Rana Salman is the Co-Executive Director of Combatants for Peace (CFP) and its first female Director. She was born in Jerusalem and lived in Bethlehem her whole life. Rana said she grew up at a time when there were no check points or separation walls. Her father worked in Jerusalem and they spent their weekends in Tiberias. At the time, they considered Bethlehem and Jerusalem as twin cities.
Rana grew up hearing the story about her grandparents being expelled from their home in Haifa in 1948. They became refugees in Bethlehem. They were never allowed to return. She says their story and pain was transferred to her generation. Rana doesn’t want the next generation to experience the pain of that tragedy again.
Before Rana worked at CFP, she worked in political tourism, arranging fact finding missions in Palestine for international peace organizations and activists. Rana said her work helped tourists meet the people of the land and hear different perspectives than they hear from the international media, which focuses on the violence and conflict. Rana said the international media rarely focuses on peace initiatives and how people are working together.
Rana did not have much opportunity to meet Israelis, given the physical and mental barriers of their two Peoples. In her experience, Israelis were soldiers or settlers. She thought of them as the enemy. She met Israelis for the first time when she was 25 years old and travelled abroad to Germany.
At CFP, Rana can focus more on working together with Israelis toward their shared mission. It gives her hope for the future for both Peoples. She says, “We refuse to be enemies. Peace is possible.”
Nakba is a very sensitive issue in Israeli society. For Palestinians, it’s a tragic day. They would like the Israelis to hear about the history from their perspective and acknowledge the pain their people experienced. Rana said, it is an important first step to recognize different narratives. The ceremony highlights that Nakba is still ongoing as there are international crimes against people’s properties in East Jerusalem. They will focus on these stories. Some of these families are experiencing a second or continuous Nakba, losing their homes a second time.
This will be the second year CFP will host the Joint Nakba Ceremony. Last May of 2020, during Covid, they had broadcast it online. This year, they delayed the timing due to the escalation of the conflict in East Jerusalem and the war in Gaza. July 12th was chosen as a day for the Joint Nakba Ceremony, as the date coincides with the exile for the people of Lod and Ramlah and a day that many Palestinians were killed in the war of 1948. Nakba is still relevant since what happened in the past is still happening today. Rana explained, people are still being displaced, longing to return.
Rana, currently, sees Israelis as part of her daily life. She said her family supports her work and believes in it as the only way to achieve peace. They stand for a better future. Rana said her community has varied responses, some support it and some don’t get it. When people do not have direct experience with the other side, the old stereotypes, fear and trauma resurfaces. The hope is to give people a new experience of meeting one another and not repeat the past traumas.