This Memorial Day Ceremony Made Space for Israeli and Palestinian Pain – Kveller
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This Memorial Day Ceremony Made Space for Israeli and Palestinian Pain

The speakers at the event shared their commitment to peace, despite great pain.


via YouTube

Today at sundown marks the end of Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, and the beginning of Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut. Throughout the country, there were several ceremonies. One led by the government brought in protesters who are angry with the way Israel’s leadership is dealing with the hostage crisis and the war. A ceremony held by the family of hostages brought in troves of supporters. Yet another paid tribute to the victims of the Nova Music Festival.

In 200 venues in Israel and beyond, some chose to watch an alternative ceremony. In a day of great pain, and for many more than ever before, of personal grief, hundreds of Israelis, Jews and Palestinians, and others touched by the conflict across the world, attended a joint ceremony from Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle — Families Forum, two organizations that strive for peace. It showcased the stories of Israeli and Palestinian victims of the Israel-Hamas War, more than half a year after it started and as fighting still rages on.

The ceremony, which was held for the 19th year in a row, showed the cost of this latest war on so many, from the scary dreams of children on both sides who are impacted by the conflict, who see violence and terror around them to the parents and family members who are touched by it. It featured songs about peace and love, odes to children and spoken-word poetry.

Ahmed Helou, of Combatants for Peace, talked about losing 60 members of his family, and how the brutal operation in Gaza made him question his commitment to peacemaking. And yet, at the end of his speech, he asked the crowd to be strong against terrorism and against the killing of innocents, to say no to war and destruction and yes to coexistence and peace, for the next generation and beyond.

Longtime peace activist and leader Ghadir Hani read the testimony of a woman from Gaza who lost 20 family members. “The death machine is still ready to kill,” she relayed, “but I know that on the other side there are many people who believe in peace.”

Michal Halev, the mother of Laor Abramov, who was killed at the Nova Festival, took the stage to speak about her “handsome son” and how hard it is for her still to lift her head away from her personal grief. But when she does, she wants to fight for peace. “There are no victors in this war, we have all already lost,” she said. She talked about choosing “compassion and love,” and sowing “seed of healing and maybe one day of peace.”

Yonatan Zeigen, the son of slain peace activist Vivian Silver spoke at the ceremony as well. He talked about wanting to carry on his mother’s torch of peace, but feared the possibility that, like him, his children won’t see their parents’ dream of peace come to fruition in their lifetime. Still, he hopes that he won’t need to pass the torch onto his own children, praying that peace will be achieved before he dies.

Watch the full ceremony here:

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