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When Will it Ever Stop?

Illustration by Chloe Cushman

I come from there and I have memories  
Born as mortals are, I have a mother  
And a house with many windows,  
I have brothers, friends,  
And a prison cell with a cold window.  
Mine is the wave, snatched by seagulls,  
I have my own view,  
And an extra blade of grass.  
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,  
And the bounty of birds, 

And the immortal olive tree.  
I walked this land before the swords  
Turned its living body into a laden table.  
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother  
When the sky weeps for her mother.  
And I weep to make myself known  
To a returning cloud.  
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood  
So that I could break the rule.  
I learnt all the words and broke them up  

To make a single word: Homeland…. 
~Mahmoud Darwish 

When I think of the on-going war between Palestine and Israel—what else can you call it?—I think of three things: the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and Naomi Shihab Nye and the Parents Circle. Maybe, now it is actually four things. The incredible book Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Something about how the arts allow us to see images more clearly, increase the understanding of our emotions and help us re-imagine possibilities, even if only momentarily. The news from Gaza, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has been alarming, depressing and sorrowful in the last days. Where are the peace-builders? Palestinian-American, Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem, "How Palestinians Keep Warm," tells us "Choose one word and say it over and over, till it builds a fire inside your mouth." I choose PEACE. I choose what seems to be impossible. Nonetheless, I choose PEACE.  

This morning (5/13/21), I listened as two members of the Parents Circle, Robi Damelin, Israeli, whose son was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002, and Bassam Aramin, Palestinian, whose daughter was killed by Israeli border police in 2007, expressed that solutions can not be found in continuing the violence. Aramin has said about members of the Parents Circle, "It's not friendship — please! We are not friends, we are not brothers, we are not relatives. We are partners! And it's for our life." 

Again from Naomi, that fiery word: "Adhafera, the one who holds out, Alphard, solitary one, the stars were named by people like us." My word is still PEACE. The Parents Circle's word is PEACE. Naomi continues, letting us know that "Each night [the stars] line up on the long path between worlds. They nod and blink, no right or wrong." Do they not choose PEACE? 

In Apeirogon, McCann has woven together the agony of parents who have senselessly lost their children in this war—I refuse to call it anything else. Bassam Aramin is one of the main characters in the book, the other is Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew. Bassam co-founded Combatants for Peace, a group which Rami joined even before the murder of his daughter. Apeirogon is a polygon with an infinite number of sides, but each is countable. The book has 1001 small chapters that speak through a weaving of history with the voices of the two fathers telling their stories. Bassam speaks: "I still sit in that ambulance every day. I keep waiting for it to move. Every day she gets killed again…." What for? Rami, remembers: "You find yourself running in the streets, in and out of shops…trying to find your daughter…but she has vanished." Perhaps she has returned to Darwish's peace-filled HOMELAND.  

In closing, I want to share some opportunities to extend this conversation. Parents Circle is a Charter Partner, and on May 18 and 19 (see announcement below) you'll have an opportunity to listen to Robi Damelin, who is also a member of our Global Compassion Council . In addition, we will be featuring Apeirogon as part of our Global Read program on August 25. Finally, Naomi joined us for our Global Read program last December. You may want to watch her presentation.  As our friends in Israel and Palestine are teaching us, PEACE is essential and at its very core, requires much from us. 

With warm regards,

This message from Marilyn Turkovich, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, appears in our 05/18/2021 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu, in the newsletter section enter your email address and click on subscribe. 

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