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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6

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06/05/2007

"Knowing is the beginning"

We all need an affirmation on the work we are doing towards reconciliation.  You who are so far away, and yet so close to the Parents Circle and our members who face the daily grind, and sometimes lose the passion.
 
The past week-end was for me and all those who attended the seminar "Knowing is the Beginning", an extraordinary emotional and learning experience.
 
Can you imagine 70 Palestinians from our group and 70 Israelis some of whom are Holocaust survivors, on a joint visit to "Yad - V - Shem".  This may seem to some to be a normal event, but the fact is that the museum has never before had such a group, let alone Israelis and Palestinians together.  It is not an easy decision for a Palestinian to visit the Holocaust Museum.  We were so moved by their willingness to witness what is so much part of our being and to do so with so much respect and empathy.

 In Yad v Shem.
 
We returned to the Hotel in East Jerusalem and were treated to a fascinating lecture by Professor Eyal Nave and Khalil Bader, the two academic history teachers and advisors for the project.  They conduct their talk in such a way that each gives their interpretation of historical milestones through Palestinian or Israeli eyes.  For example The "Balfour Declaration", 1948, 1967 etc.  This way of telling the narrative leaves room for respect from both sides, even they do not agree.

 
The idea of this Seminar is not only knowing the personal tragedy of each member, but also gaining an understanding of their historical narrative through their family tree.  The second trip we took was to a village which existed before 1948 , called Ekbeba, Um Muhammad (the mother of Jamil a member of the group) , and Abu Jamal, the father of Khaled and Ali Abu Awaad, Joined us.  It was so painful to see Jamil's mother standing next to what was once the well where she drew water, and seeing the tears in the eyes of the Palestinians when we climbed the hill to what was once the family home of Khaled, the only remains of this home were the two trees in blossom.

On the way to Ekbebe.
 
This Seminar is only the beginning of a 10 month project, sponsored by the Japanese Government.  The next step will be a one day meeting for those who attended the seminar.  We will invite three grandparents from each side to give witness and through them go deeper into the narrative of both sides.  We are of course filming the whole project and will use this for our work in schools and maybe create a documentary, if the budget allows.
 

Robi Damelin

February 2007

Photography: Mashka Litvak, Eyal Ofer.







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