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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6

Opinions
31/05/2004

We Do Not Have The Right To Stay Silent

Ben Kfir

Speech made by our member, Ben Kfir at the memorial ceremony to the fallen soldiers of the Signal Corps

Distinguished guests and relatives of the fallen soldiers of the Signal Corps,

I truly dislike the term "family of bereavement". I would gladly waive this privilege, one I will have for the rest of my life, of belonging to this family, but the choice was not mine to make. No one asked me. No one consulted you either; you were forced into this large crowd sitting here today.

My daughter, Captain Yael Kfir from Ashkelon, a career officer in the Signal Corps was murdered along with eight other soldiers, men and women, in a terror attack in September 2003, at the entrance to Tsrifin military camp near Tel Aviv.

In ceremonies that I attend, I always sing our anthem Hatikva, 'The Hope' together with everyone. The hope is two thousand years old, our anthem says. Tens of thousands of Israelis have fallen (and still fall every day) in their efforts to guarantee our existence here as a free nation living in its homeland. It seems that the cycle of blood goes back to days immemorial. Is there some secret formula that can break this cursed cycle? Is there hope yet, or will we forever live by our swords? I think this is the greatest threat to our future here the loss of hope.

Our Yael was to celebrate her 22nd birthday three months and five days after she was killed. Yael was a serious, responsible young officer but also a young woman who was full of life. No one asked her what her plans and hopes were and whether she was willing to give them up and die.

When Yael was murdered, I too lost hope and sank into a dark abyss. Sleepless nights with visions of horror and thoughts that I am afraid to even voice, practically incapacitated me. It is only the responsibility I felt for the rest of the family and the support I got from a few devoted friends that kept me from going mad.

Then I was invited to a workshop organized by the Parents Circle Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Families' Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. I went there and found a group of wonderful people, all members of bereaved families, who have since given me the strength and the reason to get out of bed every morning.

Fortunately, I live in a pluralistic country that upholds freedom of thought and speech. Israelis hold many vastly different opinions. I have learned that the other side is not homogenous either. There too people have many different opinions, and not everyone is a murderer. There are human beings on the other side too.

For too many years I was indifferent to the politics of this country. Come Election Day, I would exercise my right to vote and that was that. Today I bitterly regret this and feel that perhaps I did not do everything I could as a father to protect Yael's life. I am convinced that we have the power to spur our elected leaders to do more in order to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Raindrops seep into the earth, melt the limestone and create huge stalactite and stalagmite caverns. The wind carves rocks and changes the landscape. Like the wind and the raindrops, we as citizens can effect a change. We do not have the right to stay silent.

Our cause is just; there is no doubt about that. We have only one country and we will not give it up under any circumstances.

Yehuda Amihai wrote in one of his poems (loosely translated):

"At the place where we are right

There will never grow

Flowers in spring."

And these flowers our children, parents, brothers, husbands and wives in whose memory we gathered here today, would have surely asked us: Is it enough to be right? Should we not also exercise a little wisdom and farsightedness?

Two nations live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and neither intends to give up. This is a fact we cannot change. We share the same piece of land and we share what we have in it the graves of our children. We have paid an awful price. We continue to pay this price every day, every minute. Revenge will not bring them back. I think that as bereaved families it is our duty to find ways to build bridges and advance ideas that will push our leaders and peoples to peace, reconciliation and tolerance.

Relentless peace activity this is the way for us to find solace and commemorate our loved ones.

Thank you.

 

 Ashkelon, May 14, 2004.





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