The Parents Circle Families Forum - Opinions

Yigal Elhanan at the 11th Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony


My sister Smadar was killed in a suicide attack in September 1997 while she was going with her friends - Yael Botwin, Sivan Zarka and Daniela Birmann - to buy textbooks for the new school year. Yael, Sivan and Smadar were killed on the spot. I was five years old at the time.
I cannot dare to stand here and belittle Smadar's memory with guesses and suppositions. I have no idea what she would have thought of me standing on this stage today. Truthfully, I have no idea what she thought about anything, or whom she loved, which amongst her friends made her jealous, and on whom she took pity. I simply don't know and I never will.

At all other ceremonies, every year, the same leaders, generals and elected officials (by some of us) get on stage and speak with a terrible smugness about our children. The same elected officials call for death and vengeance in the name of our dearly departed. The utter big words like homeland, alter, eternity and sword. They say that they died so that we could live, and not only live but occupy, segregate and dispossess.

They say that there are sides, and convince us that they hate each other. They tell about "the other", and how scary, terrifying and horrible he is. They tell us that the price of one girl's blood is not equivalent to the price of the other's.

How else would they claim that they are righteous and enlist us to support their scheme?
Abir, the sister of my brother Arab Aramin, was shot in the head by a Border Patrol policeman in 2007 when she was only 10 years old. Needless to say, then just as today, the murder of a Palestinian girl didn't seem to justify an arrest, not to mention a conviction.
At all other ceremonies, except this, our ceremony, you will not hear the names of Smadar and Abir uttered in the same breath, on the same stage. But Abir, Smadar and their murderers are the victims of the same phenomenon, of the same cynical, terrible policy. They are the victims of 50 years of occupation, dispossession and segregation.

During the past year, XXX children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters have joined Abir and Smadar in cohabiting the place that my mother calls the subterranean kingdom of children. In that kingdom there are no ceremonies and no speeches. There is nothing. We do not hear about that kingdom from the loudspeakers atop the carriage of amnesia and denial, or from the mouths of the lords of war, because at those other ceremonies there's no interest in the other side of war.

For fifty years we've been sacrificing our loved ones to the sovereign of that kingdom. Twenty years we the Bereaved Families for Peace have been wailing its wail. And for a decade, Arab's family and mine have become one under the unsavory definition of "the bereaved".
By standing here, in front of so many men and women who chose to come to this ceremony, I feel that uttering Abir's and Smadar's names in a single breath is the simple, unadulterated truth. These two girls, in joining that subterranean kingdom so mundanely and unceremoniously, have put a mirror to our faces - a mirror of rebuke: How long will we let the blood of our loved ones cry to us from the ground?
And so, as everyone else gathers in denial this evening, curling up in their suffering - we shout. And when everyone else says a faint "Amen" of acceptance - we refuse to accept their deadly judgment.

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