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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Yitzhak Frankenthal

After his son was killed as a soldier, Yitzhak Frankenthal, a former businessman, pored through decades of old newspapers to find names of Israeli parents whose children had been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yitzhak brought bereaved Israeli families to Gaza to meet with bereaved Palestinian families. After this initial meeting, he established the Parents Circle - Families Forum, which grew into an organization of over 500 Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families calling for reconciliation and peace, rather than revenge. Yitzhak later founded the Arik Insitute in honor of his son; the Institute's work includes media outreach, and bringing Palestinian speakers to talk to Israeli youth preparing for military service. In 2009, Yitzhak became the Executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace.

  • Many thanks to Shlomo Zagman

    Many thanks to Shlomo Zagman, who participated in the following interview.Please tell me about yourself.My name is Yitzhak Frankenthal. I used to be a businessman; in July 1994 my eldest son, Arik, was abducted and murdered by Hamas. I have since left the business world. I made up my mind to do everything in my power to promote reconciliation between us and the Palestinians.

  • Introduction

    In 1994 Arik was abducted and murdered. The Army officials came to notify me that Arik had been murdered and to offer their condolences. A thought flashed across my mind, Rabbi Akiva said that he wished he could love the Holy One, blessed be He with all his soul even as he was dying.I rose and said, "Blessed be the True Judge".1 Very quickly I got involved with issues of reconciliation and peace. When Right-wing representatives [in Israel] tried to convince me to be active on their side I said to them, Arik was murdered because there isn't peace. If I were a Palestinian I would fight Israel. They saw there wouldn't be much to discuss together and left. I believe that the worst kind of terrorism is occupation.What we are doing contradicts the very basic Jewish beliefs and humane beliefs. We're behaving wrongly with the Palestinians, and this is the result.

    • 1"Blessed be the True Judge" is the traditional Jewish response to news of death.

  • Were you active before Arik was killed?

    No, I wasn't. I was a businessman and I wasn't interested in being active. After Arik was murdered I realized I had failed as a father. I brought a child into the world and he died, not because of sickness but because there is no peace. What had I done for peace? Nothing. I got up and started working. When Arik was 15, kids in his class yelled, "Death to Arabs". Arik stood on a desk and yelled, "Heil Hitler". They looked at him and he said that's how it all began in Germany1 Arik had a conscience. I don't think I'm realizing his will; I'm not working for Arik's sake, but rather for the rest of my children. I have 4 other children and three grandchildren and it's important they be able to live here in Israel.

    • 1A reference to the Third Reich and Nazi Germany.

  • Shlomo Zagman: What is your vision for the future here?

    I firmly object to a bi-national state. 1 I think that people who support the idea of a Greater Israel do not object to a bi-national state. Greater Israel means annexing 3.5 million Arabs; 2 thus we will become 1 million people here, of which 5.4 million Jews and 4.6 non-Jews, that is the bi-national state.

    • 1Some people espouse the idea of a one-state solution, in which Palestinians and Israelis would form the two populations of a bi-national state.
    • 2There are approximately 3.9 million Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

  • Was Arik's killer caught?

    Arik hitched a ride; there was a passenger by the driver. He got in the back, and there was a third person hiding in the back, whom Arik didn't see. There was also a backup vehicle with two other Palestinians. 5 people were involved in his abduction. Later on, a few of the abductors took part in Nachshon Wachsman's abduction,during which two of them were killed. The third abductor was killed in a different operation, the fourth was captured and the fifth is still free in Gaza.The fourth (who was arrested) was sentenced to four life sentences for multiple murder - the killing of Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon. When I heard about that I thought, one genuine life sentence would be sufficient, instead of four fake ones. You can't live four lives, one life sentence would have been enough. If I were asked whether I wanted the murderer freed if there is [a] reconciliation [process] and peace, I would say yes. It's important to understand the Palestinians' perspective, which is that they are not terrorists, they are fighting to liberate their lands and establish a Palestinian state. They view all the Palestinians jailed in Israeli prisons as combatants and not as criminals, and they can't think of peace without freeing their side's prisoners. If we have a historical reconciliation I don't see a problem with freeing my son's murderer.

