Seham Abu Awwad, Robi Damelin
Bridging the Divide
Israeli and Palestinian Women Resolving Conflict
Wednesday, 20 June 2012. 7pm-8.30pm
Free Event. Please book instore, online (using form below) or call 02074079316
Palestinian Seham Abu Awwad and Israeli Robi Damelin will tell their stories about the loss of their loved ones in the conflict and will explain why, despite the challenging political circumstances in the Middle East, they believe that it is more important than ever to work together for peace and reconciliation. Many see the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as hopeless and intractable. They have a message of hope and aim to raise awareness about the important and uplifting work going on on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians that really is changing hearts and minds.
Parents Circle Families Forum was established in 1995 by an Israeli father who was bereaved by the conflict. He began working with Palestinian families in Gaza, also bereaved by the conflict. Today there are more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli bereaved families working together for peace and reconciliation. Palestinians and Israelis work in partnership, speaking together to high school students, attending the forum's summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian teenagers and working on the narratives project, which brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have the opportunity to talk about their respective narratives on the conflict and listen to the narrative of the other.
Seham Abu Awwad
Growing up in the occupied Palestinian territory, Seham Abu Awwad's mother was an active member of the Palestinian Liberation Army. When Seham was fourteen years old, her mother was arrested by the Israeli government. Seham's three brothers, who followed in their mother's footsteps by resisting the occupation, were also arrested and served months in prison. In 2000, one of Seham's brothers was critically injured by a gunshot to the leg, and soon after another one of her brothers was killed by an IDF soldier at a checkpoint. After these devastating events, Seham's mother changed her attitude about resisting the occupation and joined the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF), a group of 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost family members and work together for reconciliation. Seham, whose son is currently serving time in an Israeli jail, was at first reluctant, but then followed her mother's path and joined the PCFF. Although her mother passed away in 2006, Seham continues to be an active member of the PCFF and coordinates the organization's Women's Committee.
In 2002, Robi Damelin’s son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper while he was guarding a checkpoint during his army reserve service. A Tel Aviv University student working toward his Masters in Philosophy of Education, David was opposed to the war but felt that it was his duty to serve as a model of respect for the other Israeli soldiers. After her son’s death, Robi started to search for ways in which to stop the cycle of violence and prevent other Israelis and Palestinians from experiencing such loss. Despite initial misgivings, Robi joined the Parents Circle/Bereaved Families Forum, which is a group of 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost close family members and work together for reconciliation and a just resolution to the conflict. Robi is now an active member of the group and speaks domestically and internationally to further her aim of increasing understanding between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Two and a half years after the shooting, Israeli Defense Force soldiers arrested the sharpshooter. Robi found herself faced with a real test: she needed to see if she really meant what she said when she travelled around the world talking about reconciliation and peace. Robi finally decided to write a letter to the sniper’s family, in expressing her pain but simultaneously opening a path for communication. Although the family did not pass on her letter to the imprisoned sharpshooter, a Palestinian member of the Families Forum read the letter to the prisoner. The man was in shock and said he would write a letter back to Robi, which she is still waiting to receive.
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