"We have every reason to despise each other, to be mortal enemies. One of us is an Israeli whose son was kidnapped and killed five years ago by Hamas. The other is a Palestinian whose brother was killed by Israeli troops at a checkpoint in his village. But our grief unites us behind the same goal."
Those are the words of Israeli Yitzhak Frankenthal, an Orthodox Jew, and Palestinian Ghazi Brigieth, a Muslim, who have embarked on a remarkable journey together to urge the people of the Middle East and the world to stop the violence that their respective leaders are either unable or unwilling to stop.
And this remarkable journey brings them to Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh the week of Oct. 29--Nov. 2.
Frankenthal and Brigieth belong to the Parents Circle, an organization of over 250 Israeli and nearly 200 Palestinian families who lost their loved ones from violence perpetrated by either the Israeli army or Palestinian suicide bombers. The Parents Circle advocates peace and coexistence through the promotion of tolerance and compromise. One of its many activities is called "Hello Peace," an ambitious program to connect by telephone ordinary Palestinians and Israelis who are open to talking to "the other" about the possibility of peace. In just a few months, the Parents Circle connected 36,000 people who normally would have no interaction, much less any understanding, of their counterparts across the divide.
Frankenthal, Brigieth, and other members of the Parents Circle are clearly frustrated by the lack of will of their respective leaders to take the steps necessary to build momentum towards peace:
"We are not diplomats, politicians or 'experts' on the Middle East with Ph.Ds. We are experts on the price paid by the relatives of more than 1,400 Palestinians and Israelis killed in this conflict since the intifada began in September 2000. But we understand that our leaders are offering no solutions, no paths out of the darkness and back to the negotiating table."
This pair travels to the Triangle to urge the United States, backed by the international community, to pressure, prod, badger--whatever is necessary--Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down right now and make necessary compromises. And who is more keenly aware of the dangers of the ongoing conflict than the devastated families of its victims?
Recently Frankenthal, while mourning the Israeli victims of a suicide bombing that killed more than 20 people, said:
"The body count will continue, because our political leaders... believe that by using terror to counter terror they can give us security... How long will it take us to wake up from this ongoing folly? How many more body bags will it take?"
This week we have a unique opportunity to learn from victims of the Israel-Palestinian conflict who have decided to become ambassadors of peace as opposed to perpetrators of more hatred and violence. Theirs is a journey that speaks to us all.
(See Act Now, p. 22, for times and locations)