  • Can you describe what happened in your community after Arik was killed?

    The community that I lived in for 23 years is very right-wing and Orthodox.When I started to open my mouth, talking about reconciliation and peace, they stopped talking to me. Some of them said very ugly things to me. Unfortunately, the behavior of the right-wing rabbis is a catastrophe. It's really ridiculous and unbelievable how rabbis, who are supposed to encourage us to reconcile and make peace, are encouraging us to give up our children because of their political dreams.1

    • 1A traditional Jewish devotional phrase, repeated after uttering the name of God.

  • You founded the Bereaved Families Forum. Please tell me about the beginning.

    Yitzhak Rabin came to visit us about a month after Arik was killed. We had exceptional chemistry and kept in touch. A month after he was awarded the Nobel Prize, bereaved parents demonstrated outside his office, yelling, "stop talks with the Palestinians because it is creating terrorism", and "there wasn't any terrorism when Begin or Shamir were in office." I came to his office and said, Yitzhak, they aren't speaking on my behalf. I went to the library accompanied by a student and for three months we extracted the names of [Israeli] bereaved families hurt in attacks and I found 422 families. I sent 35 letters. 44 people gave me a positive answer, 2 gave me a negative one, and it was with those 44 families that I founded the Bereaved Families Forum. The idea was to establish a serious group that would work to promote reconciliation and peace. I don't think anything could be more conciliatory or profound than a parent, whose son was murdered by a Palestinian, who sought not revenge but peace. That is the true sense of reconciliation. After ten years I quit and decided to establish the Arik Institute and not deal with bereavement any more. The days of dealing with labels of grief and reconciliation were over.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Do people like me, who haven't lost their loved ones, have a stake in peace and reconciliation?

    There is no difference between those parents and any other citizen seeking reconciliation and peace, but not in the framework of bereaved families for reconciliation and peace. Work for peace, yes, but not as a bereaved parent. On television I was asked, do you utilize bereavement? I said, yes, I use bereavement so that the rest of my children can live. It isn't a game, it's real. I know that I utilize my loss but I didn't choose it.

  • Please tell me about your work at the Arik Institute.

    I believe that the Israeli public is repressing and denying what is happening, regarding the Palestinians. The Israeli public knows that occupation is a terrible thing, but people repress and deny it. People think there is no partner. People think that the Palestinians want only to kill Israelis. I have maintained contact with the Hamas leadership for the past few years and when they were elected into office I was glad.1 I said it was an excellent thing because now there is a chance to achieve true reconciliation and true peace with the Palestinians. I met with Arafat for years and viewed him as someone who could lead his people to peace. I met with Arafat on a few hundred occasions and saw a full fledged leader, who could lead his people to peace. Since Arafat's death, Hamas is the only body capable of leading the [Palestinian] people to peace because there is no one else. Since Hamas came to power we have been making all mistakes possible. We claim there is no one to talk to on the other side because Hamas refuses to recognize us, so we refuse to meet. That is nonsense, it's all slogans. (Bashar al-) Assad has wanted peace for two years and yet nobody is talking to him because we know the price. We know the price and if you want to know my opinion, we know the price of peace with the Palestinians too. There is nobody who can lead our people.

    • 1Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006. For further reading, see Hamas in glossary.

  • Shlomo Zagman: What is the price for making peace with the Palestinians?

