I was born in Jerusalem. Most of my family is still in Jerusalem but they are not really Jerusalemites. My mother was born in Amman, and when the British left Jordan
they came to this country. They lived next to Rehovot, in Givat-Brener,
because my grandfather was in the British Air Force, stationed in Tel Nof.
Later, before the War of Independence, they moved to Jerusalem. My father made aliyah from Turkey; most of his family is in Jerusalem, but they were not born in Jerusalem. So not everyone has deep roots in this land.I was recruited to the Navy. I met Tzvika in the Navy. After my service I went to study at the Seminar in Tel-Aviv, to become a teacher. I studied for three years and in the third year we got married. We lived in Ra'anana, where Bat-Chen and Yaela were born. Later, when Bat-Chen was three and a half we moved to Kibbutz Kfar Aza
where we stayed for three years. Then Ofri was born. When it was time for Bat-Chen to go to first grade we moved to Tel Mond,
and from then on we've lived here, in Tel Mond.I am a teacher, and this year I am working half time. The rest of the time, I am active in the Parents Circle-Bereaved Families Forum. I organize and coordinate the Parents' school presentations, and I give a lot of presentations in schools myself. This year we also tried to do the presentations for teachers. Our daughter Bat-Chen was killed by a suicide bomber in Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv in 1996, exactly on her 15th birthday, according to the Hebrew calendar. She was born on Purim
and she was killed on Purim. The doubly happy day of Bat-Chen's birthday and Purim, which is the happiest holiday, has become a very sad day. For us Purim is when fate got turned upside down.
There is no more Purim at home. Instead of sending mishloach manot
and receiving mishloach manot, our friends bring us memorial cakes. Ofri and Yaela do not wear costumes and do not go to parties, although Yaela, in the past two years has begun to go to parties. Ofri still has not. This period of Purim is hard.Our whole lives have changed since we lost Bat-Chen. The things that help us to survive and to carry on are the diaries that Bat-Chen left behind. In retrospect it has become clear that they also really helped her to survive her adolescence and the days of the Oslo agreements, which she writes about in her private diary. Today the same diaries help us to continue on. We see in the diaries and writings and what she did, a kind of legacy that today we have to fulfill. Our activities are based on that legacy. It was natural that we would do some of our activities in the framework of the Bereaved Families Forum, because Bat-Chen left us a lot of writing in which she talks about peace.There is one text, which she calls A Dream of Peace. It begins, "Everyone has a dream, one wants to be a millionaire, one wants to be a writer, and I have a dream about peace." We feel that we have to try to realize her dream about peace, so that peace will really arrive. We didn't know that she had diaries. We actually found them during the shiva;
at that time we discovered three diaries, and 2 1/2 years after she was killed we found another. We read most of the diaries during the shiva. But we published them (not including the one we found much later) in a book one year from the day she was killed.
We published the first book in Hebrew. There was someone who likened her diaries to Anne Frank's, and published them together in Dutch. On what would have been Bat-Chen's 20th birthday, we decided to translate the book into Arabic, because that is what she would have wanted.
I want to talk about the experience we had during the whole process of translating the book into Arabic. We asked around looking for a translator, and found Dr. Mahmoud Abbasi,
who lives in Shfaram. We started the project of translating just two weeks after the outbreak of the riots in October 2000. At the time we didn't know that it was actually the outbreak of the Intifada. We thought it was something fleeting. It was Sukkot
the first time we went to Mahmoud Abbasi's house in Shfaram. At one intersection we passed we saw signs of the violence: traffic lights torn down, burning tires.People asked us rather innocently what we were doing during those days in Shfaram. Actually the process of translation presented us with an opportunity to make a very special connection with Dr. Mahmoud Abbasi and his family. Ofri joined us for all our meetings. It really turned into such nice hospitality, us coming to his place, and he to ours. At their holiday we went to see him and during Shavuot
he came to see us. I'm talking about a very hard year. It was the first year of the intifada and in any case we continued. We didn't imagine that this would be an intifada. As a mother, I thought it was really good for Ofri, along with us, to become familiar with Arabic culture, he was able to learn and see and meet them, something that I as a girl did not have the privilege of doing when I was growing up here.But Bat-Chen began this, and today we also try to continue with it. It was a very special experience. Until today we keep this very special connection with Dr. Mahmoud Abbasi. In general, the whole process of translation was a very powerful experience because he didn't have anyone to ask when he came up against difficulties in translating. For example there was a word that Bat-Chen uses, "l'havreez m'haShiurim," which means "to play hooky from class." He didn't know the word in Hebrew, and he had to ask me and look for a word in Arabic that fit. Maybe there's no word because they don't play hooky from their classes!So it was really an experience and an honor to host him as our guest that year on the evening that we gave out the scholarships.
