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After Christian Science Monitor, 02 April 2012.

Osama Abu Ayyash lives in a village on the West Bank, Breit Ummar. He is a college dropout who now drives a truck. Nine years ago, his wife lost her brothers, who had been accused of being terrorists and shot by Israeli security forces. As it turned out, that tragedy became a new beginning. Bereaved, Osama and his wife joined a modern-style activist group—one that promotes reconciliation. His goal is to humanize the conflict in Palestine through dialog with young Israelis.

That transition did not come easily. When one of his wife’s brothers woke up in a hospital after being beaten senseless by Israeli security forces, he vowed revenge, bought a gun and began searching for Israeli soldiers. Hacing earned the label of a terrorist, he was promptly shot. His brother began plotting revenge, and he too was shot. Grief was added to grief—along with all the other human emotions—to the Ayyash family. At this juncture, Osama noticed an Israeli car parked at a neighbor’s house, one that had lost a child. As he tells the story, [he] “…accused his neighbor of hosting murderers. I was crying inside…. How could they talk together? I started to think from the beginning.” [about the conflict]. But Osama has a firm streak of altruistic stuff (One of the Five Pillars) in his spine. He had also studied psychology in college, so perhaps he understood human nature better than most people. In any event, he was entreated to listen to the Israeli. He learned how this alien visitor had lost his 14-year old daughter to a Palestinian attack. Everyone present was crying inside, but these erstwhile enemies were talking, sharing their feelings. That was an epiphany, one that changed Osama’s world, and that of his wife as well.

Right wing Israeli’s take a dim view of what Osama is doing now. Quoting Michael Ben Ari of the National Union Party: “Identify with the families of murderers? That is insanity which is impossible to understand.” Osama may have to wait three hours to pass through a check point, but he still speaks to young Israelis. He is an engaging communicator. After one of his talks, Noa Bassin, who teaches at an Israeli school, said: “I am encouraged, but it will take much more time…. It’s much easier for people to hate than to reconcile.” Osama was the first Palestinian she had ever met.

The Parent’s Circle web site organizes and hosts dialog between youth from each side of this conflict. They published some student feedback.

"This meeting was very important because everyone should understand that Jews and Palestinians are similar human beings. The only difference between them is their nationality. I hope that there will be peace and reconciliation."

"In my opinion to meet a Palestinian that lost an immediate family member is very important. This allows us to see another perspective and not just ours. It also helps to understand the other side."

"This was a fascinating encounter. I never had a dialogue or met a Palestinian in the past. It was an eye opening experience which gave me a different perspective. I discovered things which I never believed happen on the other side and also their willingness to reconcile. This gave me so much hope and caused me to look at things differently."

"One cannot take for granted the meeting of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost their loved ones; this motivates me to meet with Palestinians"

"To hear the other side and to see that there is a platform for dialogue gives me hope that there is a chance for peace"

Ayyash has now been banned from speaking at Israeli high schools, but he still speaks at other schools with effect.

"Every act of violence begins with an unhealed wound"—Hussein Issa, founder of Hope Flowers School And so it is as this latest story shows so vividly. See Finding Pathways to Peace for further information and research leads.


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