Israelis and Palestinians hold controversial alternative Memorial Day ceremony


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of Jewish and Arab Israelis joined by dozens of Palestinians held an alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv.

The ceremony to remember fallen Israeli soldiers, Israeli victims of terror and Palestinian victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was attended by more than 7,000 people, went ahead under heavy security, including hundreds of police officers.

The event was co-sponsored by the Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace; and Combatants for Peace, an organization of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Left-wing author David Grossman, whose son was killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, acknowledged that the annual event is controversial.

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“It’s so easy to devote oneself to hatred and rage and a desire to take revenge, but every time I am tempted by hatred I lose the live contact to my son. Something there is distorted. I have made my decision and made my choice, and it seems that everyone present here has made the other choice. There is creation and there is grief that connects us too. Old enemies can also connect to each other from within the grief and because of it,” he said.

“We, Israelis and Palestinians who have lost our loved ones, people who may have been dearer to us than our own lives, we touch reality through an open wound. A person who has been wounded this way doesn’t fall into illusions and knows that life is an endless compromise. Bereavement makes us more sober concerning the limitations of power or the illusions of those with power in their hands. We are more suspicious and are disgusted by manifestations of nationalistic arrogance or leaders’ haughty statements. We are practically allergic to that,” he said.

The group was blocked from using is original indoor venue in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, and then the 90 Palestinian guests were not given permission to enter Israel, a decision that was overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Grossman also called for a Palestinian state. “If the Israelis don’t have a home, the Palestinians won’t have a home either, and vice versa. If Israel isn’t a home, Palestine won’t be a home either,” he said. He said Israel “is not a home, it is a fortress.”

Grossman will receive the Israel Prize for Hebrew Literature on Thursday evening, at the end of Israel’s Independence Day. He announced at the ceremony that he will donate half of the money from the prize to the Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace and to Elifelet, an NGO dedicated to help migrant children in south Tel Aviv.

Dozens of right-wing Israelis demonstrated against the event. Protestors reportedly chanted Death to Arabs” and “Death to terrorists,” and burned a Palestinian flag.