Keeping memories alive in years since Six-Day War


Some use photographs, others seek global solidarity or throw themselves into campaigning for peace.

Fifty years after the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has left scores of families bereaved and searching for ways to keep loved ones' memories alive.

Israeli Tamar Paikes, 49, feels she lost her father twice.

In 1967, a few months before she was born, her father was killed in Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, which saw Israeli forces defeat Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian militaries in less than a week and claim large swathes of territory.

Six years later her brother, who had become the head of the family, was killed fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

She preserves the memory of her father Michael, a lieutenant colonel, through a particular picture.

In it he is pointing at a map, planning the takeover of Jerusalem with others, days before he was later stabbed to death by a cornered Jordanian soldier.

The picture was in her mother's family home for years and now hangs on Paikes's wall.

She says the family was encouraged to lionise him, but not really to grieve.

"(My family) wanted to remember him as a hero," she told AFP. "We knew he was a brave man but we were victims of that heroism."

"We used to camp with other families (of the bereaved) but there was nothing like psychological support."

Ali Ishtiwi's father Salah died on the opposite side of the same war -- fighting against the Israelis in Gaza.

For decades he carried a faded passport-sized picture of his moustached father in traditional Palestinian headdress in his wallet. Now his son does.

Like Paikes, he says he was taught to see his father as a hero, but not to talk about him much.

The religious family explained his death as part of God's plan, but rarely discussed sadness.

"I was always certain he died as a hero," he told AFP.

Daniel Bar-Tal from Tel Aviv University says victims of violence are often venerated in Israeli and Palestinian societies.

"When people are killed by the other side you can show you are the victim," he told AFP.

"Each society persists as the exclusive victim of the conflict."

'Anger is there'

Palestinian Ali Ishtiwi holds a faded picture of his father Salah, who died during the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day war, in his garden in Gaza City on May 30, 2017 (photo by: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Around 9,000 Israelis have died in confl ict-related violence since 1967, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

Reliable figures for Palestinians are difficult to find, but since the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in 1987 more than 10,000 have died, according to rights group B'Tselem.

The rate of deaths spiked during the two intifadas, which spanned from 1987 to 1993 and 2000 to 2005.

Thousands died in a vicious circle of Palestinian attacks and violent Israeli crackdowns.

Israeli Rami Elhanan's daughter was killed in a 1997 suicide bombing. He says he dealt with the grief not through specific memorials but by forming an organisation trying to bridge the gap between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The anger is there, it is natural. The anger is an outcome of great pain. The question is how do you use it," he told AFP. "Are you using it to create more bloodshed and more anger or the other way -- to try to find a way to stop it?"

His organisation, The Parents Circle, brings together family members of Palestinians and Israelis killed.

Others see things differently.

Ron Kehrmann, whose 17-year-old daughter Tal was killed in a 2003 bombing in northern Israel, said his daughter's death convinced him of the need for tougher measures.

"The first right of my daughter to life was taken," he told AFP.

"If the price I have to pay to protect my other kids is a little bit less human rights and privacy I will take that."

He memorialises his daughter through a campaign to encourage people to colour in and send him camels -- Tal's favourite animal.

Thousands did and he wears a pin of a camel every day.

"When I change my shirt I pin it on top of my heart," he said.

Not ready

While the intifadas ended in the mid-2000s, deaths spiked again in 2008 when Israel fought a war with Hamas in Gaza. Two more followed -- in 2012 and 2014 -- with 93 Israelis killed and more than 3,500 Palestinians dead, according to the United Nations, in all three conflicts.

Not all victims feel ready to grieve.

An infamous moment from the 2014 Gaza war was the killing of four children on a beach by an Israeli missile.

The boys, aged between nine and 11, were from the same extended family. Zakaria Bakr, an uncle, says they have photos of the boys on their walls but with so much violence they can't properly grieve.

"Every year there are incidents, every year there are deaths," he told AFP, listing family members killed or injured in the past decade. "It's impossible to forget."

He was speaking in central Gaza City at a funeral tent. Three days earlier, his cousin was shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly breaching the blockade on the Gaza Strip while fishing.


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