GNN Exclusive- At the outbreak of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Israeli and Palestinian parents who’d lost children to violence set up a tent on a street in Tel Aviv. For 70 straight days, they hosted dialogues on peace and reconciliation in the “Peace Square”. Out of that session came a mural, imagined by 20 Palestinian women who, after discussing their personal losses and grief, decided to pick up paint brushes. It was finished by Israeli parents who suffered the same loss of a child.
Now, that mural is on display at the United Nations in New York. And while a mural may not seem like an obvious step towards peace in the Middle East, the message is powerful enough to transcend politics.
“We’re not artists,” Robi Damelin told Good News Network. “We use art. Art can open up all kinds of people to our message.”
Damelin’s son was shot to death by a Palestinian gunman in 2002. She was the only Israeli in the room when the 20 grieving Palestinian women began creating the mural.
“As the women began to work [on the mural] they became more and more free.” she said. “It’s quite therapeutic.”
It’s also quite symbolic of what their grassroots group, the Parents Circle, hopes to accomplish.
“We can talk, work together thru this piece of art,” Bassam Aramin, whose daughter was shot and killed by an Israeli police officer in 2007, told the Good News Network.
Rather than giving into anger or seeking revenge, Aramin sought reconciliation. He found like-minded people, both Israeli and Palestinian like himself, in the Parents Circle, which was formed more than a decade ago for grieving parents from both camps. More than 600 families have joined the Parents Circle Family Forum since then.
Damelin said there is no difference between Israeli or Palestinian parents when they lose a child.
The mural is an expression of that pain. But it is also a concrete example of cooperation and peace.
“The mural we unveil today was inspired by the powerful symbol of the Peace Square,” Deputy UN Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said from the U.N. in New York. “It is the work of bereaved families and friends, both Palestinian and Israeli. Its very existence conveys a vital message: within both communities there is a hunger for reconciliation and a longing for peace.”
Aramin says seeking peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the best way to honor the “blood of sons and daughters” spilled by both sides in the conflict.
“Revenge?” he said. “You will never meet your loved ones again. We believe we can exist in peace.”
The Peace Square Mural, measuring 20 X 6.5 feet, can be viewed until April 10 on the third floor, just outside the conference building at 46th Street at First Avenue.
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