Bereaved Families for Peace

1165521469_43774778_cb9e062f5a.jpgAnother important co-existence org I recommend to your support list is The Parent’s Circle – Families Forum – a consortium founded by bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones to violence. I was pleased to see the Parent’s Circle featured in this recent BBC report that spotlighted their Israeli-Palestinian phone-call network, “Hello, Shalom, Hello, Salaam:”

In 2000, in the early days of the second intifada, a young Israeli woman called Natalia Wieseltier dialed a Jewish friend in Tel Aviv but found herself talking to a Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip.

Instead of hanging up she started a conversation.

“He told me his name was Jihad and that things were not going well. He told me that food is rotting at the checkpoints and that his wife was expecting a baby any day and he had no way of getting to the hospital,” she says.

Jihad was surprised to find an Israeli being so open and understanding and Natalia was soon receiving regular calls not only from Jihad but from his friends and family too.

She in turn put them in touch with her friends and soon a network of contacts had developed.

When Natalia approached the Parents’ Circle with the idea of turning this into a national phone line linking Israelis and Palestinians they embraced the idea.

Here’s how it works: when callers use the toll free number they receive the following voice message: “Hello, you have reached ‘Hello, Shalom, Hello Salaam.’ If you wish to talk to an Israeli about reconciliation, tolerance and peace, dial one; if you wish to talk to a Palestinian about reconciliation, tolerance and peace, dial two.” Callers can then listen to numerous voice messages and decide whom they want to contact. To date, “Hello Shalom, Hello Salaam” has logged over 1,000,000 calls!

Another important Parent’s Circle project is their “Offering Reconciliation” art exhibit, which features artwork by 135 Israeli and Palestinian artists, sculptors and photographers, each presenting “a unique offering of reconciliation, of peace and hope.” It has currently been exhibited throughout the US and will be shown in NYC from September 1 thru October 18, and here in Chicago from November 2-4.

As I wrote in an earlier post, grief can cut any number of ways – while it too often inspires feelings of hatred, on certain precious occasions it can be a powerful tool for healing and reconciliation. I do believe that The Parent’s Circle is one inspired example of how this unique form of healing can ultimately be harnessed for a greater good.

One Reply to “Bereaved Families for Peace”

  1. I came across this posting while searching for more information on the Bereaved Families Forum, a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost loved ones to the violence, and who are working together for peace and reconciliation. I found out about the group from an immensely powerful documentary, Encounter Point, which I saw recently. It tells a story of several remarkable individuals who have come together in the belief that the best way to channel their grief and loss is to use it to advance, at a human level, the course of peace and reconciliation. I highly recommend this film to anyone (of any political or religious persuasion)interested in thinking about the enormous challenges of peacemaking.

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