Bereaved families plead for reconciliation at joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial

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Source: Times of Israel

Organizers say nearly 200,000 watch controversial online event broadcast from Tel Aviv and Ramallah featuring grieving family members from both sides of the conflict

By Jacob Magid

Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families made an impassioned call for reconciliation on Monday evening during a joint Memorial Day ceremony that organizers said was viewed by nearly 200,000 people.

The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony was held without an in-person audience for the first time since its inception in 2006 due to the coronavirus, and instead was live-streamed from studios in Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

An Israeli emcee broadcasted from the event’s usual location in Tel Aviv in Hebrew and a Palestinian emcee hosted from Ramallah in Arabic.

Speakers included Israelis Hagai Yoel and Tal Kfir, and Palestinians Yusra Mahfoud and Yaqoub Rabi — all of whom lost relatives in the past two decades of the conflict.

Israeli bereaved family member Tal Kfir speaks during a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony broadcast in Tel Aviv on April 27, 2020. (Rami Ben Ari/Combatants for Peace)

Yoel, whose brother Eyal was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, addressed controversy surrounding the ceremony on both sides of the conflict for its equating of the victims on each side. In 2016, far-right activists subjected ceremony attendees to verbal and physical harassment at a demonstration outside the event.

“After Eyal’s death, I covered my ears, I closed my eyes and I shut my mouth… I didn’t feel I had anything of significance to say, until four years ago when I heard about the violent demonstrations against bereaved families at this ceremony — a ceremony which until that point I really did not identify with,” Yoel said, referring to the 2016 demonstration.

“Something stirred up in me. Something inside me revolted over the thought that [Israel’s] defense minister believed that he could decide for me how I choose to remember Eyal,” Yoel said, apparently referring to calls from right-wing activists for then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon to scrap the event.

“I want to convey to Israeli society and the world a message stemming from my deep, bleeding wound: This conflict has taken victims from all of us, and it does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, between men and women, between adults and children. So I say to you: Enough hatred and resentment. Let’s live in peace and love because we [Palestinians], just like you, love life and are doing our best just to get by,” he said.

UN Special Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov also addressed the ceremony, thanking the participants and calling them “an inspiration to all of us.”

“We’ve seen operation, we’ve seen confrontation, but what we really need to see is Palestinians and Israelis coming together. Not just to fight the virus, but to fight for peace,” he said.

Read more:


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