CHAPTERS
    Personal stories Irit Hakim
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    Irit Hakim

    Rishon Letzion

    I was born in Rosh Pina, the fifth generation of a rooted family, in a home where friendship and partnership with Arab neighbours was a way of life.

    But, I also heard about ‘different’ Arabs – the Syrians on the Golan Heights, sending fires through our fields, and whose planes were flying above. There were also the Arabs of Wadi Ara who, at twilight, threw stones at passing cars. I did not make the connection between them and the Israeli Arab who was like a member of our family, or between him and the evacuees of Ja’oni whose abandoned property adorned our house.

    As a child I experienced wars, terror attacks, and reprisals which I didn’t fully understand. I felt fear and hatred for the enemy, and I was certain we should protect our country and respond to any attacks; but on the other hand, some reprisals and actions did not seem moral to me. My belief in the myth of the ‘moral army’, the defence army, was broken.

    When the Western Wall was conquered during the Six-Day War I wasn’t happy – I can’t explain it … those were difficult times. My boyfriend at the time served in the paratroopers, and I was obviously worried about him. My best friend’s brother was killed. High school friends were killed. There was a sense of victory, yes, but also panic, fear, mourning for the fallen, and big questions. What will happen now?

    During the Yom Kippur War, my husband served in a division commanded by Sharon that ran the canal. The number of people I knew who were dead kept rising. I felt terrible fear, helplessness, and despair. To be a mother at times of war is a different feeling from being an 18-year-old… I wanted it to stop.

    In May 1974, I accompanied an annual trip with my students to the north. We settled in a school building near Ma’alot because the Ma’alot school, which at the time was purposed for accommodation, was occupied by other travellers. The students slept in the classrooms, and we, the staff, were sleeping outside, on the grass. I remember not closing my eyes all night because I saw some suspicious movement along the nearby fence. I noticed people hanging posters. I did not dare move. At 5AM they woke us up and hurried us to board the buses, where they told us the enormity of terror and horror – terrorists murdered 22 students who slept in the nearby school. We had been saved only by chance.

    The terror attacks and the wars did not stop. An understanding that something must change started growing in me. My partner was in prison for refusing to serve in the reserves in the occupied territories. I joined Peace Now because of their willingness to talk to the enemy.

    One day, I heard about the joint Israeli-Palestinian Remembrance Day held by Combatants for Peace. I decided to go, out of curiosity, despite the vague fear that accompanied me. I was unsure what would happen there. Who would speak, what about, and how would the ceremony be conducted…

    I’m still here.

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