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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6

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16/06/2004

Visiting Bereaved Families at Dir El Hattab

During the first week of June 2004 a joint Israeli-Palestinian delegation of our members traveled to the Palestinian village of Dir El-Hattab to meet with bereaved families.

After a long wait we, members of the Families Forum, have managed to arrange a meeting in Dir El-Hatab, after this meeting was postponed several times. The Nablus region is considered extremely dangerous. In spite of these circumstances, we felt the importance of our visit in the village was not in any doubt. Our aim was to meet with the bereaved Palestinian families from this village and from the village of Salem.

 

During the meeting we spoke with people who lost their relatives, who are buried in the nearby. When we walked past the cemetery it reminded me of our military cemeteries.  The people with who we met have discovered that we are brothers and sisters to their own pain and suffering. They have spoken with us about their right a right that comes our pain and agony to bring about reconciliation and to create a different life for both the people of this land, which will lead us to a better future. I feel these meetings are of such great importance.

 

The members who have participated in the meeting were Ibrahim Abu Ayash, Ibrahim Ali & Haled Abu Awad, Ibrahim Halil, Aaron Barnea, Roni Hirshenzon, Robi Damelin and myself.

 

We have listened to their stories of their suffering and the difficulties of their daily lives. Some of these families could not take part in the meeting because a tunnel is being dug near the villages outskirts by the Israeli army. These families try to salvage what they can from their crops before the army will bulldoze them away.

 

The curfews, the closures and the settlers all stifle the lives of the villages and force them into a life of poverty, stress and oppressions. Still, when one of the Palestinian bereaved parents stood up and said that he sees that the soldiers who died also left behind a suffering family, struggling for reconciliation and peace and says enough to the bloodshed and the destruction, I, still hopeful that the drops of blood which is still being spilt will one day be transformed into an ocean of good relations with the people living beside me in a normal and independent state.

 

I would like the meeting to be only the first in a series of meetings, which will allow us to visit bereaved families in their private homes, so we can learn more about their difficult existence.

 

 

Efrat Spiegel

 

 

* * *

 

If we were in any doubt as to why the work of the Forum is a ray of light in the Middle East, this trip put pay to any thoughts, which creep in from time to time.

 

We arrived at the roadblock and came face to face with the terrible and harsh reality of the day-to-day life of the Palestinians living under cruel occupation. Men, women, children, babies standing under the blazing sun with no shade or facilities waiting to hear their fate, could they come out of the village to go on with their daily business, or could they get back home? The young soldiers, it could have been my David, standing there forced into a position of having to decide whether they should allow them in or out. Having to decide whether to let a little baby with hemophilia pass through the barrier of human creation to reach the nearest hospital saying no and then finding out that the baby did not survive.

 

I am sure that they would have preferred to be anywhere except this sad and inhumane roadblock

 

Our hosts were standing patiently waiting on the other side, no strangers to the reality of the situation. Finally a young officer said, okay you can pass through without army protection, He then whispered to his colleagues check on them from time to time. 

 

This potentially beautiful village ravaged by the consequences of the occupation, cut off from their daily living with no way out. The circumstances of their fate made only too clear by our hosts when we arrived.

 

The meeting started with an introduction by Haled, and then everyone told their personal stories. It was so painful to once again realize what the conflict is doing to all of us and how intertwined and similar as people we are.

 

For me the most moving part of this whole surrealistic journey was the teacher who said that whenever he heard that an Israeli was killed he felt a sense of joy and satisfaction, but after looking into our eyes he now saw the people behind these deaths and suddenly felt so sad. This statement is after all the essence of what we are trying to do; the empathy implanted into the being of each side is the beginning of the road to a dialogue and reconciliation. I am grateful to be one of this group.

 

Robi Damelin







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