    The price was agreed upon at Camp David: territorial exchanges, annexing more than 95% of the settlers to Israel, granting the Palestinians more than 1 settlements out of some 157 official settlements. Some 9% of the settlers currently live in 6 settlements, and they would be annexed to Israel. 1 The Temple Mount would be under Palestinian sovereignty, [in Jerusalem] the Jewish quarter would remain Israeli, along with part of the Armenian quarter so that the Jewish quarter is accessible. The rest of the Old City would be subject to Palestinian sovereignty, without any borders, it would all be open - like passing from Ramat Gan to Givata'im 2 or Tel Aviv, which is unnoticeable. It is possible. It can be reached if inside we believe a partner exists, and that it is one that we can make peace with. This is a process that needs to operate based on the personality of the people here and on the Palestinian side. The initial basic premise is historical reconciliation, recognizing we made terrible mistakes and that they [the Palestinians] made terrible mistakes. We must be prepared to admit to mistakes and pay the price. There is a way to do such things, and I think with Hamas we can. They talked about a thousand year-long hudna [cease fire]. In Arab mentality, hudna is the closest thing to peace, and preferable over peace because it is grounded in religion. This should be clear: Hamas is never going to be Zionist, just as Arafat was never a Zionist, but he knew he was willing to meet with a patriotic Israel-loving Zionist Jew. Hamas refuses to repeat Fatah's mistakes. Fatah recognized Israel and Israel didn't recognize a Palestinian state. Since Fatah entered negotiations in 1993, the Palestinians' condition has only deteriorated. Hamas is not willing to go there and says, we will recognize Israel if Israel recognizes a Palestinian state and its [Israel's] errors. Hamas has a way of doing these things and it isn't unreasonable or false.

    • 1For maps relating to Camp David final status parameters see http://www.mideastweb.org/lastmaps.htm
    • 2Ramat Gan and Givata'im are small towns adjacent to Tel Aviv.

  • After the Oslo Accords where Israel recognized the PLO, attacks in Israel escalated. How do you explain this?

    Certainly, it's true and it's very simple. During negotiations, people objected to reconciliation and peace - there is no shortage in extremist religious people here - and some of these people carried out suicide attacks in order to sabotage negotiations. Yitzhak Rabin was no fool, he understood. He said, we will make peace as though terrorism doesn't exist and fight terrorism as though we weren't conducting negotiations. That is the right way. Later, the more Israel limited the Palestinians after suicide attacks and subjected them to closures and took away their livelihood, the The number of Palestinian extremists rose.1

    • 1Mr. Frankenthal is here referencing Israeli military incursions into the Occupied Palestinian Territories following attacks in Israel, which often included road closures, curfews, targeted assassinations and house demolitions.

  • You talked about hudna as a religious term. Is this conflict religious?

    Completely not. This is not a religious conflict. Our G-d and theirs are one and the same. There aren't religious problems here.

  • How could a religious solution assist in resolving the conflict?

    Hudna isn't a religious solution, but rather a solution grounded in religion. It is not religious, it's a practical solution.

  • What part might religion in Israel play in a reconciliation process?

    You won't find the word reconciliation in Judaism. There is no word for it in the Bible's three sections. 1 The word peace is there, but not reconciliation. Contrary to my friend, teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Fruman, 2 who believes the conflict here can be solved using religious means, I believe the most assistance Rabbis or Qadis are capable of is non-intervention. I don't think there is any way for Rabbis or Muslim religious figures to assist in resolving the conflict. They are only making things worse. Over the past fifty years, these people have done everything within their powers to fan the flames instead of to extinguish them. Unfortunately Judaism and Islam have been used against reconciliation. I don't have any hope in the Rabbis or the Muslim religious figures.

    • 1The Hebrew Bible or Old Testament is divided into three sections: The Torah, Prophets and Kings.
    • 2Menachem Fruman is an Orthodox Rabbi based in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Contrary to many Rabbis, Fruman believes that a democratic Palestinian state in which some Jews choose to remain is possible. He has met with Palestinian leaders, including the late leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, advocating a Palestinian state that would accept Jewish residents.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Politicians from both sides have perpetuated the struggle and the Occupation. Why are they given a second chance and international guarantees while religious figures are not?

    In the Kuzari it says, "Thou best touched our weak spot", 1 and I am also saying this now. Religious figures could have [been effective] but unfortunately aren't, neither are politicians. Politicians lack the spark of leadership for such a move. Sadat, Begin, Ben- Gurion, they all had that spark. I don't see leaders with such a spark now. Sharon had that spark in him, it was the spark of a leader who could have led moves but lacked the vision. In Gaza, Arik Sharon was willing to relinquish "one hand" of the body [of Eretz Yisrael] in order to keep Judea and Samaria.

