The Israeli and the Palestinian: ‘We have discovered this joint pain’


An Israeli mother who lost her son and a Palestinian whose father was shot dead – together they now seek peace in the Middle East

It was only later, after the intense shock had subsided and a heavy pain was starting to bed in, that Robi Damelin was told what her first words were on hearing that her son had been killed: “You may not kill anybody in the name of my child.” She says now: “I suppose that was some kind of prediction of what I would do in the future. But I don’t know what revenge means. How many people should I kill? Would that bring David back? I was very motivated to find something that would prevent other families experiencing this pain.”

In 2002, David, a university student who had been doing his reserve duty in the Israeli Defence Force, was killed by a Palestinian sniper while he was guarding a checkpoint. Damelin, who was running a PR agency in Tel Aviv, could no longer work – it felt meaningless. A group called the Parents Circle Families Forum asked if she would like to join them: set up in 1995 by Yitzhak Frankenthal, whose 19-year-old son was killed by Hamas fighters, it now comprises more than 600 bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families working together to campaign for reconciliation.

“It was quite extraordinary to meet Palestinian mothers and discover this joint pain, and how powerful we could be as a force together to make a difference,” she says. “And so I got swept along, and it became more and more my life. And now, apart from my grandchildren, there is nothing else – I have become a very one-dimensional character, absolutely geared to this idea. This latest Gaza mess is just so indicative of the cycle of violence. It’s not working for either side. Neither of us can win this battle. All that will happen is there will be more and more broken hearts.”

We meet a few hours before the ceasefire ended eight days of violence in Gaza. The issue, says Damelin, is how long it will be until the violence flares up again and another short-term ceasefire has to be negotiated. “Sometimes I can’t believe the stupidity of the repetition,” she says. It doesn’t threaten the unity of the group “because we don’t allow this situation to affect who we are.

“We continue to work. The Palestinians from our group continue to come to schools and talk. I’m not sure if I watched the news on Al Jazeera every day I would continue to come and talk about reconciliation, so we think that’s a really good indication of the trust within this organisation.”

Written By: Emine Saner
continue to source article at


  1. I wonder if it would be possible to set up primary schools  for the children of both communities ?  They would learn and play together, and perhaps the mistrust, even hatred, would never take root, when they grow up together.  There are n+1 difficulties in doing this, but some might think it worthwhile.

  2. Rationality, or more precisely atheism as its subset, is the only long term solution for middle east.
    Both sides will have to work to subvert their own superstitions.

    That and basic knowledge that we are all just advanced tribal primates with too many cognitive flaws to count. Hopefully one day Jerusalem and all the “holy” places of ancient ignoramuses will be bulldozed.

  3. As we all know here it’s virtually impossible to change the mind of someone with divine instructions. I’m with Metamag, virtually everything they understand must be changed. 
    However I can’t support your bamiyan buddhas  approach. Please! These places would make awesome restaurants, pubs and social venues for the masses of new non-believers.

  4. It is definitely worthwhile Rod. There are n+1 difficulties doing it too, but who ever said these things would be easy?  There needs to be a will for it from at least some of the people involved…but it has been done, and it is the only way we will stamp out the bigotry and sectarianism.

    Both my children attended “Integrated” schools… one of them, a school with the following mission statement..

    Educating together, Catholics and Protestants, and those of other religions, or none, in an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance to the highest academic standards.

    We have to start somewhere and there’s no better a place than with the education of our children.

  5.  Too much blood has been spilled for this to end in a good way.       I hope that attitude isn’t prevalent in the area for long or it could be a  lost cause

