Keren Malki, the Malki Foundation, a non-political,
non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization, honors the
tragically short life of a girl dedicated to bringing
happiness and support into the lives of special-needs
I belong to a group of bereaved parents, both Israeli and Palestinian. This
group, The Parents Circle Family Forum, does not represent anyone except its
members, who strongly believe that we have been made to pay the highest price
for a war that should have ended long ago, by letting careless, ruthless and
cynical politicians use the lives of our children as chips in their deadly
games, turning our children's blood into the cheapest merchandise in the
That is why we wish to strengthen the voice of parents. We believe that
motherhood, fatherhood and the wish to save the children who are still alive are
only the common denominators that overcome nationality, race and religion.
Some of us are, indeed, religious. Yitzhak Frankenthal, the founder of this
forum, is an Orthodox Jew, but his Judaism, unlike the Judaism of some of his
friends, who refuse to pray with him when he says Kaddish for his murdered son,
is a source of hope, of peace, of respect for the other, and therefore of
The main activity of our forum is talk. We talk to each other, we talk to the
world, and we talk to young people who are about to join the army.
We know that conversation is always about differences: It is the site where
differences of power, of knowledge and of beliefs are constantly negotiated.
People who do not accept differences and are not ready to make room in
themselves for different kinds of knowledge and values cannot speak to each
other. They can trick and deceive and humiliate each other, but they cannot
converse. People who cannot, or will not, accept differences and who don't see
heterogeneity as a blessing, have a monolithic approach to talking: namely, they
want to impose their ideologies on others and dominate their thinking.
Their speech is intolerant and offensive; it is the kind of approach we have
been witnessing in most of the peace negotiations between Israelis and
Having a dialogic approach to conversation means being willing to hold back
your ideologies, or your truth, or your personal and national narrative, and
make room in yourself for the truth and the narrative of the other.
Dialogic people do not believe in fixed personalities, consolidated thought
or eternal realities. In fact, in Hebrew the terms finding, reality and
invention all have the same root. It means that reality is what we invent;
reality is the means we find to give meaning to what is going on around us, and
therefore it can be changed.
Fortunately there are people, even in Israel and Palestine, who are willing
to talk to each other. Unfortunately, they are not many. Consequently the
discourse that prevails in this country is extremely monologic, racist and
aggressive, as evidenced by Frimet Roth's article.
The annihilation, the demonization of the other has never been a very
promising basis for dialogue.
Our children kill other children because they are brought up on concepts of
discrimination between blood and blood and on the belief that we are more
deserving than others. Our children die because the voice of mothers and fathers
has been suffocated and underrated for centuries, and because it is always
replaced by the voices of corrupt politicians and bloodthirsty generals, of
greedy businessmen and unscrupulous, so-called leaders who are, most of them,
men, but who never speak as parents.
AFTER MY daughter, Smadari, was murdered for being an Israeli girl by a young
man desperate and distorted by humiliation and hopelessness to the point of
killing himself and others, just because he was a Palestinian, I was asked by a
reporter how I could accept condolences from the other side.
My very spontaneous response was that I did not accept condolences from the
other side, and when the mayor of Jerusalem came to offer his condolences I shut
myself in my room.
Because the people I count as "my side" are not defined by any religious or
national criteria. When I say "we," I do not necessarily mean the Jews or the
Israelis. I mean the people who see life as I see it. When I say "we," I mean my
Israeli friends who swore before the open graves of their sons that although
they had lost their children, they would never lose their heads.
I mean Prof. Gazawi from from Bir Zeit University, my co-laureate of the
Sakharov award who, after being confined in a solitary cell for his wish to be a
free and dignified man in his homeland, after seeing his 15-year-old son shot in
his schoolyard while helping a wounded friend, still refuses to think of man as
evil, and says we must create the myth of hope for those who have none.
I mean the young Palestinian mother, Najakh, who traveled with me to New York
in order to speak of peace after watching her 10-year-old son being shot, and
who had nothing but affection for my 10-year-old son.
I mean Khaled, a Palestinian school principal who found his eldest son with
50 bullets in his body without ever being told why or how, and who, 20 days
after that, called his wife and told her to stop crying for her child and start
crying for mine.
I mean all the parents in the world who would not dream of avenging the death
of their children by killing the children of others.
TODAY, WHEN "terror" is the term coined to define the murderous deeds of the
poor and the weak and "war against terror" is the term coined to define the
murderous deeds of the strong and the rich, when the greatest democracies commit
the most terrible crimes against humanity using terms such as "freedom,"
"justice" and "the clash of civilizations" to justify their crimes, we the
bereaved, the victims of either terror or anti-terror terrorism, are the only
ones left to tell the world that there is no civilized killing of the innocent
or barbaric killing of the innocent, there is only criminal killing of the
We are the ones to tell the world there is no clash of civilizations, that in
the ever-growing underground kingdom of dead children there is no clash of
civilizations. On the contrary: True multiculturalism prevails there, true
equality and true justice. And maybe we are the ones who should remind the world
that the golden age of both Islam and Judaism was when the two lived side by
side, nurturing each other and flourishing together.
We are the ones who travel from one country to another to remind the world
that the death of a child, any child, in Palestine or Israel, in Afghanistan or
Chechnya, is the death of the whole world; that after the death of a child, any
child, there is no other, that no one can avenge the blood of a child because
the child takes into her small grave, with her small bones, the past and the
future, the reasons for the war and its consequences.
We are the ones who keep telling the world that the only way for humanity to
prevail is to join us in raising this ancient voice, that has always been there,
the voice of motherhood and fatherhood, raise it until it deafens all the other
We demand that the world redefine its values and priorities, redefine crime,
guilt, the rights of children and the duties of adults and therefore redefine
education and justice, and make it very clear that anyone who kills a child will
never be able to live in peace in this world. Not even as Cain.
We are the ones who know that if we don't raise this voice very soon there
will be nothing left to say or write or hear except for the perpetual cry of
mourning and the silenced voices of dead children.
Therefore we are the ones who would end the war, because we know that it
doesn't matter what flag is put on what mountain, it doesn't matter who looks
where when they pray, and that nothing is more important than to secure a young
girl's way to her dance class.
That is because we are the ones who realize, every hour of every day, that as
parents and as adults we have betrayed our children by not being alert, by not
fighting for their lives as vigorously as we should have done, by having
promised them a good life and a better world.
We are the ones who cried, like the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when we saw
our little girl or little boy for the last time before turning our backs and
leaving them in the hands of strangers: "Why does that streak of blood rip the
petal of your cheek?"
The writer is a member of The Parents Circle Family Forum of Israeli and
Palestinian bereaved parents for peace.