Robi Damelin (left) and Bassam Aramin (right) look out over the skyline of a city near the Israel-Palestine border

Our Power is Our Pain

Grieving parents unite for Middle East peace

Robi Damelin (left) and Bassam Aramin (right) look out over the skyline of a city near the Israel-Palestine border

Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Robi Damelin are unlikely allies.

But they share a powerful bond: the loss of a child to conflict.

Robi looks at pictures of her son, who was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002

Robi’s son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002.

Bassam looks at a picture of his daughter, who was killed by an Israeli border guard in 2007

Bassam’s young daughter Abir was killed by an Israeli border guard on her way home from school in 2007.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of modern history’s most protracted and complex crises.

Many parents like Bassam and Robi have grieved for lost children since the conflict started more than 60 years ago.

Robi sits on a panel to talk about her experiences and how to facilitate peace in the region

Despite their tragic loss, Robi and Bassam dedicate their lives to advocating for peace, reconciliation and tolerance in the region.

Today, these friends serve as spokespeople for the Parents Circle Families Forum.

A portrait of Bassam
A portrait of Robi
Robi meets with a group of women to talk about how to bring Israelis and Palestinians together

“If you go into an average Israeli classroom, and you ask, ‘who of you have ever met a Palestinian?’ Nobody. Or maybe one… If you don’t know, you fear. Or you hate,”Robi says.

Bassam looks out over his hometown

“It’s very simple. I don’t like you, because I don’t know you. I am scared from you, because I don’t know you,”  Bassam adds.

Robi speaks about fostering tolerance at a conference

Since 1995, the Parents Circle Families Forum has fostered empathy between Israelis and Palestinians through education and advocacy projects.

Robi, Bassam and more than 600 other families spread peace, reconciliation and tolerance in the region through the organization.

A portrait of Bassam

“Our main power is our pain. And because it’s indescribable pain, you want to prevent any other family from tasting this bitterness, everywhere around the world.” — Bassam

Robi and Bassam have turned their loss and pain into a catalyst for dialogue.

The duo travels throughout Israel, the West Bank and across the world to share their personal stories with anyone who will listen.

Robi addresses a crowd on the need for peace in the region
Bassam talks to a crowd about his experience and the need for reconciliation
Robi answers a question someone in the audience addresses to her

“We speak all the time, on radio, television. We travel internationally—I can’t even remember how many countries we’ve been in in the past 5 years.” —  Robi

Robi and Bassam talk to a man after one of their events
Robi and Bassam address a crowd
Bassam speaks to a group of people about the need for both sides to understand each other
Robi listens as a woman shares her story
Robi and Bassam listen as an audience member asks them a question

“Robi found me. I want to thank her that she’s a part of my life, simply. I love her as a friend, as a mother, as a human being. And this is above the conflict.” — Bassam

About this story

The Parents Circle Families Forum, a nonprofit organization supported by USAID, is made up of more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families who lost a family member to the conflict. The organization was established in 1995 by Yitzhak Frankental and several bereaved Israeli families.

USAID has supported The Parents Circle Families Forum since 2008 through various projects and activities including training sessions and dialogue encounters. The goal is to foster humanization and empathy towards both Israelis and Palestinians and to break down the psychological barriers by providing a platform to communicate.

This project is just one of dozens that are supported through USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) program.

In many cases, these projects bring Israelis and Palestinians together for the first time. Since 2004, the U.S. Government has invested $84 million across 100 grants.

The CMM program is part of the U.S. Government’s effort to support people-to-people peacebuilding efforts worldwide. These activities bring together individuals of different backgrounds and help communities address conflict, reconcile differences and promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence. By supporting reconciliation activities and working on common goals around economic development, environment, health, education, sports, arts and information technology, USAID is building more democratic and resilient societies.

Photos by Bobby Neptune for USAID