It was just an experience to hear him speak. For most of the people that were present that evening, it was the first meeting with an Arab intellectual that could talk on their level, and not an Arab worker that was building their house. Everyone really thanked us for the experience of meeting Dr. Mahmoud Abbasi.We found that the subject of peace was really important to Bat-Chen. In fourth grade she first started to keep a diary, and it was during the first Gulf War. She calls it War Diary, but maybe she isn't comfortable with the phrase, so on the inside cover she draws the sun and writes, "hope for peace," and inside the mouth of a child she writes, "I want peace." It seems like the name War Diary was too strong for her, so on the same page she writes the word peace twice.
It starts in fourth grade and continues through the years and into seventh grade. In her private diary she writes "About Jews and Arabs." It's as if she were writing a text for a lesson. It's in 1994, two years before she was killed, and after the signing of the Oslo Accord. She writes:
"For some of us the word "Arab" brings to mind a knife in the back, death, rocks, murders, Molotov cocktails, burning tires, terrorists, the Hezbollah.
Some of us make a distinction: there are Arab murderers just as there are Jewish ones. Every country has its good and bad people, and there are some who will say 'The Arabs are our good friends, they too have rights and terms for living.'
There is a lot of unrest in our little country. There are three opinions on Arabs: the settlers and the radical Right hate the Arabs; the Left makes a distinction and the radical Left demands rights for the Arabs too!
It's very hard for me to make up my mind about which position to take. One moment I'm for the Left, then suddenly the radio newsreader says, 'Jews have been murdered, the terrorists have been captured,' and I say, 'It could have been one of my family.'
All this hatred has lasted over 2,000 years
And we and the Arabs all live in fear.
I always say that there are good Arabs too,
But I only hear about the murderers.
I want peace and believe that it will come in the end,
Because peace is vital for the continuation of life.
The question is what kind of peace will there be?
Peace like the one with the Palestinians is not peace,
On both sides the people are angry.
Peace is a beautiful word.
A word with a wonderful meaning.
A word of value and significance.
Every day and every hour,
We talk of peace directly or indirectly."
This she wrote in her private journal in 7th grade. This is one of the poems from which we derive our motivation to fulfill her wish for peace. We coupled this with the writing we found that she had done in 8th grade. In 8th grade she had to choose a subject she would work on in school, and so she chose to work on what she called "Peace and the Law." In those days we were about to sign an agreement with Jordan.
There was this atmosphere of the end of war, so she chose to interview Tzvika [her father] about his Medal of Courage from the Yom Kippur War, and to interview my mother as someone who was born in Rabat Amon.
Yitzhak Rabin invited her to the ceremony of the signing of the peace agreement with Jordan. She interviewed the two of them, and in the end she wrote three texts, one of which really is a sign of her reaction and aspirations for peace. She calls it "Summary of War and Peace:"
"There is not much left to say
We're in a sort of halfway spot.
Nor is there 'real war'
And us, we're marching forward towards peace:
Ready to understand the others,
Prepared to make changes,
With one clear goal:
To be rid of the hatred
Buried deep inside us for so long,
And with the understanding
That it's easy to make enemies,
But the wise thing is to find friends.
We are people who know a lot about war
But very little about peace.
From now on we'll begin to change that.
Behind the fine words are years and years
Of suffering, pain, anxiety and fear.
Now to all these words
A new word-hope-is added:
A little strange, a little different, perhaps.
In fact it was with us all along
(Even in war)
And because of it we never remained alone in the struggle.
If we talk about peace, we cannot conclude
Without the song that became the hymn of peace.
Together with the hope in our hearts
That remained with us all our lives."
In the same year, she chose to take part in a project of kids from Kfar Kassem.
It wasn't a project that the whole class participated in, where the teacher came and told everyone to take a piece of paper and write a letter. Only those who were interested, and for whom it was important, participated. Even though she had trouble in English, she chose to participate. For half a year she exchanged letters with a girl from Kfar Kassem. Later we discovered that she had written the letters in Hebrew and had a friend translate them to English for her. She met Nida in person a year before she died. When Bat-Chen was killed, Nida learned about it on the news, and during the 30 days of mourning she came to visit us with her teacher, and their principal. They came with a whole group to visit us here. In other words, long before we at home had thought for ourselves that we had to meet and get to know Arabs, Bat-Chen had already done it. In all of our activities today, we are trying to find a way to work toward her dream of peace.