“History through the Human Eye”—led by Parents Circle Families Forum facilitators, who are members, Daniela Kitain and Aisheh Aqtam. The two began the weekend on a strong emotional note telling their personal narratives that have brought them on their paths to where they are today. The narratives brought the Palestinian – Israeli conflict home for all those partaking in the weekend workshop.
"History through the Human Eye" is a PCFF project, funded by the USAID, where --12 groups of Israelis and Palestinians-- meet to discuss their collective and individual narratives associated with the conflict.
The first weekend of this project took place on October 15th and 16th at the Arava Institute—students aged twenty to thirty-eight participating in an educational program comprised of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans, a Russian, and a South African-- located just north of Eilat. The workshop addressed the narratives of both Israeli’s and Palestinian’s, as well as individuals finding and defining their own narratives; furthermore the workshop addressed the process and contributing involvement towards reconciliation. By the conclusion of the weekend many said they would not only participate in the workshop again, but that they wanted more of a leadership proactive part towards the reconciliation process.
The PCFF facilitator Daniela Kitain began telling her narrative of losing her son, Tom Kitain, February 4, 1997, when two Israeli Air Force Sikorsky CH- 53 helicopters collided in the upper Galilee on their way to what used to be Israeli army posts in Lebanon. Tom Kitain was one of seventy-three killed in the accident. The accident has been noted as the most horrible helicopter disaster in Israeli history. Tom lived with his family in (Hebrew) Neve Shalom or (Arabic) Wahat al-Salam, which means an Oasis of Peace. The residents of Neve Shalom or Wahat al-Salam, are Israeli Jews Muslims and Christians who live together in a community based on mutual acceptance, respect and cooperation. . The community is now in its second generation of living together and proving it can work. Daniela is a peace activist for many years and has a numerous experience with group guidance
Aisheh then proceeded telling her narrative of losing her brother, what she has gone through to this point, and what she continues to do for peace. Aisheh lost her first brother Mahmoud el Khatib August 27, 1999. Mahmoud was shot in the heart ten years previous, and it ultimately claimed his life the same date, ten years later. Aisheh stated “Mahmoud and I were very close. . . he would tell me of all the little things in his life: what he liked and what he did not. Losing him was the hardest thing I have ever experienced and the pain will never pass.” Aisheh currently works with Israeli and Palestinian Women’s groups within the PCFF on a variety of issues and projects. Aisheh is the mother of six children and constantly preaches the importance of peace that violence will not bring an end to bloodshed.
The narratives of these women, what they have gone through, incidents they have experienced, and now listening to their compassion to work together towards a reconciliation solidifies and brings the issue of reconciliation to the forefront. Those at the Arava Institute became drawn in showing emotion with listening to the narratives told by each Daniela and Aisheh, the students showed a sense of deep concern and enthusiasm of their own to work together towards a reconciliation process.
A student of the Arava Institute who will remain anonymous was quoted saying “we must live together in peace.” This is a small insight into the perspectives and passionate emotion shared of those involved in the weekend workshop.
With Daniela and Aisheh, sharing their personal narratives it brought everyone to a level of understanding and mutually sharing; all the people involved felt comfortable enough to open themselves to share their narrative(‘s) with others. Those involved in the workshop shared narratives of attempting to raise children in the difficult times of the conflict; being regulated on locations allowed and not allowed to go; the fear of living in Israel and feeling as an outsider; leaving Israel and not being able to return; growing up in the general fear of living in certain areas of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, the West Bank, or Gaza. Even as internationals abroad sharing their narratives and relating them to the narratives of the conflict that an Israeli or Palestinian grow up with each day; but not really being able to imagine the real difficulties children here grow up with every day.
The issue of this conflict stressed and stretched across the globe further illustrates the importance that the issue of a peaceful reconciliation must be achieved through any extremity. A participant at the institute who will remain anonymous was quoted saying “Mother Teresa said ‘I wouldn't participate in any procession against war, but I will participate if it’s a call for peace.’ And I say ‘I will never look behind, because I can't change the past but I will look for the future and make a new history.”
The “History through the Human Eye” weekend workshop allotted time for further development in addressing the seriousness of the conflict with first hand personal experiences; a quotation from an anonymous source, “this made me sad, because it is unfair that some must face so much peril and violence while others may never see a day of war in their entire life.” Another quote from the weekend was “to feel the pain of others people who suffered a lot, and sacrificed and lost lots of souls.”
Those at the Arava Institute took part in participating with writing many brief aspects of insight into their personal Narrative. The participants shared events from personal history, family history, and historical events they felt they had a relation with.
Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) Professor Eyal Naveh and Mr. Khalil Bader facilitated a discussion at the “History through the Human Eye” workshop talking about the narratives of the Israeli and Palestinian’s, respectively. Within the narratives issues, the two men addressed political, social, differential, and governmental issues. As well as addressing both the typical questions as well as the controversial aspects that contest many people’s lives. The Participants of the workshop asked and presented the professors with many controversial questions regarding the narratives, religion, human rights, beliefs, the Holocaust, and finally proceeding with moving forward in peaceful reconciliation.
Mr. Bader and Professor Naveh told their conflicting narratives pertaining to the view points of each Israeli’s and Palestinian’s all while sitting next to each, upholding high respect and regard for each other. Neither acted out of impulse, nor said anything negative of the opposing view point, nor did either interrupt the other. The posture and respectfulness given off by the professors was carried throughout the room. This was a message and action of acceptance in and of conveyed to all those watching and listening.
Each Dr. Nevah and Mr. Bader told the conflicting narratives regarding controversial issues like depending on how it is documented as Israel’s Independence of 1948 or the Palestinian Nakba. Furthermore, the professors addressed the usage of talking about the history of the Holocaust and to not use it over one and another, but also to not let the Holocaust reoccur in any form.
The two Professors then changed the tone of the lecture from telling of the narratives to telling stages and steps we must take to reach peace. The first of which being is for Jews to accept the Palestinian narrative and the Palestinian’s to accept the Jewish narrative.
To wrap up the weekend, the participants stated the following comments:
“Many (perhaps all) of the topics gave me new incite and perspective. I much appreciated the historical narratives of the Israeli and Palestinian teachers.”
“The two historians giving dual narratives were excellent. I learned so much content, and I also found the format very moving and though provoking.”
“I may participate in any project that works for peace, and for stopping the discrimination in all of it's kinds, and to help me know more about the other part/side and their suffering I would be very glad if I could make them smile and help them think about their future.”
Concluding the weekend workshop “History through the Human Eye,” participants looked for programs to actively participant towards the solution of a peaceful reconciliation. The Parents Circle Families Forum provided information regarding ways to help better the Dialogue Workshops for future meetings, the program “Crack in the Wall,” and also referred to the website. Furthermore many participants volunteered their information for future contact of involvements.