  6. It is a mistake to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as merely another religious conflict, as between the Shia and the Sunni and to brush it off with facile remarks about religion. That overlooks both the history of the founding of Israeli and its continuing program of expansion into Palestinian land.
    While the urge to claim ‘greater Israel’ may draw a lot of energy from the religious conviction that the land ‘belongs’ to the Jews because Jehovah gave it to them, the Palestinian reaction is the same as it would be in any one of us if a foreign entity moved into our city, bulldozed our houses and fields and imprisoned any leadership.
     Yes, Hamas also draws on Islam, but Palestine has long been a very secularized country, with an educated Middle Class of doctors, engineers and teachers. Islamists are a minority, but the only minority that actively resists the occupation.  I know, I’ve sat down with them (and with their Israeli equivalents). And if someone bulldozed YOUR town, wouldn’t you think it honorable to try to kill them?
    It is a territorial dispute, between a powerful occupying force with the massive financial support of the USA, and an indigenous population that has been cast into a cartoon of  bloodthirsty Islamic fanatics.
    Take a trip to the West Bank. Seriously.  It won’t look like such a simple “Jews vs Muslims” quarrel then.

  7. For those who follow the “oh, it’s just two religions fighting over the same desert land” school of thought, please take 30 seconds to look at this map of shrinking Palestine. Imagine that being YOUR country and culture, and then tell me it’s just two stupid religions quarreling. (It happens to be a merchandise page, which makes it look a little trashy, but the maps all tell the same story.)

  8. Tragically, behind this and innumerable other personal experiences lay certain eminently avoidable elements, principal among which, I submit, is religion.
    Dividing of people into discreet groups leads to mistrust and fear, and in this part of the world the inhabitants are kept apart by fanatics of both Hammas and the wing-nut settlers, a situation not helped by unscrupulous opportunistic politicians.
    And every so often we in the UK hear Diplomats and Government spokespersons from both sides blaming each other; it rather reminds me of our daughters when they were about seven or eight years of age blaming one another for starting something or other.
    In the end I would usually suggest that the culprit was probably Mr Nobody. I’d love to hear an interviewer suggest as much to one of these creeps.


  9. The love for our children should be formost. Rational people will forget the devisive nonsense that primative superstition has endowed our world. OUR world, not the world of goatherds and warlords. It is time for loving thoughtfull people to stand up for what is right for themselves, for it is only by standing up to enforced ignorance,by teaching people how to think not what to think, will we ever free ourselves. 

  10. Yes, and then we’ll all sit around the campfire and sing songs.  What about the right of return?  The fate of Jerusalem?  And what’s to be done about the illegal settlements?

    Justinesaracen is right.  This is a fight over land.

  11. I Amos,

    Well, um..I don’t know who this Linfield guy is and unfortunately I only understand about 5% of what he is saying due to my lack of experience with his particular accent when speaking our language.  However, he seems to be remarkably effective at getting  fantastic results in a location that is inhabited by two overgrown tribes that are and always have been hostile to each other on account of land ownership.  They have no reason to let him live either but apparently, for some strange reason, they did.  Also, I like his wife’s earrings. Would you say that she is representative of the females of your clan?

  12. The skit was just a bit of ironic humour… probably a bit misplaced with such serious subject…but hey-hoo, that’s the Irish in me for ya.

  13. This week (tomorrow in fact) the Palestinians will petition the UN for recognition of statehood. There is still time to pressure our various governments to vote ‘yes’ and move toward expanding democracy, freedom, and peace in the region.

    This is a legitimate and non-violent strategy that must be supported by all rational thinking people wishing to see an end to all these years of death and destruction.

    You cannot have a two-state solution without first having two states. 

    We are experiencing tipping point scenarios unfolding throughout the middle east and we have an opportunity to push at this particular one in such a way as to sideline the anti-democratic forces such as Hamas and the Israeli/US right.

    It is nonsense to suggest, as the Israeli state has, that gaining the vestiges of statehood, access to the United Nations, and other aspects of international diplomacy such as recognition by the International Criminal Court, are ‘dangerous unilateral’ moves.

    Equally, Hamas’ very opposition to the bid shows the position of the Islamist organisation for what it is, nonsensical and self-defeating. It is difficult to demand recognition of statehood and all that entails in one breath whilst in the next calling for the very destruction of another.

    The US needs to feel the weight of international feeling on this matter. 

    Netanyahu and Likud need to be pushed away from a policy of waiting for ‘facts’ on the ground to change – the settlements, and the occupation, are simply illegal.

    Hamas needs the isolation a positive vote would bring.

