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Why I spend Yom HaZikaron grieving with my Palestinian peers

Once again, Yom HaZikaron — our day of remembrance for soldiers who lost their lives in a conflict that should have ended long ago — is upon us.

And some bereaved Israelis like myself, having lost their precious loved ones to ongoing conflict, will choose to spend one of the most sacred days of the Israeli calendar together with Palestinians, in a joint memorial ceremony.


The answer is quite simple: We believe in the sanctity of human life. We believe that a broken heart has no nationality, no skin color and no religion.

All tears that fall at a graveside have the same color. That pain is the same for all.

Last year, some 200,000 people from all over the world observe Yom HaZikaron by participating in the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony, a joint effort between Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle-Families Forum. (I am a spokesperson for the latter.) They are drawn there by a shared wish and determination to prevent other families from experiencing the same pain — so great, it never goes away. That pain will be with us and next to us for the rest of our lives.

Our Ceremony is not a political act of provocation. The very fact that a person attends means that they are aligned with our message of non-violence and reconciliation.

As a bereaved, Israeli mother, who lost my son to the conflict, I have the right to commemorate my loss in the manner in the way that best honors my son, David, who was a soldier in the Israeli army’s reserve unit when he was shot and killed by a Palestinian. David, who was a part of the Israeli peace movement, believed in education and that Israel should be an example of democracy to all.

We must be doing something that touches the heart. The Joint Israeli and Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony got it start with almost 200 attendees in 2005. Last year, more than 200,000 people joined online.

This year in addition to the loss of life to the military conflict, we will recognize the loss of thousands and thousands of people to the loss of COVID-19 pandemic, by welcoming those who never had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. Our wish is that they will be inspired by people who chose to harness their grief to create a better world , a world without hatred , without violence and without revenge.

On my son David’s grave, there is a quotation by Khalil Gibran:“The whole earth his birthplace, and all humans his friends.” That sentiment guided him in life; it guides me, now, as I honor him.

The Joint Palestinian-Israeli Memorial Day Ceremony will be live broadcast on April 13 at 1:30 PM EDT. To watch the Ceremony, register:

Robi Damelin is a member and spokesperson of the Parents Circle – Families Forum – bereaved Palestinians and Israelis for peace.

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