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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6


Parents seek reconciliation

Eric Silver

Eric Silver listens to words of hope

In a week of turmoil and soul-searching, they delivered a message of hope and reconciliation. A pair of bereaved Israeli parents, mounting a vigil outside the media centre near the Kissufim crossing, where the army went in and, eventually, the settlers came out. A Palestinian sniper shot dead Robi Damelin's reserve officer son, David,and nine of David Damelin's men, at a West Bank roadblock in March 2002. The 61-year-old South African-born mo-ther, a veteran of the anti-apart-heid movement, has devoted herself ever since to the Parent Circle, an expanding group of 500 bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families, who meet and talk. "The shared pain," she told the JC, "makes you drop barriers much quicker." Avraham Shomroni, who arri-ved in England on the first Kind-ertransport in 1938 and migrated to a left-wing Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz in 1953, lost his pilot son Yonatan 30 years ago. At 78, buoyant and articulate, he is one of a team of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who lecture to high-school students on both sides. "I tell them we have to see ourselves as others see us," he said. "There are so many bereaved parents who feel natural anger, a natural desire for revenge. But no revenge can bring back our children. So we say, let's stop the mutual bloodletting." This week, their message was one of "engaging not disengaging," of reconciliation between Jews and Jews, and between Jews and Arabs. Although most of the Israeli families in the group identify with the peace camp, Ms Damelin insisted that they felt compassion for the settlers who were being evicted from their homes. "There's no such thing as selective empathy. I sat in Neveh Dek-alim with a settler mother, who said she couldn't leave because her son was buried there. I can't imagine anything more painful than having to move the grave of your son. "I said: 'You're a mother, I'm a mother, the Palestinian lady across the road is also a mother. If we could prevent one other family from experiencing this pain, wouldn't it be worthwhile?' She invited me back." But Ms Damelin and Mr Shomroni were not decking themselves in orange and joining the anti-disengagement protesters. "The sanctity of life is much more important," Robi Damelin insisted, "than the sanctity of land. The reason for this vigil is to say that all mothers feel the same pain. We're saying don't take sides, be pro-solutions."




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