Letters from bereaved mothers – Israeli and Palestinian

Tsurit Sarig

This letter is written from the bottom of my heart, and from years of experience in the quagmire of bereavement, and is addressed to the bereaved mothers whose agony has joined the long list of their predecessors.

The acts of hatred, incitement and above all the two horrible murders of the four youths, brought back great sadness as well as feelings of anger and confusion, which we first felt after my eldest son Guy was killed on the eve of Sukkot 1996. Guy was shot by a Palestinian sniper during the riots following the opening of the temple tunnel.

I am with you in your feelings of grief and shock and in the daily need to find interest and especially meaning in life.

The catastrophe in my own home, and what’s more the ones in your own, are the horrible outcome of those same feelings of anger and frustration which are so natural. But if they find their outlet in violent ways, they become the very ladder on which more and more angels of hatred, violence, murder and abuse come up (and down) on us.

About a year after Guy was killed, my partner and I, and later our children as well, decided to join the Forum… we understood that the two peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis, are victims of the estrangement, the prejudices, the paralysing fear of the “other”.

Within the forum (and outside of it as well), we do our best to bring together children, adults and mainly adolescents, with their counterparts from the other side. It’s very difficult to erase many years of fear and prejudice in a few meetings, but we feel that the little we do, outside and inside the country, does manage to make a “crack in the wall” (as one of our projects is called – see it on Facebook), and to bring others to understand that there is someone to talk to and something to talk about, towards a political solution which will end the occupation and enable the creation of a Palestinian state by Israel.

About a year ago the women of the forum, both Palestinian and Israeli, created the “neighbours” project, in which we presented the photo exhibition “The presence of nothingness”. This exhibition, like our joint work, our discussions and arguments, emphasised for us and for the visitors to the exhibition that the pain on both sides is the same pain, the yearning for a life of peace and happiness is the same and above all, that “it won’t end till we talk”.

Dear mothers: I hope for you that even amidst your deepest grief, you will be able to find meaning, strength and even hope to continue life with your families and in your environment near and far. I hug you all with warmth and companionship.

Hanan Lubadeh

My name is Hanan Lubda. I lost my son Mas’ud in 1989. He was shot when he was 15. Last year, as part of a photography project by the women of the Forum in which I took part, I went through the streets of Nablus with my camera, and photographed the place where my son was shot, the house which he helped build for the family, the curtain which separates my house from that of the neighbours, the sights which Mas'ud liked to look at and the small alcove in the alley where he stood when I took his picture, a long time ago. My camera looks at everything from Mas'ud's point of view and I try to photograph what he saw when he was alive.

I've known Israeli bereaved mothers for many years. The mothers' pain is similar, no matter if they are Israeli or Palestinian. It does not matter whether she is from Nablus, Shoafat, Rosh Pinah or Nof Ayalon. The pain is seared into us and will be with us forever.

We must not give in to blind fury. We must understand that revenge will lead to more revenge and it is our responsibility to stop the cycle of violence. We must understand that there are people on the other side as well, beyond the wall of blindness and hatred and behind harsh words like enemy and vengeance. No mother should grieve for her sons.

I know the “other” and invite you to reach out and work for a different reality. There are people like you on the other side, who love their sons and wish to see them grow and prosper, not buried in the ground.

Robi Damelin

To all the mothers who have just joined the dreaded club of the bereaved, both Israeli and Palestinian, we at the Parents Circle-Families Forum extend a hand to you. We too have heard the knock on the door which changes your life forever. We understand that the pain of a mother losing a child is the same no matter where she comes from, what colour her skin is and to whom she prays at night. The tears falling on the pillow are the same colour. We cannot allow the violence to continue. Let us raise our voices together to stop this senseless killing. Stop the violence, stop the horrific rhetoric. No-one has the right to use our beloved children as pawns in a battle that can never be won.

It does not matter what our differences are: we know that when we see the humanity in the other, then and only then will the madness stop. So let us scream out to all of those who think they have the right to harm our children to stop and remember their own mothers and how nobody is born hating. Let us join together as one and beg our leaders to continue to condemn all violence, to stop the speeches which encourage anger. To stop and understand that the cycle of violence will continue until all that is left is the sharing of graves. We who have paid the highest price have the right to demand this of you.

We who understand from the depths of our hearts offer compassion and let us hope that we can meet and perhaps bring some solace to one another.

Bushra Abu Ayash

My name is Bushra Omar Abu Ayash and I’m from Beit Omar. I call on you from the heart of occupied Palestine, as a mother who has paid the dearest price of all – my son Mahmud, aged 18.

I’m very angry at the war waged on our people and want no more victims on either side, especially innocent children. I call on everybody to work for peace and for the end of bloodshed so that our sons may live in peace and security.