On Friday the 20/07/07, all the participants of the Project: "Knowing is the Beginning" met. In the last few months the Project Partners met each other twice and heard each other's personal story and family narrative. During the meeting on Friday, each couple shared their experience with the others.
Here are some of the things that were said:
Nasra: I didn't expect to get a welcome like the one I got from Kamal and his wife. It wasn't a visit at a stranger's house - it was a visit in the house of a brother and a dear man. I went with his wife to pick up cherries and then to visit his brother the Professor. The minute I told them that I'm from the PCFF and lost my two sons I was accepted with great honor and respect. I hope that one day I'll be able to welcome him at my home in Nablus.
Kamal: I was very moved when we went to my two sons monument. Nasra touched and kissed the photos' of my sons. I don't understand why we have to lose our children. Nasra and I had a chance to cry together and she even gave me a glass of water at my home. I pray that we'll be able to visit each other without limitations and that there won't be any more victims.
Mashka: Id and I are both orphans of the 1948 war. Both of us never met our fathers. I was moved to find out that I, an orphan from a Kibbutz in Israel, feel exactly the same as an orphan from Beit Omar does. I was sorry that Id's sons didn't get a permit to visit me at my home in the Kibbutz.
Id: It wasn't strange for me to visit in the Kibbutz or to visit the children's residence. Palestinian and Israeli education is the same.
Mashka and Id
Aisha Ashur: Nira took us to the wishing tree in Karkur. We read some of the notes the kids wrote and laughed. Nazia asked me what I would write and I said that there won't be war, no more dead and no more prisoners. We went to the Muhraka (a monastery on Mount Carmel) on the way to Nazia, and looked at the Valley of Jezreel. Megiddo prison is in the valley, my brother is held there. It was hard for me to watch the prison from a distance, I wanted to go there and kiss him. I wish us all to continue with this kind of visits.
Boaz: In our meeting, Usama and I went to look for my family roots in Hebron. My family story there has an important part in the story of the Jewish people in this city. I was told that there isn't a chance that Usama would be able to go inside the Shuhada street (the main street in area H2 in Hebron), because it's forbidden for Palestinians to walk in this street. Usama managed to enter the street and came with us. We found my family house. Today settlers live there. I was moved to find the house, also we feared entering because of the settlers. We found the Palestinian family who saved my family in 1929 during the massacre of the Jewish residents of Hebron by Palestinians. They invited us to come and visit.
In Beit Omar we met one of Usama's relatives who told us about the battle in Gush Ezion. He is almost eighty years old and didn't want to join us to see the battle field. My mom and aunt are also about eighty years old and also didn't want to join the tour. In Gush Ezion we went to the place where Usama's grandfather was injured (Usama's grandfather died later from his wounds). The battle description I heard is similar to the description I heard before from the Israeli side. It was interesting for me to be there because my mother was one of Kibbutz Revadim's founders. Revadim was conquered that day. Today there is only a sign and some settlers' houses there.
Usama: I felt that the only Palestinians who can enter the Shuhada Street today are the dead who can watch the street from the nearby cemetery. I was moved to see Boaz visit the place where his grandfather lived and to meet some families who saved Jews in 1929. I was afraid that the Hebron settlers will kill me if they will find out that I'm a Palestinian. One of the Hebron residents we met described his life as living in a cage and emphasized the difference between Israelis like Boaz and the settlers who live in Hebron.
Boaz and Usama
Jalal: I went into Jona's car and felt that I was carrying the whole of Palestinian history on my shoulders. On the radio we heard the interview I gave on "Reshet Alef" (an Israeli radio station). It was natural for me to receive the warm welcome In Jona's house, I felt that I have an international role. It's hard for me that I can't welcome Jona at my house in Tubas. Maybe when we'll build a Palestinian state we'll open our home to the Israelis. "Knowing is the Beginning" is one of the most important Projects we have but I must say that it raises some questions in me. Is our aim is to deepen our personal relations or to tell our historic story and how does a project like that affect both sides.
Jona: I didn't feel in the meeting that Jalal felt as the representative of all the Palestinian people. Jalal and his wife Iman, were open and told us their personal history, I felt connected immediately. Meeting with them was impressive because they are both religious but give their children the option to choose their own way. I was impressed by Jalal's answers in the radio interview. When he was asked about how the people in his village refer to him he said that he acts according to his belief in Peace and Reconciliation and even if some of the villagers are against his way, they know that he's a Palestinian patriot as much as he's a Peace activist.
Jalal and Jona
Ayelet: I want to refer to the visit from the point of view of my son, Ofri, and Fadi Abu Awwad. Ofri and Fadi met when they both were assistant guides in the PCFF summer camp. They couldn't speak each other's language, but still started their friendship even without words. Today Fadi speaks Hebrew and they speak on the phone and their relationship has become stronger. When Ali visited us Fadi came with him and this was not for the first time. Ofri and Fadi has visited each other before. The peak of the visit for me was to see the true friendship between the two.
Abu Tarek and Rami
Professor Eyal Nave, one of the Project's instructors, said: One of the ways for regimes and rulers to maintain an on-going state of hostility is by the process of dehumanization which each regime is doing to the other side. The way to do it is usually with sophisticated means ssuch as: no recollection of names and faces, the person becomes a statistical number and the report is always anonymous. One of my goals in joining this Project is to fight this process of dehumanization. The way to fight it is with our own tools of humanization. We bring the human aspect and the human face to it by meeting each other. In your meetings each one of you met a human being with emotions, pains and anger. The statistical number became a person. In the meetings the Project Partners turned each other into human beings. A tragic common denominator became a humane common denominator. What came out of what you were saying is that the meetings built a new identity between Israelis and Palestinians. People called each other "my brother" and a Palestinian mother kissed the photos' of Israeli soldiers. Children were laughing with each other. A process of personification of the other side, started. This process is a very important from a political point of view, because it's opposed what the Politicians want us to think about the other side and that's why we shouldn't underestimate this process. This is an important process in the context of the conflict, because it stands in contrast to the political message.
Yael and Aisha
Sharon Kalimi Misheiker
Thanks to Yael Misheiker and Mashka Litvak.
Upper photo: Kamal and Nasra.