Around 400 people in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow this week heard two bereaved parents – one Israeli and one Palestinian – speak about their hopes for peace and reconciliation.
Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin, of the Parents Circle – Family Forum were speaking at ‘Invest in Peace’, a joint initiative between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which invites Christians and Jews to support Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding.
Bassam, a Palestinian who spent years in an Israeli prison before embracing peace, told the audience at Stenecourt Synagogue, Salford: “My 10 year old daughter was killed in this conflict – now I struggle for peace, so my other five children can have a better future.”
He added that his change of attitude came when he watched a film about the Holocaust. “I watched the movie with the intention of laughing at my enemy’s pain – I ended up crying.”
Robi told the interfaith audience at the synagogue: “it doesn’t matter whether you’re Israeli, Palestinian, black or white – a bereaved mother’s tears are always the same.”
After the meeting, Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron said: “We’re proud to have initiated an Invest in Peace programme which presents challenging dialogues to packed and highly engaged meetings across the country. This is about helping to export peace, rather than importing conflict.’
The Revd Peter Colwell, Deputy General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland said: “With so much violence, hatred and suspicion in the world, there is a critical need for different faith groups to come together. This is no less true that in relation to Israel-Palestine, where Jews and Christians often disagree, and cause each other pain in that disagreement. This approach aims to build bridges and create a sense of hope.”
“The Board of Deputies of British Jews and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland are committed to working in partnership because we believe passionately that Jews and Christians should be engaging proactively together in supporting those in Israel and Palestine who are committed to reconciliation.”
Cllr Rishi Shori, Leader of Bury Council, told the audience he was proud of Manchester’s diverse faith communities for leading the way on peacebuilding and cohesion with events such as this.
Michael Rubinstein, Secretary of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region, said: “The feeling in this room is that we have all had enough of violence and war, mindless hatred and fear. Tonight we have seen a glimmer of hope that another way is possible – talking and reconciliation rather than revenge.”
The event was partnered by St Gabriel’s Church and the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region.
Robi and Bassam also spoke in Leeds at St Matthews Church School, where Vice President Sheila Gewolb represented the Board of Deputies. The event was partnered by Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue, St Matthew’s Church, St Martin’s Church and the Leeds Jewish Representative Council.
In Glasgow, 160 people crowded into Giffnock Synagogue to listen to Robi and Bassam speak. They were joined by the Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the Church of Scotland; Paul Masterton MP; Bob Fyffe, General secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and Board of Deputies Vice President Marie van der Zyl.
After the meeting, Marie said: “It’s vitally important we do not import the Middle East conflict into our own communities in Britain. We are so proud to be hosting these challenging dialogues, and helping to export peace.”
Photo: (Left to right) Revd Canon Steve Williams, Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin at the Manchester event.
Photographer: Howard Barlow