The Rules of the Game

The Best of Israel and Palestine

Sunday May 12 from Jerusalem a sliver of hope streamed through the world from the Australia even Afghanistan–who knew there were Jews there? The Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony was an exceptional event that defied war and injustice and division between Jews and Arabs. It was so at odds with the current reality that it might have been an accidental streaming from an alternative universe.

The similarities between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, was palpable in this Memorial ceremony. This is the undeniable reality that could one day lay the framework for peace, integration, and cooperation.

The Combatants for Peace and The Parents Circle co-sponsored. The presenters were all victims of tragedy and grief, symbols of true courage in the face of extreme violence. Despite these overwhelming odds, they refuse to abandon this dream. Watching from home, I and hundreds of thousands of other viewers, participated symbolically as witnesses.

The Combatants for Peace began during the Second Intifada which commenced in 2,000 and approximately one thousand Israelis were killed in terrorist incidents. Despite their name, the movement has opened its ranks beyond the original demographic.

The Parents Circle Families Forum which launched in 1995 by Yitzhak Frnkenthal, an Israeli, whose son was killed by Hamas militants. The Forum continues as a home for grief and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians who’ve lost loved ones, not in combat, in Israel and “The Territories”.

That ceremony was cathartic to the core.The beauty of these Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis, made me prouder and somewhat hopeful for the people I’d admired for decades and discovered again. This was the triumph of soul over violence.

The last to perform was the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, girls and boys, Arab and Jewish, approximately ten to fourteen who were trained at a Summer Camp established by Combatants for Peace in which integration is the norm.

The program, lasting one and a half hours, included presentations of grief stricken parents, children, and siblings of victims of the Israeli Occupation and of terrorism by the Palestinians, such as the first and second intifada of 1995 and 2000. .

There were joint musical highlights with an Israeli woman on guitar and a Palestinian woman on oud. Throughout the Memorial, Arabic and Hebrew and some English were the languages of choice. This demonstrated additional proof of the similarity of the two cultures.

Family was a major component for each of the participants. There was an Arab woman from Gaza, a traditional Muslim, who’d lost some sixty members of her extended family, and similar stories were told by other survivors, Jewish and Arab. Though the comparative sizes of the families were distinct, the importance of their nuclear and extended families was unmistakable.

Among the Israelis who presented, was the son of the well-known American-born activist Vivian Silver, of Kibbutz Be’eri, the kibbutz site of the music festival where hundreds were slaughtered. He told the story of his mother’s life, an indefatigable activist for numerous causes, who ventured into Gaza to assist Gazans with medical care. She was known and respected on both sides. There was hope she survived but after two days Israeli archeologists were able to find her body.

These stories were told not to enrage; but for all of us to bear witness and envision possibilities. The possibilities are endless but the probabilities are exceedingly few. Which will ultimately prevail?

Check out the full ceremony here:

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