Uri Ben Assa
Uri Ben Assa, 67 years old, found “Combatants for Peace” thanks to the movies. Five years ago, nearing the age of retirement, Uri returned from a few years abroad. Suddenly he realized he had a lot of time on his hands with which to do as he liked, and decided to watch two films in one week: “Five Broken Cameras” and “In the Eye of the Storm”. Both films deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The films influenced him tremendously. “I felt like I took a punch right to the stomach,” is his way of summarizing the experience, “I thought I had beautiful values, but what did I do with them aside from attending the occasional protest?”
This recognition did not erase the pride he felt for his role as a captain in the Armored Patrol in the Yom Kippur War. He was considerably less proud of his reserves service in Gaza during the first Intifada. He defines that period of time, when soldiers would go into Palestinians’ homes at night, slap them and kick them, as “a sort of shock”.
This way, when he returned to Israel he found a country very different from the one he knew. In a bad sense. This change made a dull feeling of unrest, sharper. Uri says he could not reconcile the distance between his self perception and his actions; between perceiving himself as a patriot and a humanist, and doing very little beyond having conversations in the living room.
This was how he arrived at Combatants for Peace. He not only found a family and a second home in the movement, but he was able to eliminate the profound distance between his values and inaction. “This is a movement that fits perfectly with my values,” Uri, who later became the Israeli CEO of CfP claims. Not only that – this movement gives him hope. A hope that you can realize change, a hope that is the primary motivation for action.