July 13, 2015

In Beit Jala, the West Bank: Breaking the Ramadan fast

I joined the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF) for the Iftar (Arabic: break fast) evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Our chartered bus from Tel Aviv stopped twice to pick up people from the Greater Jerusalem area before crossing an Israeli checkpoint and continuing to Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town in the West Bank south of Jerusalem and opposite Bethlehem. PCFF, the high-profile grassroots organization with more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families that have lost a loved one to the conflict, fosters dialogue by revealing the shared humanity of grief, and advocates nonviolence and reconciliation between nations as a prerequisite to achieving a sustainable peace.

At the Everest Hotel & Restaurant, a historic meeting place for Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli Jews and guests from London embraced their Muslim fellows who had come from cities and towns around the West Bank for the event.

Dressed in black, one Palestinian woman wore a photo of her son on a thin chain that was clasped around her neck. An Israeli mother (she raises funds for PCFF) brought her young son (she had simply told him they were going to a party) and packed some table games for the long-ish evening). In conversation (in English) with young Muslim cousins from East Jerusalem, we discovered a shared pleasure: watching reruns of The Simpsons! Among the Palestinian children dressed up for the festive occasion, one lass asked me (in Hebrew), May I take your photo? In turn, I asked her dad to take ours with her brother!

Taking time out from her own active photo taking
 for this photo with her brother and me!

Last summer, PCFF, in its public awareness campaign, "We Don't Want You Here" — protested the escalation of violence and unbearable thought of yet another family joining the "dreaded club of the bereaved." They are working tirelessly to put themselves out of business.