Parents Circle Forum


Israeli and Palestinian parents share lessons of grief and unity

With tensions ongoing in the Middle East, hatred for fellow neighbors continues to fester. This hatred has led to the loss of many innocent lives. George and Najwa Sa’adeh, from Bethlehem (Palestine) and Rami Elhanan from Jerusalem (Israel) explained to Bluffton University students during an evening Forum on Oct. 27, many Israelis see Palestinians as enemies or terrorists and vice versa. However, Elhanan explained instead he views the Sa’adehs as family.

“These two Palestinians are my brother and my sister,” said Elhanan. “What makes us one family is the pain that we share. We paid the highest price possible as a result of this ongoing conflict between our two nations.” Both families lost a child due to the conflict.

The Sa’adeh’s and Elhanan shared this message of unity as members of an organization known as the Parents Circle Families Forum. PCFF is a grassroots group of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis which promotes reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge. The organization is comprised of more than 600 families who’ve lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict.

“This is an organization that we do not want any new members in. It is unique but it is also built on sadness,” said George Sa’adeh, whose daughter was named Christine. Elhanan also lost a daughter, Smadar.

“At that time Christine was the number 404; now there are thousands of innocent children like Christine and Smadar that have been killed, injured or crippled because of the conflict,” said Sa’adeh.

There are many emotions that follow the loss of a child. “There are only two ways to choose from and the first one is obvious. When someone kills your fourteen-year-old little girl, the only thing you have in your heart and on your mind is getting even. This is natural. This is human; it is the way most people choose,” said Elhanan.

However, Elhanan also discussed the other side pain. “After a while you start to think and begin to ask yourself questions. Will killing anyone bring her back? Will causing pain release this unbearable pain? Well, the answer is certainly not.”

Although it is not easy, the Sa’adehs and Elhanan agreed the only way to release that pain is by releasing the hatred. “Let me say honestly it’s not easy to get rid of the hatred and deal with the others with love and respect. It needs a lot of power. It needs a wide heart to do it. And it needs help from God,” said Sa’adeh.

It can be very difficult, Sa’adeh continued, but he argued that if one believes in human rights and peace, one should forgive and overcome the deep rooted hatred. In that way, peace can be achieved.

“This is not our destiny to keep killing each other. We can change it,” said Elhanan. “The only way to do it is simply by talking. I believe deeply that once you’re able to listen to the pain of the other, you can expect the other to listen to your pain.”

Through education, the bereaved families bring forth their mission of peace. To advocate for the cause, Sa’adeh asked simply for one thing, “I don’t want you to say we love Israel or we are with the Israelis or with the Palestinians. Please just be pro-peace and justice.”