Arab Aramin at the 11th Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony
Rumi said "Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself".
Changing the distorted reality and creating a better place is not done by prayer and hope, but rather takes continuous work by those who share a sense of clarity and a strong will. And yet, the first step is - start with yourself before you set out to change others.
At the age of twelve I found myself attending meetings of a new group called Combatants for Peace. At the time, I didn't know anything about them or their goals. I had no choice, I was accompanying my father, Bassam Aramin. I didn't know why he was taking me to meet with Israelis, whose language I couldn't understand.
After about a year, I found myself attending meetings of another group, "The Bereaved Families for Peace" after my sister Abir was killed at the age of ten. Abir was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier on January 16, 2007, when she left her class during recess. Here too, I had no choice.
And it seemed as if the bullets that ended Abir's life and her dreams had no choice but to reach their destination, her head. And the gun had no choice but to carry out its mission, and the soldier was a victim too, targeted by a long history of the industry of fear. And everyone is a victim. But the true victim was Abir.
Over the years I have faced multiple difficulties and various challenges, there were feelings of hatred, anger and the deep desire for revenge. It wasn't easy for me to find my place in those meeting that I was taken to attend. But with time, I found the light to guide my dark path. It was the light that God had given me in his grace, a man whose humanity is hard to describe in words. My father, Bassam. A head-strong warrior who spent years in the occupation's prisons, he taught me to rise above the past and always aspire for life. And indeed he triumphed over his guards with his steady smile, his thundering tranquility, his unshakable pride and unwavering modesty. He taught me that I am not a man who kills, and that vengeance is the way of the weak and cowardly. We shall not take revenge, we will fight for a noble cause, we will fight for life, and not for death.
For years, I knew about the brave partnership between my father and Rami Elhanan, Smadar's father, may her memory be blessed , but I didn't feel part of that bond, I didn't know Yigal Elhanan, Smadar's brother.
Today I am proud of my membership in the "Bereaved Families for Peace" and in "Combatants for Peace". It is my choice and I am proud to represent them and work with them, alongside with my former enemy, who is now my friend and partner, Yigal.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the only obstacle that faces the two peoples is the Israeli occupation, the source of the violence, the extremists, and the bloodshed. The occupation has turned our lives into an unbearable hell. Death awaits us at every army checkpoint, the arrests and daily humiliations have turned our names, the color of our skin, our citizenship and our language into a curse and a crime for which we are being punished.
And I say to the Israeli leaders, the continued policy of oppressing the Palestinian people will not bring security for your people. I call upon you to remove your weapons from our dreams, our children, our streets, our sporting events, our water and air. You cannot kill the hope inside of us.
Yigal and myself will continue on the path set by our parents, and as my father always says, "We don't talk about peace, we make peace." Therefore, we at Combatants for Peace and the Bereaved Families for Peace have decided never to surrender and to keep fighting until peace is achieved.
The only revenge for the blood of Abir Aramin and Smadar Elhanan is making peace.
Watch Arab Aramin's speech on YouTube here