    • 1Mr. Frankenthal is here referencing Article 1:115 of the Kuzari. See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/kuzari.html

  • Some people claim that the withdrawal from Gaza was an opportunity for the Palestinians to act, but they failed to. For example, the Wolfensohn deal. What do you think?

    You could ask a better question. Arafat got 99% of what he wanted at Camp David with Barak, with the exception of sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Arafat agreed to everything: land exchange, returning refugees to Palestine and not to Israel. If Arafat got 99%, was it the remaining 1% that made him willing to do everything he then did? The answer is yes. Again, Arab-Palestinian reasoning differs from our own. When Arafat said, I need sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Haram Al Sharif, he saw in himself an Arab leader telling his people, 'I waived the right of return but for the Temple Mount. I ceded parts of Palestine, I traded land but don't you forget that we are sovereigns of the Temple Mount, that holy site.' Without that card there was no way for him to access his people and it was as though he had nothing in his hand. When you say the Palestinians got Gaza from Arik Sharon, they were left in a ghetto with no financial possibilities, no access to Egypt, with permanent Israeli control - in the air and on the ground and in the sea. That isn't called giving them Gaza.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Some Israelis would be willing to return to the 1967 borders, evacuating all settlements, yet the Temple Mount is as important, as holy to us as it is to the Palestinians.

    As Jews, the term 'holy site' does not exist. It doesn't. It's an invention. [Worshipping] the graves of our forefathers (and it isn't certain they are even really there) is not typical Jewish behavior. It developed over the past few years because people want a material grip on Judaism. They don't understand that Judaism means worshipping the Holy One, blessed be He, without any slogans, words, figurative depictions such as 'Our Lord', 'King of the Universe'. Forget about those. You worship Him because you are a Jew, period. You worship Him without expecting to receive anything in return, because He does not worship you. But we've forgotten these things, transformed stones into sacred objects, turned land into holy land. The sanctity of the Land of Israel was never measured by sovereignty. Sovereignty is irrelevant to sanctity. Sanctity has no sovereign. When a man sanctifies a site and for that repulsive sanctity surrenders his life, or his children's lives, that's a tragedy. When you say, we are willing to grant them everything besides the Temple Mount, you know that as religious Jews we are prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount. Since 1967, very few Jews visited the Temple Mount,1 so why are we playing word games?

    • 1According to a number of Rabbinical edicts, Jews are strictly forbidden from entering the site of the Temple Mount until the Third Temple is rebuilt, considering the area too holy.

  • What has changed for you since you started the Bereaved Families Forum and then the Arik Institute?

    My views haven't changed. Unfortunately I didn't discover I was wrong. I would have been glad if I had. I would be pleased to discover I'm wrong. I haven't yet, and I think that if I do discover I'm wrong I won't be ashamed to say I am.

  • Why would you be pleased to be wrong?

    I haven't succeeded on the path I've chosen. Perhaps it isn't the right one. Perhaps if I change course, having been wrong, it will make things easier. It is very difficult swimming against the current. Two months ago we had a memorial service for my son Arik. In the morning I went to synagogue and prayed. When I finished praying, a man came to me and said, "Are you Frankenthal?" I didn't reply. He started yelling at me and said, "You insect, you abhorrence, you are not welcome here!" I continued to pray and again he came over to me and yelled, "I told you to leave!" People listened and I silently said, I forgive you - I forgive you - I forgive you, and resumed praying. When I finished I left, bleeding inside because of the depths of hatred. It would be easier knowing I'm wrong, then I wouldn't face such difficulties.

  • What times do you think that it's the wrong thing to do?

    When I see Palestinians terrorist attacks, I cannot accept that they [the Palestinians] are killing kids and women, and I cannot accept that they are using force or terrorism against the Israelis. They murdered my son and I cannot support them, but I do understand the roots of the hatred. I think they [the Palestinians] are making a terrible mistake. I think they would achieve much more if they didn't use violence against the Israelis. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, and we don't care, "It's okay, it's only a Palestinian." But that's exactly what they are saying, "It's okay, it's only an Israeli."

