An Israeli and a Palestinian who have suffered the loss of loved ones in the conflict between their nations are in Birmingham to encourage a better understanding of each side. They spoke to Emma Pinch about their personal tragedies.
Robi Damelin, a 63-year-old former public relations executive from Tel Aviv, lost her son David in a sniper attack when he was performing his reservist duties on March 3, 2002.
"You can't imagine what it is to lose a child. You think you yourself are invincible anyway. You can't even begin to understand how everything is affected by the loss. Everything about your whole world is completely different. I'm the sort of person who can fix things, but I can't fix this.
David was teaching philosophy to young kids when he was called up. He didn't want to serve in occupied territories. He thought if he did do it he could treat people with dignity and so could his soldiers.
He had called me the day before. He was on a checkpoint near Ramalla and he said it was very dangerous, where he was, which worried me, because he never told me anything about this type of thing before. He said he felt like a sitting duck because the checkpoint was in a valley.
On March 3 I got up at about 5am and I went to the office. I woke early because I had this very strong feeling something wasn't right. Then the army called me and came to my office. It was a very bad time in the conflict and they only do that for one thing. It was my worst imagining. I don't know what they said.
I discovered the Bereaved Parents Forum. I am from South Africa, and my whole life I had been working for the cause of co-existence. It wasn't a question of whose side each son or daughter was on – that person is a complete world for each family.
How can we stop this cycle of violence? One of the biggest causes of conflict is fear of the unknown and we have to find a way of removing that stigma, and start understanding one another's culture. "
Ali Abu Awwad is 32. His older brother Yusef was shot in the head at a checkpoint by Israeli soldiers on November 16, 2000.
"My father and all our family had to leave their villages in 1948, becoming refugees and after the Israeli army arrested and jailed our mother for six months, our family started to become active in the struggle for an independent Palestinian state, and I had spent four years in prison because of it.
In 2000 we were all living in the same home in Beith Ommar. Yusef had one daughter and one son. I had been shot in the knee by Jewish settlers and I had gone to Saudi Arabia with my mother for medical treatment, through Jordan.
I last saw Yusef on October 28. He came to Jordan to see me before I left for Saudi. He was crying actually, because I was in the ambulance.
While I was in Saudi Arabia our brother in Jordan phoned. 'You are going to have to be strong and quiet', he said. He didn't want her to know what had happened.
I was full of anger. I didn't want to talk to Israelis. Daily life for Palestinians is living with the soldiers and checkpoints and machine guns. I never spoke to Israelis about peace and humanity – it is not the conversation you have at checkpoints.
But I thought, how many Israelis should I kill in return? He is worth every Israeli, every Palestinian, the whole war. But anger is no solution. I can't use violence and still keep my humanity.
When people from the Bereaved Families Forum came to my home it was the first time I saw an Israeli crying.
Joining the forum is not making my pain any easier. It is not making life suddenly nice for me and it is not giving me a political solution. But peace won't happen if we don't have an understanding of each other."
Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad will be talking to different faith groups and going into schools and colleges to tell people first-hand about their experiences in the war-torn region.
They are making the visits as representatives of the Bereaved Families' Forum/The Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, a non-political organisation whose aim to break down hostilities by fostering better communication and empathy between the two sides.
There are now 500 Palestinian and Israeli families in the movement, all of whom have lost a loved one in the conflict.
They support bereaved families across the divide and work jointly in schools and youth camps, sharing their painful stories to try and humanise the conflict.
Today Mrs Damelin and Mr Awwad will visit the Centennial Centre on Icknield Port Road, Ladywood and later this week will visit King David's Junior School, Small Heath School and Muntz Street Sixth Form
* For more details on the group's activities go to www.theparentscircle.com