Fridays are always intense in the old city of Jerusalem. It is the place and the time when three religions meet. For the Muslims it’s “Yom el-Jumaya”, the holiest day of the week; for the Jews, the holiest day of the week, Shabbat, will start right after sunset; and for the Christians, it’s remembering “Good Friday”, when Jesus was crucified, by a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Due to all these events which happen on a weekly basis, there is always a huge number of police officers and army soldiers around the old city basin to prevent unnecessary acts of violence.
Friday, July 14th, 2017, began as a regular, hot, summer day. Like every Friday in Jerusalem, the entrance to the Temple Mount area was closed for both Israelis and tourists, which means that only Muslims could go up to visit and pray. During the early hours of the morning, many Muslims from Jerusalem and beyond went up to the “Al-Aksa” mosque on top of the mountain and nothing seemed unusual. But then, around seven am, three Muslim visitors, Israeli citizens who came from the North of Israel, entered the mosque empty handed but left it geared with automatic weapons. On their way to the Muslim quarter of the old city they started shooting towards the Israeli soldiers in the area, killing two and injuring one more.
Both of the murdered troops, Hawil Satawi and and Kamil Shanaan, were Druze from the North of Israel. Druze are a minority ethno-religious, Arabic speaking people who are spread around the Middle East, and about 120,000 of them live in the North of Israel. They are very patriotic to Israel and serve in the Israeli army, although some will consider them Arabs.
Less than three months after Sachib Shanan, Kamil’s father and a former member of the Israeli parliament, lost his son, he joined the non-partisan peace movement “Women Wage Peace”. Over the last two weeks Sachib followed their peace marches all over Israel and accepted an invitation to speak at the huge peace rally which ended the main march in Jerusalem, on October 8th, 2017.
30,000 people marched in Jerusalem: Women, men, children and the elderly; Religious and secular; Left and Right; Jews and Arabs. All were gathered together, in Jerusalem’s Independence Park, a few steps from the residence of Israel’s Prime Minister, wearing white, bringing back hope and calling our leaders to sit down with our Palestinian neighbors to reach a statehood agreement in order to end our conflict.
It was a very moving and powerful night. There was a different and exciting energy in the air.
The evening began with several female musicians, Arab and Jewish, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluyah” in English and in Arabic. Many speakers followed, all of them were women from the movement, wearing white, telling their stories and calling for peace. And then, a man came up to the stage. He was older, he was wearing black, and he was speaking Hebrew with a thick Arabic accent. As soon as he introduced himself as Sachib Shanan, the father of Kamil Shanan who was murdered not far away from there, three months earlier, the entire audience got up to applaud. Thirty thousand people were giving a standing ovation to this man who lost his son to terrorism, and instead of being filled with hate, anger and revenge, he was filled with love, hope and peace.
“Yes, it is possible! Peace is possible”, said Sachib. “Although my soul is bleeding, I hope my son was the last victim of this conflict. Enough! We must end this constant war! We are destined to live together so we need to make the best of it”.
Sachib spoke for a few more minutes, and after him there were more songs and more women speakers, but his words and his appearance made the deepest impression on me.
I am a Jewish Israeli woman. I served in the Israeli army. I lost many close friends in our never-ending conflict and I had enough. Today I am a mother of two beautiful young children and I joined “Women Wage Peace” because I want a better future for my children and for all the Palestinian children.
If Sachib Shanan believes it is possible, all of us should believe it is possible.
Yes, it is possible! Peace is possible! And we will not stop until we achieve it. Insha’Allah.