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To Honor Their Lives

This is the story of six people who never had a connection to one another. They are all haunted by the loss of a human being who left one morning, strong, healthy, and vibrant, only by chance to be in a place for a moment, and then seconds later, be counted among the random victims of a deadly terrorist attack

They are haunted by the loss of a human being who left one morning, strong, healthy, and vibrant, only by chance to be in a place for a moment, and then seconds later, be counted among the random victims of a deadly terrorist attack. Situations like these force those who are left behind to examine every aspect of the horrendous event which has changed their lived forever.

This is the story of six people who never had a connection to one another. Through these events, they have been bound together, knowing of each other, their pain, and their sorrow. But they also share something else in common. Each has asked the question: "How can we work towards ending this cycle of violence so that others do not suffer like we have?" They have arrived at a similar conclusion. For there to be real security in Israel, they believe that the peace process must continue.

During these interviews, there was a stellar moment when each person, unbeknownst to the others, made the exact same comment: "If I didn't support the peace process, I would be a different human being. I would be vengeful, victimized, and never be healed."

These are the stories of special people who have had to give up the dreams which involved their loved ones, but have not given up hope.

Anita Griffel, Age 35, Shot to Death
In early October 1985, Anita Griffel, an aspiring academic working on her doctorate in sociology at
Hebrew University, her five year old daughter Tali, and a group of friends left for a Sinai vacation. The holiday ended on the afternoon of October 9th in Ras Burka, Egypt. At 4:20, a crazed fundamentalist Egyptian soldier appeared out of nowhere and began to shoot wildly at the crowd of Israeli tourists. Anita instinctively jumped on top of Tali to shelter her from the gunfire. Anita was shot in the arm and bled to death protecting her daugther. Tali was the only survivor of the attack.

Since that day, Tali has been living with her father, Andy, in New York City. She has deferred starting her studies at Brown University, returning to Israel for a year, living at Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha. She is studying in the Ulpan, relearning Hebrew, the language of her early childhood. These are Tali's reflections.

"For many years, " says Tali Griffel, "I didn't think about what happened. I just blocked out everything and then slowly, slowly I sort of regained feeling. I remember as the shooting started, my mother grabbed me and lay down, putting me under her. She whispered to me, keeping me calm. I can still recall the feeling of the jolt as she got shot. Yet, she continued to hold me and talk to me as she bled to death. When I crawled out, I sat there alone for a very long time. The Egyptian police came and took me away to a dark room where they interrogated me for hours.

If my mother was not there to save me, then clearly I would not be here today. So, in a sense, she gave life to me twice and I don't want to take this second chance for granted. I feel like here in Israel I could really make a change, even accomplish something significant that my mother would be proud of.

I support the peace process because if I were to take a right wing, hawkish position, it would be based upon my desire for revenge, rather than on what I feel is morally correct. And I simply don't believe in revenge. It is not civilized. It just creates hostility for generations, and there's no point to it. It leads nowhere. Israeli children won't be any safer, and life certainly won't be any more tolerable for the Palestinians.

My mother was a member of Peace Now. She loved Israel and from what I now understand, she supported a strong Israeli state. But, for her that did not mean oppressing the Palestinians.

We must end this constant escalation of tension and stymie the mounting hatred. There has to be some giving and some compromise. I mean, for a Jewish state to be surrounded by so many enemies, there needs to be peace. You can't always be in battle mode. Where will it get us?"

Arieh Raz, Age 38, Blown Up by Suicide Bomber
On February 25th, 1996, at 6:45 a.m., the Number 18 bus was violently halted by the blast of a suicide bomb as it passed the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. Arieh Raz, age 38, was one of the twenty-four civilians killed that morning. Fifty more were wounded. Arieh, who was riding the bus to work as he had every day for years, was married with three children. He was a member of a large Kurdistani family and had over 100 first cousins.

Brothers Chen and Mossi Raz talk about how the loss of their cousin has affected them. Both Chen and Mossi work professionally for Shalom Achshav.

