Despite Protests, Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony Marks Its Tenth Anniversary

Thousands are expected to participate in Tel Aviv event, which includes speeches from Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families.

Alon Ron

Despite public protests, the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony organized by the Combatants for Peace movement is expected to take place Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv. This is the tenth consecutive year the alternative ceremony will be held.

The organizers of the event, which includes the Parents Circle - Family Forum, will be held in the Tel Aviv Convention Center. The organizers expect thousands to attend and say remembrance of the fallen is not enough and we must also act to end the circle of bereavement. While only a few hundred people participated in the event in its early years, the organziers say that some 2,500 people attended in 2014.

Both Palestinians and Israelis will speak at the alternative ceremony, entitled "Making Peace: Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day," including Yeela Raanan, who lives in the region near the Gaza Strip and whose brother Barak fell in 1982; Mazen Faraj from the Deheishe refugee camp, who is the Palestinian general manager of the Forum, and whose father, Sa'el, was killed by a settler in 2004; and Iris Segev from Rosh Pina, whose son Nimrod was killed in the Second Lebanon War.

A few days before the ceremony, the Samaria Residents Council sent a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon asking him "to act to immediately stop the event." The letter said: "We are bereaved families, for whom Memorial Day is very dear to us, and we are asking not to allow the entry of the Palestinians into the territory of the State of Israel on Memorial Day in order to participate in this provocation." It seems the request had no effect on the permits for the Palestinians to attend the ceremony.

The activists of the Forum are well-schooled in the criticism. "It is something we always suffer and always have to deal with, and we remind people that we want peace - and not to talk about the experiences of harsh criticism and anger and of a great deal of fear," said Segev.

Segev told Haaretz that after her son's death, she could not take part in any memorial enterprise in remembrance of her son. "The memorialization was the sight that Nimrod died – a sight that I cannot look at," she said. "But suddenly, it was very clear to me that what must be done is to cause that they will not go and kill more such children."

Segev has been active in the Parents Forum for four years and participates in the dialogue meetings, whose goal is to bring Israelis and Palestinians together whether in schools or community centers. Segev says that she felt great despair last summer from the fighting in Gaza.

"There is something very despairing in it, but I cannot be somewhere else yet. It has not even begun to weaken me, since today it is so much a part of me and of what I am - [the desire] to do something that there will be an to it, to cause people to open their eyes before it happens to them," she said. "There is a sort of sobering up that brings people to the Forum's activities, which I regret happens only when we suffer the blow, there are no other words [for it]."