Despite Right-Wing Protests: Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony Marks 10th Anniversary

Thousands participated in the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day alternative ceremony in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening, April 21, which was held for its tenth consecutive year despite right-wing protests.The event, organized by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle – Family Forum, was held in the Tel Aviv Convention Center. While only a few hundred people participated in the event in its early years, the organizers say that some 2,500 people attended in 2014 and more than 3,000 did so this week.

The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony held in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony held in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Combatants for Peace)

Both Palestinians and Israelis spoke at the alternative ceremony, entitled “Making Peace: Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day,” including communist activist Dr. Yeela Raanan, who lives in a kibbutz 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 extreme-right 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 ask 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.

Iris 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 realization, visually, that Nimrod had died – a sight which I cannot face,” she said. “But suddenly, it was very clear to me that what must be done is to see to it 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. She says that she felt great despair last summer during 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 so that there will be an end 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].”