    Abbas needs the statesmanship that statehood would give him. This is already evident in his recent speeches -who, before now, would have imagined a leader of the PLO showing open willingness to compromise on seeking reparation for Israeli war crimes.

    Movement on this will also lesson the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.

    You cannot have a two-state solution without first having two states. 

    As I write the UK government are suggesting they will vote yes if Abbas agrees not to apply for ICC/ICJ membership. If I was Abbas I’d agree to this within a very public timeline on the resumption and progress of talks. This would be an important vote and, along with France, may tip Spain and Germany to vote ‘yes’, too.

    The larger the vote the less chance of the threats of massive Israeli/US retaliation materialising.

    We can begin to end this ‘joint pain’.

    Dare to hold your breath. 

    There is a moment here if only we can grasp it.


  14. Thanks for that anvil.  I didn’t know this was up for vote today in the UN.  I doubt if it will even make the news here in the US.  The US will veto as usual and the whole thing will disappear quietly.  The American public will remain ignorant as to our role in the whole fiasco.  “Why do they hate us so much?” will be heard all through the land.  I’ll have to dig around the internet to find out how the vote went.

  15. Hi Laurie, 

    This is going before the UN ‘General Assembly’ not the ‘Security Council’ (where each of the ‘Permanent Members’ holds a veto under Article 27 of the charter which calls for ‘unanimity’ of said members and where the US use their veto in any draft resolution that condemns Israel).

    In the General Assembly all member states are afforded equal representation. It is one member, one vote.

    There is no veto.

    Smaller issues are are decided by a simple majority. Larger ones by a two thirds majority.

    The only thing the larger more powerful states can do is threaten the smaller ones economically in order to buy their votes.

    As of 14:00 GMT William Hague is suggesting that the UK will definitely not vote against, but may abstain. 

    This isn’t as bad as it sounds and may just be part of diplomatic horse trading (the Palestinian Authority do not want to give up on ICC/ICJ recognition as it will allow them to hold Israel up to the scrutiny of international law – forced relocation of indigenous peoples, war crimes and the like.

    Without this, the General Assembly vote, however much in favour of the PA, can be seen as toothless by its opponents (Hamas, Israel, USA) as non of the results are seen as being binding on individual states. Hence the horse trading by Hague who is, no doubt, under pressure from Washington to get Abbas to pledge he wont go for ICC/ICJ recognition.

    The problem Hague has is the Arab Spring: how can he argue for freedom, democracy, and peace in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt et al and yet deny these very things to the Palestinians.

    This is the view of the French and why they have posted their voting intentions so early.

    Of course the British and the French also have massive trade considerations to take into account, and Europe itself (hand in hand with Egypt) will be keen to take the role of peacemaker here – all the world is, after all, a stage.

    It’s a gamble of course. What if the vote isn’t carried? It would destroy Abbas (and Fatah) and give support to the islamists and the hardliners in the Lukid who see advantage in the present entrenchment. 

    That said, the feeling is that it will – even Hamas members on the streets of Gaza are being quoted today as saying they support the bid (the last thing they want is to be on the wrong side of history and this may well be an echo of what ordinary Gazans are saying) and American pressure on Hague to do damage limitation could suggest an acceptance of a positive vote.

    I don’t see this as a unilateral circumvention of the peace process as the Israelis and the Americans are painting it – there is no peace process.

    This seems obvious to the rest of the world.

    We have to be daring. 

    How daring can we be? How about this: If I was an american power broker talking to the Israeli cabinet and faced with a devastating defeat at the UN – I would be pushing to turn defeat into victory by suggesting Israel and the US could offer to vote – with conditions – for the recognition of the Palestinian state at the United Nations General Assembly.

    Would that kick-start the peace process?

    Heh, the greatest problem we have here, Laurie, is that I’m not in charge!


  16. This seems obvious to the rest of the world.

    Yes! I noticed that too.
    If the General Assembly votes with the PA, it will be interesting indeed to see how this will spin here in the States.  I predict that there will be much bewilderment! 


    “What happened? Now the whole world is against us!”
    I’ll see if this is reported on our evening news.  If not I’ll look into outside sources (as usual).

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