On Shabbat B’ha’alotecha Temple Israel hosted two members of a remarkable grass roots organisation that operates in Israel and Palestine.
Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew, and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, belong to Parents Circle — Families Forum. This organisation, founded in 1995 by Yitzchak Frankenthal, consists of over 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the tragic ongoing conflict.
Rami and Bassam took it in turns to tell the large audience their stories. Rami fought in the Yom Kippur War during which he lost many friends and returned home an embittered and disillusioned young man who became disinterested in politics and society. In 1997 his daughter, Smadar, was one of five Israelis murdered by two Palestinian suicide bombers. She was 14 years old. After mourning for his daughter, Rami was introduced to Parents Circle — Families Forum and became a peace activist.
Bassam grew up in Hebron. At the age of 17 he was arrested for planning an attack on Israeli soldiers and was imprisoned for seven years. During his time in prison he was severely beaten by a group of Israeli soldiers on a training exercise. On release from prison in 2005 Bassam co-founded an organisation called Combatants for Peace and has remained a peace activist ever since, even after his ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier who shot her in the back of the head from a distance.
The congregants who attended were inspired by these two men, both of whom have good reason to hate one another but have chosen to advocate peace. They understand that the circle of violence has to be broken for the sake of Israel and Palestine, for the sake of the Middle East and for the sake of humanity.