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Ms. Damelin’s son, David, was completing a master’s degree in the philosophy of education at Tel Aviv University, when the reserves called him for active duty. A peace advocate, David did not wish to enforce the occupation, and agonized over the decision. In the end, he went, believing that with his perspective, he would act as an evenhanded and moral soldier — traits he could not guarantee should someone else go in his place.

The Saturday before his death, David called his mother. “This is a terrible place,” he had said. “I feel like a sitting duck.”

Two days later, David was one of ten people killed by a sniper. He was 28 years old. His unit was stationed at a checkpoint near Ofra, an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, and considered illegal according to the ruling of the Israeli High Court.

“It is impossible to describe what it is to lose a child. Your whole life is totally changed forever,” Ms. Damelin says. “I am the same person — with a lot of pain. Wherever I go, I carry this with me.”

Ms. Damelin has asked priests, imams and rabbis about the meaning of forgiveness. The answer she has synthesized from many responses is: “Giving up your just right to revenge.”

“I’ve lived here 69 years. There is no justice and all the world is silent,” says Sister Femia Khoury, principal of St. Joseph’s School in Bethlehem. “No one can understand our situation if not living in this country and seeing what is happening every day.”

The commission for justice and peace of the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land last May decried the “normalization” of the Israel-Palestine situation, calling it “an open, festering wound.

“The life of the Palestinians is far from normal and acting ‘as if’ things were normal ignores the violation of fundamental human rights,” the statement continues. “Like the prophets of old, the church, a prophetic body, points out injustice and denounces it.”

We want to live under freedom and make a better life for our children, George Saadeh says.

“We should live together side by side. We don’t want hatred. We want people to come together.”

“With revenge,” adds his wife, “we will live like animals. We would destroy ourselves and others.

“We have to gain love between nations,” she adds, touching her locket. “Because we love, we can change life.”

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Diane Handal is a frequent contributor to ONE, focusing on the Middle East.



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