Last Tuesday 17th April, Israel celebrated its National Memorial Day - an annual day of remembrance for all soldiers killed in combat since the country's foundation. Though a day of much sadness for bereaved family members, in a country with such deep internal divisions and violent external conflict, it would have been almost impossible for such an occasion to pass without controversy.
One such controversy revolved around Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman, who had refused to grant enrty permits to 90 Palestinians, invited to attend a joint event in Tel Aviv's Ha'Yarkon Park. The unique event, jointly organised by activist groups Families Forum and Combatants for Peace, offered families on both sides of the conflict the opportunity to grieve together, and speak in hope of an end to the violence that has claimed so many lives.
On the day of the event, the High Court overturned Liberman's ruling, stipulating that the army must grant the permits for the Palestinian families to attend the event. It was stated that these individuals posed no security threat, and upholding the restriction would ignore the harm to bereaved families that wished to grieve in the way they have in past years - by attending the event in Tel Aviv.
The event was a success, though slightly marred by the efforts of right-wing protesters who were kept at a distance by police on foot and horseback. Both Palestinian and Israelis spoke at the event, many of whom had personally experienced the pain of losing a loved one in the conflict.
One such individual was David Grossman, Israeli author and recipient of this year's Israel Prize for literature, whose son Uri was killed whilst fighting in the Lebanon War in 2006. Grossman's powerful speech spoke of Israel as a 'fortress, but not yet a home'. He spoke critically of the government's policies, as they related to the conflict with Palestine, and on many other internal and eternal issues, including Israel's treatment of refugees and disadvantaged members of its own society.
Overall through, Grossman's message was one of hope, as he praised the virtues of forgiveness and empathy in the midst of such trauma, as suffered by families on both sides of the wall. He stressed the importance of fighting the desire to avenge, and rather using the grief as a way to connect with others, and create some good from loss. In this way Grossman strongly echoed Encompass' own ethos, and our belief that the common humanity is more powerful than any social division.
You can read the full text of David Grossman's speech here.