Israeli educator and activist who works to build an Israeli understanding of al-Nakba and the history Palestinian refugees, as a key step toward reconciliation.
Eitan Bronstein was born in 1960 in Argentina and his family immigrated to Israel when he was five years old. They lived in Kibbutz Bahan between Tel Aviv and Haifa and close to the "Green Line," the armistice line from the 1948 war and Israel’s internationally recognized border.
Bronstein has been an educator and activist who bridges the two through his current work with the Israeli organization, Zochrot. (The name is a Hebrew that translates as "remembering" or "those who remember."). Since its founding in 2002, Zochrot has focused on al-Nakba – the Arabic word for catastrophe, and the Palestinian term for the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. In that year, during the creation of the State of Israel, 750,000 Palestinians were made refugees.
Zochrot believes that there cannot be a true peace and reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians in region until Jewish Israelis accept responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis, and come to terms with al-Nakba.
The inspiration for Zochrot began when Bronstein was searching on the Internet and came across the history of Qaqun, a village in the Tulkaram region of historic Palestine. He found that Qaqun was located near Kibbutz Bahan where he grew up. Bronstein remembered exploring that area as a child, never realizing he was playing in the ruins of a destroyed Palestinian village. Learning this history connected Bronstein to a history that he thought had nothing to do with him. He created Zochrot to help Jewish Israelis face the history of al-Nakba, using educational forums, tours of destroyed Palestinians villages, oral histories, dialogue projects, and commemorations and protests.
One example of Zochrot’s work was the Canada Park campaign. The park was created by the Jewish National Fund with Canadian donations. The park was built on the ruins of three Palestinian villages - Yalu, Imwas and Beit Nuba – that Israel destroyed in the aftermath of the 1967 War to extend its control over the strategic corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. During a tour of the park, Bronstein was surprised to find no mention of the area’s recent history in the printed park guide or on the signs offering the history of the area. Zochrot began a campaign to add signs to the park that reflected the Arab communities who had lived there. After several years of effort – which ranged from posting homemade signs in the park to taking a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice – Zochrot was successful in getting the signs placed in the park.
Previous to founding Zochrot, Bronstein served three jail sentences for refusing to serve in the Israeli military during the first Lebanon War in the early 1980s and in the West Bank during the first intifada in the late 1980s.
In 1991, he began working with the School for Peace at Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam, a joint Jewish-Arab village halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam is a “village, jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, that is engaged in educational work for peace, equality and understanding between the two peoples,” and Bronstein helped facilitate educational programs to further this mission.
To learn more about Zochrot please see: www.nakbainhebrew.org/index.php?lang=english
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Kathleen McQuillen on the Federal Budget and Palestine-Israel