  • What makes you persevere?

    I believe in the road I'm on. I believe it is the right path and I haven't found another one, nor heard from the enlightened ones of our generation, the Bible scholars or politicians of another possibility. No one has proven there is another way to achieve security or peace.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Please tell me about your work at the Arik Institute.

    We hold workshops with Palestinians. I believe that the Israeli public is repressing everything that is happening here and I am trying to work with Palestinians, only with Palestinians, not with Israelis, for reconciliatory activities here in Israel. I'm trying to establish a "Peace Now" on the Palestinian side to come and be active here. I am working with Palestinians who have Israeli identity cards,1 who can be active here. I'm also trying to finish the book I'm writing and I work on projects I believe in.For example, I want to set up an encampment outside the Knesset with 4 Palestinian families where one parent has Israeli ID and the other doesn't and therefore they are separated - either the parents are separated because of this, or parents are separated from their children. This is like Sodom and Gomorrah - to hurt the sanctity of family life, basic human dignity. This isn't one case but scores of thousands of cases. I want to establish the encampment so that here and around the world people will hear the great anguish, until the stupid, evil and wicked law is changed. I fight the idiotic wall. No wall can stop the Qassam rockets or the tunnels dug under the walls 2 - it's like giving a cancer patient aspirin. A 73 km long wall is going to be put up, it's a 2-3 billion dollar investment. Why? Give the money to people who are sick, poor, to education, to security. Why is money being thrown out?

    • 1Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians within certain areas of East Jerusalem have blue identity cards. Unlike Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza with orange or green identity cards, they are permitted to work and travel within Israel without asking special permission.
    • 2Numerous tunnels have been discovered underneath Israel's wall along the Gaza Strip border with Egypt. The tunnels are used by Palestinian militants to smuggle arms.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Have you ever come to speak at settlements?

    Many times. For me the settlers are the salt of the earth. I think these are wonderful people who are being misled. I came to speak at settlements many times.

  • What would help you to reach the settlers?

    They aren't important as a group to talk to. They are less than 2% of the population,1 and not the people who will decide. 65-7% of the Israelis are the ones who will decide whether to make a change. I usually worked with people who do not agree with me and who in certain conditions would be willing to change their minds. Ehud Barak was chosen by 65%2 of voters, and Ariel Sharon was elected by 65% 3 of the voters. There isn't 135% here in Israel, only 1%. The Right is about 4%, the Left is about 3% and the rest - 3% sway to the Left or to the Right. That is the target audience, not the settlers. I talk to them, I think they are wonderful people, and have many friends in settlements.

    • 1Settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem make up approximately 6.2% of the Israeli population. Settlers in the West Bank alone make up approximately 3.9% of the total population.
    • 2Barak won the 1999 elections with 56% of the Israeli vote.
    • 3Sharon won the 2001 elections with 62.6% of the Israeli vote.

  • Would you talk about what a Jewish state means for you?

    It's a slogan; it's a nice slogan. It's a slogan that allows us to give all the Jewish people in the world an umbrella to know that if they've got anti-Semitism they've got a place to run to, but that's all. A Jewish state that lives under Jewish law is nonsense. You need so many things to be done for it to happen. First of all, all the Israelis would need to be religious. Can you imagine Israelis being religious?1 It's nonsense.

    • 1The majority of Israeli citizens consider themselves secular.

  • Is it important for you to have a Jewish majority in Israel?

    Very much. Because Israel is a Jewish state, the only Jewish state in the world. Israel is life insurance for the Jewish people in the world that the Holocaust will not repeat itself. Unfortunately, today the most dangerous place for Jewish people to live in is Israel. But it's because we don't know how to treat the Palestinians. Once we make peace with the Palestinians, it will be a nice place to live. I don't want to live in a situation in which we will be threatened like during the Holocaust. I'm not prepared to do that, therefore I will do the best for Israel to continue to be a Jewish state. It's much more important to me that Israel will be a Jewish state than that there be peace here.You're right. That's why I am working so hard to achieve peace. I'm trying to get a message across. [The Palestinians] talk about the right of return for the Palestinians. There is no right of return to Israel; it's the right of return to the Palestine State, but not to the Israeli state. I don't want Palestinians to return to the Jewish state. I want Israel to continue being a Jewish state.

