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Knowing — and sharing — the other side's narrative

West Bank and Gaza, July 14, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    From left, Mercy Corps veteran Middle East staff leader Andy Dwonch, Nir Oren, Mercy Corps Founder Dan O'Neill and Rami Elhanan. Photo: Mercy Corps

A couple of days ago I shared Turkish coffee with two Israeli men who dare to cross traditional barriers in confronting violence and retaliation through dialogue and understanding. The Parents' Circle is an organization touching thousands of lives for good. "We are all about bringing bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families together for reconciliation and Peace," said Rami Elhanan.

Rami — son-in-law of the legendary Israeli Army General, Matti Peled — lost his 14 year old daughter, Smadar, to a suicide bomber on September 4, 1997. It was a national news event for Israel and a shattering loss to family and friends.

Rami's friend and partner Nir Oren, General Manager of The Parents' Circle, shares a similar tragedy. His 60-year-old mother was killed on a Tel Aviv bus by a suicide bomber 16 years ago.

Through a series of chance encounters with grieving Palestinian families who have lost children to the agonizing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "a miracle happened," Nir told me. "We went from demonizing our enemies to actually talking. We find that it is critically important to know the other side's narrative."

In Israeli and Palestinian schools, summer camps for kids, social media and special communications projects, Rami and Nir work with their Palestinian partners to overcome conflict and halt the deadly cycle of violence perpetuated by retaliation. This is very good news and builds healing and hope for the future in the midst of darkness and pain.

The Parents' Circle is shining the light and showing the way forward. There is a lesson here for the entire world.