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Combatants for Peace

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Source: Combatants for Peace

In Israel, Yom Hazikaron, the country’s Day of Remembrance, commemorates the lives of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. At eleven in the morning a siren sounds throughout the country. For two minutes life stands still as people stop to remember those who died as a result of violent acts. Drivers stop cars and emerge from their vehicles. People walking down the street stop. Teachers stop teaching. All aspects of life freeze for 120 seconds. Then, like a movie going from pause to play, life resumes. Throughout the day traditional ceremonies are held at parks, town squares, schools, and cemeteries to honor the deceased. However, alternative and unconventional ceremonies honor the tradition of Yom Hazikaron while simultaneously using it as a platform to expand peoples’ understanding of relevant, contemporary issues.

Organized by Palestinians and Israelis, the Combatants for Peace Movement denounces violence and provides a platform for people from both backgrounds to work together to achieve a shared objective of peace. Arguing the ineffectiveness of violence, Combatants for Peace promotes the idea that, “only by joining forces will we be able to end the cycle of violence.” Unlike traditional ceremonies that solely honor the memory of Israelis whose lives were tragically destroyed by violence, Combatants for Peace uses Israel’s Day of Remembrance as a platform to recognize the effects of violence on Israelis and Palestinians while promoting the organization’s mission to end the current and prevent future violence between the two groups.

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Source: Combatants for Peace

Started in 2006, Combatants for Peace’s alternative Day of Remembrance has attracted attention (not all good) in its eight years. Approximately 2,500 people attended the April 14th event in Tel Aviv. Only 44 Palestinians were in attendance due to difficulty for Palestinians living in the West Bank to obtain permits. 120 applied. A Combatants for Peace spokesperson commented on the number of Palestinian attendees saying, “We would of course like as many Palestinians as possible to attend, but we cannot circumvent the Israeli military and its permit policy.”

Throughout the event, Israeli and Palestinian speakers shared their personal stories and their desires for peace. Unable to attend, Nur al-Shehadeh, a resident of Samu, recorded a video that was played at the beginning of the ceremony. He said:

Today is Memorial Day, the day the Israeli people remembers its victims. But there are also Palestinian victims. Enough. We must learn a lesson. I hope that this day will serve as an engine for vigorous action to achieve peace.

The bipartisan movement encountered more difficulty than prospective attendees securing travel permits. Several days before the event, an Internet petition demanded the Tel Aviv Municipality not allow the Combatants for Peace event. The government ignored the petition. On the Day of Remembrance, a small group of protestors congregated outside the ceremony shouting, “We won’t let you scorn the memory of the fallen.” Although the demonstration was short-lived, it was a reminder of the challenges facing the Israeli-Palestinian movement.

Despite attracting more attendees each year, protests and efforts to thwart the movement continue. A spokesperson from Combatants for Peace commented on how the public views the event, saying, “In general, I can say that the ceremony is very badly received. People view it as offensive, in bad taste, and thoughtless.” Although demonstrators, and others, may not like the untraditional Day of Remembrance ceremony, it is hard to understand how an event that commemorates everyone affected by violence and advocates an end to fighting is blasphemous to the memory of the deceased. In fact, it seems likely that those who died from, and others who have and continued to be affected by, violent acts would desire peace. Peace cannot be achieved when two sides continue to hurt each other. Instead, it must be achieved by working together.

 

Author

Allison Kushner
Allison Kushner

Allison Kushner received three undergraduate degrees from Boston University and a Master's degree in Middle Eastern Security and Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University. She has spent time living and traveling throughout Europe, the Middle East, and China. A former political speechwriter, Allison has taught college level Political Science and International Relations in the U.S. and China. She continues to be engaged in public speaking activities at home and abroad.

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