Below us, a set is being built for an upcoming concert by singer Roger Waters, a pacifist and one of the founders of the legendary band 'Pink Floyd'. The fuzzy green wheat, which was seeded under the responsibility of our friend and Forum member, Mashka, adds a special touch to the colorful theater complex that is being constructed at an amazing rate of speed for the gigantic show at the end of the week.
The pastoral atmosphere is broken only by the topic of the conversation – the story of our Palestinian friends from the villages of Salem and Dir-El Hhativ, located near Nablus and considered dangerous by the IDF.
Only yesterday we had been together. But today is Saturday, and Aymen, a forum member, called earlier and told me that our friends were stopped at the checkpoint near the village and are being held without their documents until a wanted man from their village is caught.
All day Israeli friends have been trying to help by calling people: the IDF spokeswoman, peace activists and Karmela Menashe (an Israeli reporter). Finally we receive news that our friends have been released, and their story becomes a news item, next to another item about a bomb that was found in the village the same day.
Later, we went together with a group of Israelis to visit Salem and Dir-El-Hativ villages. We invited the Jabara family to join our Forum. The father of the family was shot and murdered two years ago by a settler who managed to escape to the USA. We brought with us a special present for the family's seventeen-year-old daughter, Yasmin. She is a very talented blind girl, and we were honored to bring her a computer donated by good Israelis. The computer has special software for the blind that will help Yasmin with her studies at the University.
The Jabara family told us about another family whose old father was miraculously saved after being beaten to the edge of death by settlers in his olive plantation. The father now must go through rehabilitation, while his sons struggle to find work in Israel despite the wall and not having permits.
In Salem there is an association for the sake of the villagers, who invited us (the BFF) to hold some activities with them. Everywhere we went we were welcomed with warmth and invited to talk about peace between our two nations, whether peace is possible or not, and about the absurd situations which are created as a result of living under occupation. The conflict is intricate: there are Palestinian efforts to deal with the daily hardships created by oppression, Palestinian efforts to resist and fight back against occupation, and at the same time there are IDF attempts to deal with the resistance in order to protect themselves, and Israeli citizens trying to act in a way that will appear human. All these efforts seem to fail.
Meanwhile, the death industry runs wild. Missiles, rockets, cannonballs and bombs spill the blood of dozens of people even as I write, and all of the victims are Palestinians from Gaza. There is no savior for them.
In this harsh and confusing reality I try to understand what creates the feeling that there is no way out from the situation. What is responsible for the deterioration of the conflict and our detachment from the reconciliation we hope for? As I see it, sincere intentions and the genuine belief in peace are far away from both our nations:
- Last Saturday I spent some time with 'Listening Peers,' an organization encouraging dialog between Israelis with different political viewpoints. During Shabbat (Saturday) I spent my time at a religious kibbutz, 'Male-Gilboa.' It was the first time I have spent my Saturday like that. Also it was a new experience for me; I found that others have similar thoughts and yearnings, like the desire for peace that manifests itself dozens of times in prayer and powerful singing. When I tried to share these thoughts with my religious Jewish friends, they told me: "Peace with Palestinians? Never!" or "It's not a priority," "It won't happen during our lives" and "We aren't the one who need to work for it." They pray a thousands times in their lives for a peace which they don't believe in at all.
- From the Palestinian side, I also hear a strong conviction that "peace can never happen with the Jews."
- Numerous surveys show over the years that the majority of the people in both nations support negotiations that will lead to establishing two states. However, neither majority believes that the two-state solution will work. Both nations have no belief and no hope.
- The leaders of the two nations talk about their intention to negotiate, and the Israelis even pledge to negotiate before undertaking any other move. But we all know that their intent is not to conduct serious negotiations. It's as though both sides are not willing to pay the price of compromise and do not believe in the possibility of reaching or realizing any kind of agreement.
As I undertake our Sisyphean work of changing the consciousness of both nations through our educational and public communication activities, I must be no less firm in my belief in the way of reconciliation than other believers. I can see the impressive influence of our Palestinian members when they speak with deep conviction to different audiences about our way to peace.
I must be committed to this way, heart and soul, in order to bring closer the end of the conflict and the killing in our region. I must not falter in our stand during times of war, but we must be even more committed to peace and reconciliation.
Boaz Kitain- The Forum's Israeli General Manager