PAKH-Mitglied Oliver Sears in The Irish Times

I think of the hostages and their tortured families and weep for the broken generations in Gaza. Whatever injustice, historic and current, that successive Israeli governments have served to the Palestinians, there is no resonance with the Holocaust

The Irish Times, 6. Mai 2024

I was invited to join PAKH, the study group for intergenerational consequences of the Holocaust, last September. Comprising the descendants of victims and perpetrators, we meet to discuss our impossibly complex family stories.

Recently, online, we listened to Israeli Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin explain how they work together to promote peace. The subjects of Colum McCann’s 2020 novel, Apeirogon, these heroic men each lost a daughter in the decades-long conflict. Their determination to focus on the importance of respecting the rights of the individual, their lack of self pity and how they have come to rely on each other, emotionally, is humbling to observe.

Both men possess the insight of inherited trauma, along with their own piercing personal loss. Bassam’s stems from the displacement of his people, Rami’s mother was, as he says laconically, a graduate of Auschwitz. They both agree that the absence of Palestinian self-determination was the reason they lost their children and that Israeli society entire needs a total reset. It’s clear to them that both Hamas in Gaza and the settlers who have taken over the Israeli cabinet are a disaster for both peoples…

These two remarkably dignified, emotionally literate men are the embodiment of Viktor Frankl’s maxim that to understand your own pain you must first help someone else understand theirs; and that when pain has meaning, it is no longer pain. Bassam says they are not friends but are brothers. They show us what is required to break the cycle of hatred. Rami was clear that it’s not necessary for Palestinians and Israelis to love each other but respect is the key.

As I think of the hostages and their tortured families and weep for the broken generations in Gaza, I accept with an open heart that, among my fellow PAKH members, I have come to love and embrace children and grandchildren of monsters. And this, in the Ashkenazi tradition of trying to repair the world, headache by headache. On Yom HaShoah, I sense this is the furthest point from despair that a heart like mine can travel within the boundaries of this difficult inheritance.

Oliver Sears is founder of Holocaust Awareness Ireland