"I have always supported Israel's quest for peace, but on the day of Arieh's funeral and for the entire seven days of the shiva [mourning] period, I asked myself over and over again, 'What is this peace process about?" says Mossi Raz, cousin of Arieh. "My conclusion was that even a terrible tragedy like this cannot change my mind or destroy my vision of peace. Only peace will prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. But, if we are not willing to do anything, then this horrible situation will continue forever, and we will lose many more people unnecessarily.

I believe, as I have always believed, that if we are going to make peace, it's going to take time and patience. I understand that it's not enough to shake hands. That's like an empty slogan.

We Israelis have worked and fought hard enough over the years. We deserve to feel proud of our country and we need... no, we deserve, to be able to create an Israel where our children and grandchildren can live in peace and thrive."

"I don't expect to see radical changes in the next four years," says Chen Raz. "We now know that peace takes time. However, twenty years ago, no one believed or thought we should talk to the PLO. And today, much of Israeli society is willing to accept a Palestinian state.

Those of us who support Peace Now must push the government step by step in the peace process. Small steps. But it is the most important action we can take.

We must also talk to people who are in the development towns, not only those in the center of the country. And we must continue talking to teenagers, especially when I read in the newspaper that 70% of Israeli high school kids describe themselves as racists and that 30% of the religious kids supported the Rabin assassination.

Our work with teens has become our biggest success. Peace Now has one of the most successful and fastest growing youth movements in the country. Our youth movement is the hope for the future."

Tali Gordon, Age 23, Blown Up by Suicide Bomber
Just after 4:00 p.m. on March 4th, Purim eve 1996, in downtown Tel Aviv outside the bustling Dizengoff Center, a lone Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a twenty kilogram nail bomb that was strapped to his body. The blast killed twelve civilians, including four children, and 109 were injured. This was the fourth suicide bombing that Hamas had claimed responsibility for in nine days. Tali Gordon, 24, a graduate student studying political science at Tel Aviv University, was killed that afternoon.

Her mother Margalit, 45, a travel agent and conference planner, tells her story below.

"Tali was my princess," says Margalit Gordon. "She was born when I was nineteen. My son Alon was born three years later. I then divorced when Tali was only seven or eight. So I raised them very much alone. I brought up Tali with everything that I did not have. I wanted her to have a better chance in life. I had such hopes and dreams for Tali. After my father passed away, I was closer to her than anyone else. At twenty-four, she had just reached an age where we could talk as adults and so, at the end, she was my best friend.

I really respected Tali. She had a seriousness about her. She was really a good person. Tali considered what she heard carefully and never jumped to conclusions. And although we are not a religious family, Tali was truly a very righteous person who often spoke of 'right' and 'wrong.'

Tali felt very strongly about peace. For several years she was working for peace, spending many evenings going door-to-door in North Tel Aviv to get others involved.

Unfortunately, although Tali was very involved in peace, before I lost her I didn't think very much about it. Now, I believe in and support the peace process. For me, this has been a very difficult and painful lesson to learn.

Today, there is a part of me that is very angry and frustrated and it's not because I lost Tali. Israel has changed. Today, many of us don't feel like we are fighting for a cause. We don't believe that we are justified in keeping two million Palestinians under our regime. My friends and I talk about this all the time. There is a horrible tension that we live with every days which has become unbearable. Everyone is tired. Our spirit is weak. We no longer have the koach [strength]. No one wants to continue living like this.

We deserve to enjoy life, to live life, to dream of a future. Only peace will allow us to regain our strength and our spirit, to get ourselves together. That's why we must have peace."

Arik Frankenthal, Age 19, Kidnapped and Murdered
In July 1994, Arik Frankenthal, a nineteen year old Orthodox soldier from Moshav Gimzo, was kidnapped and killed on the way home from his army base in the Negev. Arik was completing his basic training in the tank corps. His step-mother had lost her first husband, a colonel, in the tank corps in the Galilee War of 1982, and Arik wished to honor his memory through his own army service. Arik was hitchhiking home, a popular mode for Israeli soldiers on leave. He was reported missing and his body was found several days later hidden in the village of Akeb near Ramallah, riddled with bullet and stab wounds.

