100 bereaved families try to prevent Israel-Palestinian memorial event
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100 bereaved families try to prevent Israel-Palestinian memorial event

Joint Tel Aviv ceremony for fallen is 'like commemorating Eichmann on Holocaust Day,' say protesters, urging Defense Ministry to ban entry for Palestinian participants

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Israeli soldiers and bereaved families visit graves of fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 05, 2014. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers and bereaved families visit graves of fallen soldiers at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, May 05, 2014. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Over 100 bereaved Israeli families have appealed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday, requesting him to prevent a joint Israeli-Palestinian remembrance ceremony on memorial day, army radio reported.

Combatants for Peace and The Parents Circle – Families Forum, two Israeli non-profits, have been holding a joint ceremony for families of Israeli and Palestinian victims on Israeli Memorial Day for the past decade. But 107 families signed a letter addressed to Ya’alon, asking him to ban the entry of the Palestinian families to Israel this week and amend the memorial day law with a regulation preventing such joint ceremonies.

“The ceremony is a provocation which degrades Memorial Day and the memory of the fallen,” read the letter. “We are shocked by the fact that the Israeli government allows a joint memorial ceremony for our enemies who took part in murdering and harming our children … and for our children living in Israel, killed simply for being Jewish.”

Ben Kfir speaks at the Combatants for Peace joint Yom Hazikaron memorial service Sunday. (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel)
Bereaved father Ben Kfir speaks at the Combatants for Peace joint Yom Hazikaron memorial service in Tel Aviv, April 2013 (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel)

According to Army Radio, the Samaria Settlers’ Committee which assembled the families and helped them write the letter. On Sunday, the group expressed its adamant opposition to the ceremony on its Facebook page.

“There are various ways of expressing bereavement and coping with it; but identifying with the enemy on one of the holiest days of the year, while tens of thousands of families remember their loved ones, that’s impossible,” the message read. “It’s like having a ceremony for [nazi war criminal Adolph] Eichmann on Holocaust Memorial Day.”

But Tamar Halfon, a spokeswoman for Combatants for Peace, said that while the ceremony — scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening at the Tel Aviv Convention Center — is “challenging” for both Israeli and Palestinian societies, it is crucial in breaking the cycle of political violence.

“We must remember that war is not fate but a human choice. That is why particularly on this day we call on both sides to acknowledge the pain and hope of those living on the other side of the fence, and try to prevent the next war. Thus, perhaps, on next year’s Memorial Day, we won’t have to count more victims,” read the message sent to The Times of Israel.

The popularity of the ceremony has grown incrementally over the years, Halfon noted, from 200 participants in 2006 to 3,000 in 2014.

“The ceremony is a meaningful alternative for thousands who view it as the correct way to mark this day; to break the endless cycle of violence through a message of joint pain and different action that engenders hope.”

The Ministry of Defense submitted no comment by time of publication.

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