, they saw his action as unacceptable and completed at a great cost.
Shadi's brother, Rada, spoke of the injury he suffered a few years earlier.He was attacked by a mistaarev (an Israeli soldier disguised as an Arab in order to carry out a military operation or to gather intelligence) and was shot seven times in the leg. The soldiers ran to him and tried to stop him but the Mistaarev kept shouting "Let me finish the job." One soldier was forced to cover Rada in order to save him.
After the attack the IDF partially demolished the Tubasi house, making a number of large holes in the walls and breaking windows. The family was told they shouldnot fix or renovate their home. Not that anyone came to check but the family feared collaborators. Later, they were allowed to build additional floors over the ruined floor. This created an absurd situation wherein a new house was built over a ruined one.
The Tubasi family possesses roots in Israel, but after the attack were denied their Israeli identity cards and prevented from entering the country. They maintain a relationship with the family's two married daughters living in Umm al Fahm, however contact is often problematic and limited.
As the meeting progressed, conversations flowed more easily and became more personal. I tried to check with Shadi's brother to see how he felt about the meeting. He repeatedly stated that he had no problem with the discussion because we presented a position and views he accepted, and understood we did not come to attack him. I pressed this argument, and said that he was right when he spoke about me but what about Yael and Yoav? Weren't there differences between my visit and that of Yael and Yoav, who's husband and father were killed by his brother?. Rada insisted that there was no difference.
With the passage of time I recognized familiar aspects of encounters between Palestinians and Israelis, between human beings. Shadi's mother was the only individual who remained a bit more distant than the men and less distant than the women in the group.
All of us were led on a tour to Cinema Jenin which is being rebuilt. We met the property owner who was one of the first who helped Marcus Vetter start this project and overcome the objection of the other land owners.. Some land owners found it hard to accept a collaboration with Israelis and others tried to gain a profit from the re-establishment of the abandoned movie house.
During the meeting, the family heard about the PCFF and its activities.They also expressed a willingness to join our activities and meet with our friends.
Since I returned from Jenin I've shared my experiences, I have heard various opinions on the visit and about the acceptance of the Tubasi family into the PCFF.
Parents Circle – Familes Forum
Upper picture director Marcus Vetter explains the project "Cinema Jenin" to attendees.
"Between Us", Yael Armanet - Chernobroda.
Watch the movie trailer: AFTER THE SILENCE
Right: Ali and Mrcus