A Visit by the Parent’s Circle Family Forum from Israel/Palestine

Established in 1995, The Parents’ Circle is a grassroots organisation of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis. It is an organisation that hopes to breach the wall of hatred by pursuing solutions to this conflict based on peace and reconciliation.

In January 2010, twelve members of The Parents’ Circle Family Forum, six Israelis and six Palestinians, travelled from the Middle East to participate in Residential Workshops at Glencree and Belfast.  The purpose of this significant journey was for them to participate in, learn from and contribute to the peace building processes, to focus on victims’ issues as experienced by groups in the Northern Ireland Conflict and to deepen understanding of their personal journeys through loss and pain to hope and a shared vision of a future built on peace.

Glencree provided the safe space and opportunity for each individual to speak about and share their personal story of pain and loss and their journey to membership of the Parents’ Circle and what they hope to achieve through membership of this remarkable organisation. Powerful and important sessions provided the ideal opportunity to question, probe, reflect and explore programmes for action that can contribute to peaceful ways forward while embracing the respective vision of both Palestinians and Israelis.

A common theme of unity evidenced was the unshakeable view that the pursuit of peace and peace building across traditional divides was the only way in which to grow and become a part of a community. By journeying inward renewed commitment to peace and reconciliation was directed outwards – outwards towards each other and towards the community groups with whom they shared time and thought.

The value and importance of the visit to the island of Ireland by the Parents’ Circle cannot be understated. The workshops, meetings and exchanges enabled each individual to speak, question, argue, disagree, reflect, learn and journey inward to a deepened understanding of purpose and place. Perhaps one of the most delightful observable moments was watching others watch in disbelief as a group of Palestinians and Israelis, united in purpose, shared an evening of music and song. A tree planting ceremony to mark the end of the visit at Glencree took place and it is a tribute to a wonderful group of people united in their vision of peace of reconciliation and in the symbolism of planting seeds we display our solidarity as the Parents’ Circle journey to harvest their vision.