  • What does Zionism mean to you?

    Zionism means living here in Israel. Once Zionism meant living outside Israel and thinking about Israel, but now we've got Israel.

  • How do you think Jews living outside of Israel should support Israel?

    I think that everyone who is a Jew has got a right to support Israel and to criticize Israel because Israel is not only for the Zionist people, it's a state for all the Jewish people. The Israelis and the Palestinians cannot talk to each other. We need help, and maybe those people who are living outside Israel can help us. The leaders [there] can help us, so maybe if they [Jews outside Israel] can push their leaders to be involved here, it's very important. Jews living outside Israel encounter a lot of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is related, but not solely, to Israeli-Palestinian relations. Jews who live outside Israel suffer from anti-Semitism and they need to open their mouths. Not only do they have the right to, but they are obligated to try and help the Israelis and the Palestinians end the conflict.

  • But anti-Semitism existed long before the State of Israel.

    Of course, anti-Semitism is not only a result of the conflict, yet the Israeli-Palestinian conflict helps its cause.

  • Which international audience do you think is the most influential here?

    I think the United States, because it is the strongest democracy in the world, the strongest empire in the world. You see what is going on between us and the Palestinians is ridiculous; it's a crazy situation. We are ruling 3.5 million people. The Occupation is a kind of terrorism and if we believe that we can continue the Occupation and they will sit quietly and not react against us, we are stupid. The only way to stop this is to open our mouths and say what we've got to say, and to let people understand that this cannot be allowed to continue. You need to understand also that September 11th has nothing to do with the Palestinians. Although many times Sharon and his people say Americans should be able to understand terrorism means because of September 11th, but that's nonsense. The September 11th attack is terrorism with an ideology; Palestinian terrorism is the act of a desperate people. Stop them from being desperate and they will make good neighbors. That's part of what we need to explain to people in the US.

  • I would like to talk more about your work. Who are your partners on the Palestinian side?

    I have many Palestinian partners working on different activities, not just one for all. I have one Palestinian partner with whom I work on most projects together. His sister was killed by Israelis. At the Bereaved Families Forum I set up a phone line called "Hello-Shalom". Arabs could talk to Jews and Jews to Arabs on the phone. On the third day after we launched, I tested the line and a Palestinian answered me in very good Hebrew. I asked him where he was from and he said, Kafr Aqab. I said, "This is my first time talking to a Palestinian and it happens to be someone from Kafr Aqab." He said, "Why, what's so special about that?" I said, "My son's body was recovered in Kafr Aqab." He said, "You must be Yitzhak Frankenthal." I said, yes. He said, "I want you to know that the day your son's body was recovered there was supposed to be a memorial service for my sister, who was murdered by the IDF. We couldn't have the memorial because a curfew was imposed." We've been together ever since. His name is Nabil Sawiti, he is an impressive man. We've been working together and trying to work on our activities.

  • What challenges you in your work?

    Lack of funding, budget problems. The implications are catastrophic.

  • Do you encounter prejudice in your work?

    An endless amount. The Jews think that the Arabs only want to throw them into the sea, and the Arabs think that the Jews aren't interested in the Palestinians' lives and are only interested in occupation. Palestinians cannot understand how we as Jews, Israelis, terrorize them on a daily basis. The checkpoints are intolerable. It's terrorism on the roads. It's disgusting how we push them [the Palestinians]. You asked about prejudice - certainly, there are mixed feelings here, hatred and anger on both sides.

  • If you could go back to ten years ago and implement lessons you learned over the course of your work, what would you do differently?

    That's a good question. Nobody ever asked me that, nor did I ever ask myself. I never asked myself this question because I'm not a man of theory but of practice. That is why I don't look to what is behind me, only at what lies ahead. There is a proverb that says, "A wise person sees what is being born". Usually the proverb is interpreted as being able to predict the future but the proverb does not say that, it talks about the present. We should be able to see what there is and not what will happen. You asked me about the past but my answer would be irrelevant because I can't go back. If I could, I would do that for many things, so what I would do differently is irrelevant.

