Activities arranged by UKFBFF in 2011

Exploring history with Israeli and Palestinian grannies

Chani Smith, Secretary of UKFBFF, took part in the last session of the Narrative Project run by the Women’s Group in the Bereaved Families Forum. 16 Palestinian and 16 Israeli grandmothers took part. The grandmothers’ group was created in recognition that they are the carriers of their families’ histories over a number of generations and have a unique position of influence within their families.

Chani writes: ‘The grannies spent four days together, learning about each other’s personal histories through telling their stories; they had discussions with Palestinian and Israeli historians about the two parallel collective narratives, each with its own perspective. Together they visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and a Palestinian village abandoned in 1948 – Ein Karem. The family of one of the Palestinian participants came from the village and this was the first time she had been able to visit the place. For many in the group this was the first encounter with the pain and trauma of the other side of the conflict.

‘After learning about the history of Ein Karem, we travelled to Beit Jala, where we exchanged photographs of our grandchildren and painted together, in small mixed groups, a home for them, expressing the joint aspirations for a safe and peaceful place where creativity and the love of life can be nurtured. Nasra trusted into my hands a photo of Hamad, her grandson. I will be thinking about him and his life as I look into his brown eyes. There was much laughing and singing, as well as shared tears.

‘At the closing event, all the participants talked about the strong bonds and friendships forged in such a short time, and the new understanding of and empathy for the other side. The two groups of women, who, for security reasons, are barred from meeting without special permits, were moved by each other. They want to keep meeting.’