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“I will fight with all I have in me to see that Abir becomes the bridge that closes the gap between us, the bridge that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.” Bassam Aramin, Abir’s father

The tragic death of ten-year-old Abir Aramin made headlines worldwide. Abir was only one of 922 child victims of the Israeli Occupation since September 2000, but she was also the daughter of Bassam Aramin, a well known activist and founding member of Combatants for Peace. The group engages Israelis and Palestinians who have taken an active role in the cycle of violence but who have put down their guns in order to fight for peace. These men rallied around Bassam and his family, transforming grief into a project to memorialize Abir and insure that her death would leave a legacy of healing and hope.

Abir was walking home from school with her sister and two friends in the West Bank town of Anata on January 16th 2007, but never made it back to her family. On this day the Israeli Border Police opened fire at the children walking home. Abir was hit with a rubber bullet to the head and fatally wounded. Provocations by the Israeli Border Police or Army had become a daily routine in the Anata school district in the two years since construction of the separation barrier began. Public outcry over Abir’s death was loud enough to demand a police investigation, but the case was closed before testimony was heard from Palestinian witnesses. Hundreds of people protested this decision in Tel Aviv.

“Many people came to support and comfort us as Abir lay dying,” said Bassam. “Among those who never left my side were a number of men I have recently come to love as brothers, men who know my past, and who share it. Men who, like me, were trained to hate and to kill, but who now also believe that we must find a way to live with our former enemies.”

Together, members of Combatants for Peace will build “Abir’s Garden”, a safe place where Palestinian children can play and grow. Abir’s Garden seeks to keep the memory of Abir alive, by pursuing justice in her legal case, advocating for children in school zones, and building a playground and memorial. Plans donated by a landscape architect will place 2 playgrounds, a fountain, gardens, sports areas and more on the bleak grounds of the Anata Girls’ School.

Abu Ali, a PTA member in Anata, wrote “The area we live in is 1.2 sq miles with a population of 65,000. There are no playgrounds, parks or walking trails in the entire area. This project will offer a segment of our children the joy that others in the world take for granted.”

Combatants for Peace has teamed up with the Rebuilding Alliance, to raise funds for the project. Visit the Rebuilding Alliance for more information about Abir’s Garden and how to support it.

Hear former combatants Bassam Aramin, Yonatan Shapira and Zohar Shapira on

NPR’s The Story http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_435_Combatants_For_Peace.mp3/view

NPR’s Fresh Air http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=3-10-2008

WBAI’s Law and Disorder, March 10 download http://archive.wbai.org/