  • Shlomo Zagman: Don't you think that the different organizations in the Israeli Left are making a mistake because they do not unite, sometimes because of small and even minute differences?

    It is said that there are as many opinions as there are different faces. We aren't homogenous, nor does uniformity exist. Uniformity would be a tragedy. We should be united but not uniform. So long as we are not all the same and every person has their own way, ideas and opinions, it's fine to have many organizations and bodies. I think there are over 2 bodies and each reaches out to in a specialized manner. What I am trying to do is to reach out to Israelis through Palestinians, rather than through Israelis. This is a niche that doesn't exist elsewhere and I'm trying to encourage it. I hope to succeed.

  • What does the word peace mean to you?

    Security, quiet, calm, mutuality. Peace is when you're happy, I'm happy and when I'm happy, you're happy. It means a full life, calm and serene. It is when I can do what I believe is right without hurting anyone else and not being hurt by others.

  • What will it take to achieve this vision of yours?

    Get off our butts. It's clear-cut: stop thinking other people are going to do the work for us, we are the one's who need to do it.

  • What is this conflict about?

    It's about being short-sighted concerning the future, about a lack of faith with which we are creating a national home for hundreds and for thousands of years ahead. It is about contemporary work instead of visionary work. I am referring to us [Israelis].

  • Do you think that peace can be achieved here?

    I'm certain there will be peace. The question is how long it will take and how many people will be killed before it. Peace is mightier than any leader, than any person.

  • How can a process of forgiveness, pardoning and reconciliation involve the people in Israel?

    Let's begin with these three terms - forgiveness, pardoning and reconciliation - these are different terms. I don't forgive or pardon Arik's murder[er]. I won't forgive or pardon. I desire peace and reconciliation even though I won't pardon or forgive. To forgive or pardon is in the hands of the Holy One, blessed be He, not in ours. If you give me Arik back, I will forgive. If you return Arik to me I will pardon, pardon for the years I didn't have him with me, but it's impossible. He cannot be revived so forgiveness or pardoning is irrelevant. In Christianity there can be forgiveness and pardon even for murder, but for Muslims and Jews there can't. This is why forgiveness and pardon are irrelevant for the matter of reconciliation and peace. Peace and reconciliation can be achieved without forgiving or pardoning. Everything else can be pardoned, everything but the loss of human life. Taking a human life is a wrong that cannot be righted. This is why the reconciliation I'm referring to is not linked to pardon and forgiveness. It means pardoning those offenses and errors we have committed but not for those who are dead.

  • Can someone who committed murder beg forgiveness?

    Yes, they can ask it, but I lack the authority to forgive them.

  • How can a process of reconciliation involve the people here?

    I'm writing about that in my book, but in a few words, we must recognize the errors we made, and so should the Palestinians. When I say "them" or "us" I mean the same thing. We must admit to our mistakes and pay for them and prepare the public to pay the price for peace. We must work with youth, kindergarten children through university and yeshiva students on reconciliation. It isn't enough to say, I want peace, we must work to implement it. When Anwar Sadat said he wanted peace and was willing to visit the Knesset, Menachem Begin took the next step of inviting him to visit the Knesset. [President] Sadat arrived on Saturday night and the Friday papers' headlines [in Israel] read that Staff Gur1 warned the public that there could be a firing squad instead of Sadat's entourage. There was fear, hatred and total demonization of the Egyptian enemy. Overnight this transformed into empathy; Israeli children waved Egyptian and Israeli flags in the streets where the convoy passed. Yes, a constitutive event can create a change here overnight, but what we need is comprehensive, profound and radical change. This is why reconciliation is neither simple nor easy. It is something to work and invest in and we cannot rest on laurels.

    • 1Lt. Gen. Mordechai ""Motta"" Gur was the 10th Chief of Staff of the Israeli army and later, a Labor politician in the Israeli government.