My parents have just returned from the Sabeel Conference in Palestine, an especially sobering event because 2008 means 50 years have passed since the Nakba of 1948.
Mom got to see and/or speak with a number of people who have been in the international news. (My mother is the white haired grandmother seated at table in bottom right corner; photo is from Sabeel's slide show on their website).
Fawziya Khurd: My mother spoke with her in her tent in a parking lot in East Jerusalem. She was evicted from her home after settlers occupied it. She is living in the parking lot next to the home she lived in since the mid-1950s, and told my mother she is being fined close to $100 per day for living in a tent in the parking lot. To learn more, see details of Jonathan Cooks' reporting on this story, Who Will Stop the Settlers? in Counterpunch.
Samia Khoury: Mom writes: "When she stood up after Mr. Ben-Eliezer's speech and basically said we the Palestinians accept your apology it was so amazing that I was in tears."
Email from Samia Khoury to Sabeel conference attendees:
A short and small man physically, Josef Ben Eliezar stood tall as he asked for forgiveness from the Palestinians at the Sabeel 7th international conference on the Nakba: Memory Reality and Beyond which took place in Nazareth and Jerusalem (November 12-19, 2008). He shared with the participants his testimony for taking part in the expulsion of the Palestinian population from Lydda and robbing them of their money and personal possessions when he was an Israeli soldier in 1948.
Josef could not live with the reality of that day in July 1948. He realized then that what he was doing to the Palestinians was what the Nazis had done to his family and people before he had immigrated to Palestine after the holocaust. He did not find a listening ear in the newly established state of Israel, and the inhumanity of that war which as a Jew he thought was a war of liberation continued to pursue him until he eventually left the country and settled in England.
I wonder how many Israelis would have the courage and the magnanimity of Josef to admit that they have done the Palestinians wrong, let alone ask for forgiveness. Although his testimony was mostly in front of an international audience, yet there were a number of Palestinians from Jerusalem and Nazareth who heard him loud and clear. I was so moved that I felt I needed to get up and recognize his courage and thank him for his testimony assuring him that we do forgive him. (check out his book The Search)
As people came up to thank me later on for my words, I could not help but wonder how meaningful for the Palestinian people it would have been and how much suffering could have been spared had the Israelis since day one of the establishment of the state in 1948 admitted the wrong and grave injustice that they had inflicted upon the Palestinians, asked for forgiveness, and allowed all who were evicted to return to their homes. A dream that could still be realized if the Jewish people can ponder and act in accordance with the words of their great prophet Micah (6:8) " What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."