Thursday, 22 May 2014

There is a crack in everything

The Crack in the Wall is a Facebook community created by the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF).  “This organization highlights the sanctity of human life across the divide, attempting to crack the wall of hatred by preserving dignity, mutual respect and opposing racism, hatred, injustice and any attempt to accept the status quo.” See
I heard some members of the group speak at large meeting in Tel Aviv on the eve of Israeli Independence Day.
Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin are spokespersons for the PCFF. The grassroots organization comprises bereaved Palestinians and Israelis and promotes reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge. More than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families belong to PCFF. The spokespeople maintain that the bond between members is borderless.
"When you lose a child you share the same trust," said Robi.
"There's no difference," echoed Bassam, just "joint pain."

In a country where there seems to be no end of bad news, these people are representative of some remarkable people I have met in the last month who are working tirelessly for peace here.

I meet Ina from Machsom Watch each week at Qalandiya checkpoint.  Machsom Watch is a movement of Israeli women, former serving army officers from all sectors of Israeli society, who oppose the Israeli occupation and the denial of Palestinians' rights to move freely in their land. Some of them identify as peace activists. Since 2001, they have conducted daily observations of Israeli army checkpoints in the West Bank, along the separation barrier. The reports of these observations are published on the Machsom Watch site, and sent to public officials and elected representatives in Israel. Through the documentation which discloses the nature of everyday reality, they are attempting to influence public opinion in the country and in the world, and thus to bring to an end the destructive occupation, which causes damage to Israeli society as well as to Palestinian society. - See more at:

Ina arrives at around 5am and observes the queue at the checkpoint.  At 6.15 she calls the Humanitarian Hotline if the humanitarian gate is not open for vulnerable people.  She reasons with officials in Hebrew if people are refused entry or the queue is being held up and she reports what she sees. 

Ronni is one of the Women in Black, a women's anti-war movement with an estimated 10,000 activists around the world. The first group was formed by Israeli women in Jerusalem in 1988, following the outbreak of the First intifada.  See:

Ronni is a founder member.  She stands each Friday with a small group in the middle of West Jerusalem holding placards saying Stop the Occupation in Hebrew, English and Arabic.  She stands silently, taking verbal abuse, crude gesticulations from passing motorists and loud honking from car horns.  She is frequently spat at.  She says, ‘The occupation is wrong.  It is a very bad thing for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Daniel is one of a small group of 17 year olds the British and Irish EAs spoke to at the Leo Baeck Education Centre in Haifa. He spoke about his forthcoming graduation from high school and his excitement about serving in the Israeli military.  He grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish home and says his views when young were very right-wing.  Two years ago, however, he participated in a project run by Friends Forever – a summer camp for Jewish and Arab young people.  He was called ‘Arab lover’ by some classmates afterwards but now has several Israeli Arab friends and has changed his views.

“I learned that the Jewish narrative is not the only one,’ he said.

“I still really want to serve my country.  I am a Zionist and believe in the State of Israel.  But now I have met and worked with Arab Israelis my own age, I know they are just like me.  I don’t want to be the bad soldier with the gun in Hebron.  I don’t want to point my weapon at people.  I won’t threaten them; I want to show humanity.”

Returning to Robi and Bassam from the Parents’ Circle:

"Each person sees history through his own eyes," says Robi. "When you don't know who's on the other side, you lose their humanity."
"We are more important than any land," answers Bassam. "One state, two states, five states, otherwise we will share it as two graves."

In the last weeks the conflict here has been intense.  Two boys were shot dead in Ramallah by the Israeli military on Nakba Day – the Palestinians’ name for the day Israel declared independence and Palestinians were forced to leave their homes in huge numbers.  In the Jerusalem area alone, homes, animal shelters and shops in six villages, have been demolished by Israeli forces since Sunday.  1,500 fruit trees were uprooted by Israeli bulldozers yesterday morning at the Nassers’ farm, Tent of Nations, near Bethlehem, to make way for a settlement road. When the situation seems hopeless, it’s ordinary individuals like those I have described who provide a chink in the darkness of the occupation.

That’s how the light gets in.

The title of this piece comes from a Leonard Cohen song which you might like to listen to:

I work for Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of QPSW or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for Middle East for permission. Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment