A few weeks ago we had a call from Naim, who lives in Jayyous, to invite us to join him in olive picking with some of his Israeli friends.
I found myself picking next to an Israeli called Yuval Roth. He told me that he was a member of ‘Parents Circle – Families Forum’ a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost a family member to this conflict. Yuval had lost his brother who was killed by Hamas in 1993. As a member of Parents Circle he befriended many Palestinians. He found that many had problems in getting to Israeli health-care for treatment not available within the occupied Palestinian Territories.
So Yuval started up an organisation called The Road To Recovery, a group of volunteers who help sick Palestinians with transport from the occupied territories to and from hospitals throughout Israel. For most of these families the costs of travel to hospitals is prohibitive. The volunteers drive them from the army checkpoints to the hospitals and back. He knows and works together with Roni, about whom I wrote in my blog on Sderot.
Yuval is an old campaigner. His friendship with Naim goes back many years. He tells me of Naim’s commitment to nonviolence and how valuable a speaker he is to audiences in Israel. I remarked to Yuval that in peacemaking you always have to talk to the other side. He replied, ‘I know, but whenever I say we should talk to Hamas, people accuse me of wanting to destroy the state of Israel.’ ‘Quite the opposite.’ I replied. He smiled with recognition, ‘It is the only way.’ he said emphatically. You can make war with one,’ he demonstrated with his fingers, ‘but you need two to make peace.’
These words are even more relevant now than ever. Members of Other Voice in the Sderot area wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak:
‘We, members of the villages and townships in the Gaza enveloping region call on the Israeli government to stop mucking around with our lives and immediately enter into diplomatic and political contacts with the Hamas Government!! We are sick and tired of being sitting ducks who serve political interests.
Rockets from there and bombardments from here do not protect us. We have played around with those games of the use of force and war for long enough. And both sides have paid, and are continuing to pay, a high price of loss and suffering. The time has to come to endeavour to reach long-term understandings which will enable civilians on both sides of the border to live a normal life.
We’d be most appreciative if everyone were to share this message throughout the Internet.’
I work for Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (QPSW) or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for I-oPt firstname.lastname@example.org for permission. Thank you.