This week, the Parents Circle Families Forum hosted a webinar to introduce their new Palestinian co-Director, Bassam Aramin. Like many others involved in the Parents Circle, Bassam was motivated to join the group after his 10-year old daughter was killed by a stray rubber bullet from a clash with Israeli border police. As Bassam recounted his journey to understand the Israeli perspective, I was moved by his story of emerging from time spent in an Israeli prison with a changed mindset.
Bassam grew up in Hebron, where he witnessed the West Bank occupation by Israel after the 1967 war. As a teenager he became involved in resistance efforts, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. He was eventually arrested and spent seven years in an Israeli prison. He decided to take the time to learn Hebrew because he wanted to improve his efforts to challenge his Israeli enemies. As part of his class, he watched a Holocaust documentary which fundamentally challenged his beliefs. According to Bassam, many Palestinians deny that the Holocaust happened, or don’t know about it all. He was so moved that he went on to pursue his master’s degree in Holocaust education in England.
Upon returning to Hebron, Bassam was determined to fight in a different way, without violence. Especially after the death of his daughter Abir, he realized the only way to guarantee a better future for his children was to pursue peace. He did not want to see his other children go to prison or risk injury. Bassam believes the work of the Parents Circle is providing a productive way to alleviate the conflict by exposing Israelis and Palestinians to one another and giving them an opportunity to redirect their pain of loss into efforts toward peace.
Bassam holds a fundamental belief that, “If you only judge people you have no time to love them.” His goal is to prove that Israelis and Palestinians can live together because, ultimately, they are fated to. Devastatingly, the work of the Parents Circle has become more challenging in the wake of cuts to USAID funds earlier this year. USAID had funded the Parallel Narrative Program, “History Through the Human Eye,” which has prompted over 1,000 alumni to promote messages of peace, nonviolence, and empathy in Palestinian and Israeli towns and villages. Recently, members of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation to restore funds to the NGO’s that are suffering from losing USAID funds. By encouraging your Senators and Representatives to vote for this legislation you can play a crucial role in helping people like Bassam continue to spread their message of hope.