Arik's father, Yitzhak, a deeply religious man, responded to his son's death by selling his successful business and devoting himself full-time to the peace movement.

"After we buried Arik," says his father Yitzhak Frankenthal,"friends said to me, 'You talk about making peace with the Palestinians, but there is no one with whom to make peace. They murdered your Arik. They are animals, not people.' I answered them spontaneously, 'Know this, that if there was peace, then Arik would not have been murdered.'

Many people have asked me if I want revenge. I always respond that the only revenge I want is peace. I think that in order to prevent further terrorism, and in order to avoid more suffering, we need to have a true and lasting peace. That peace will come only if we help the government achieve a peace treaty with the Palestinians and help the Palestinians establish a Palestinian state.

I believe that God promised the Land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so it belongs to us. I believe that Greater Israel belongs to the people of Israel. So what do I do? Because I really want the entire land of Israel. It belongs to us, but at such a great price?

It's beyond the children that we bury and the leaders who are assasinated. We hold two million Palestinians as third or fourth class citizens. The heaviest price is the fact that we oppress.

Our message must be to come and make peace with the Palestinians. Not because we want peace now, but because anything else will destroy the Jewish people.

After Arik's funeral, several of his classmates approached me and shared one instance of how Arik had taught them. In 1992, as the elections approached, they held a public debate in Arik's class. When they came to Kahane, the entire class began to yell, 'Death to the Arabs, death to the Arabs.' Then to everyone's surprise, Arik stood up on a table and yelled, 'Heil Hitler.' Everyone was shocked into silence. He said to them, 'That is how it started in Germany. You don't realize what you're doing. You're losing sight."

Yitzhak Rabin, Age 72, Assasinated
In November 1995, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof's father was killed by a terrorist. However, his killer was not associated with Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. Dalia's father was killed by an Jewish law student.

Dalia is an attorney with the Histadrut, Israel's labor union, and lives in Herziliyah, north of Tel Aviv. She was not at the rally on the night of the assassination. She had watched her father on television address the crowd and sing with his supporters. When he was done, she turned the TV off knowing she had just witnessed the happiest moment of her father's life.

Moments later, she received a phone call from her mother, "Did you hear what happened? They shot your father."

Below, Dalia reflects on her great loss.

"People knew only the public Yitzhak Rabin, the General, the peace maker. But he was also a warm, loving, and caring father," says daughter Dalia Rabin-Pelossof. "Even though he was very public, his family was important to him. He wanted our lives to be as normal as possible, sheltering us at all times from public view. Until his assassination, people didn't even know I had a brother. Although my father was so busy, he managed to always be there for me. When I was a little girl, he was the type of father that would come home when I was sick and lay down next to me, hugging me and listening to my every word.

After his assasination, people were looking for somebody from the family to touch and feel, to identify with. Now, since his passing, our entire lives have changed. We have selected to come out and publicly support peace and the peace process. And although it was initially awkward, we do this for his memory, for his legacy, on his behalf.

Unfortunately, the recent atmosphere here in Israel has been so negative, so difficult. There are many moments when I feel like packing, but I cannot imagine leaving this country. This is the country that my father was so devoted to, the country that he was part of building, the country and the people that he died for.

I always remind myself and tell everyone that we cannot afford to lose hope because that would be giving up so much and saying that my father's death was, in a way, in vain.

Whenever I get depressed by the situation, I stop and think about what my father said when he shook Arafat's hand on the White House lawn. 'This is going to be a difficult walk. There will be obstacles. There are enemies to the peace.'

For me it's very clear. What is the alternative? That other children get killed? Or that there will be another war? For how long can we continue like this?

American Jews must understand that we have an emergency here in Israel and that although it may not appear to be the case, the majority of people in Israel do want and believe in peace."