Two Funerals: In Israel And Gaza, Each Side Mourns Its Dead : Parallels The bloodletting has left fresh scars on both sides of the conflict. NPR correspondents attend funerals in Israel and Gaza and ask mourners how they are coping with the current round of fighting.
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Two Funerals: In Israel And Gaza, Each Side Mourns Its Dead

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Two Funerals: In Israel And Gaza, Each Side Mourns Its Dead

Two Funerals: In Israel And Gaza, Each Side Mourns Its Dead

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A brief humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is now over. The two sides agreed to stop attacks for a few hours so that Gaza residents could stock up on food and other supplies. That relative calm came a day after four Palestinian children were killed when Israel shelled a beach in Gaza. Their funeral was one of two our correspondents attended yesterday. The other was near Tel Aviv for the first Israeli killed in the fighting. And we begin there with NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The Yehud cemetery is so close to the Tel Aviv airport you practically have to duck when an airplane passes overhead. On this day cars lined the road for as far as you can walk, buses navigate the narrow entrance to the graveyard bringing hundreds of people to pay their last respects to Dror Hanin, a 37-year-old father of three. Alon Hackmon worked with him and says, he was always volunteering.

ALON HACKMON: He was killed because he went over there next to Gaza to bring soldiers - to give them food and chocolate and give them some good time over there. That's it and that's how he got killed.

SHAPIRO: Hanin was delivering care packages on Tuesday when a mortar from Gaza struck and killed him. For Israel, the first death in this conflict is a sort of national moment - even as the death toll in Gaza reaches above 220. Israel's new President elect is at this funeral, so are cabinet ministers and when the dead man's father arrives weeping, politicians crowd around to embrace him. Helping people was his role in life, wails the father. For Karen Uzon, a friend of the family, this doesn't seem like the first death in the conflict at all.

KAREN UZON: We are in the same war for 65 years, 66 years. So it's not the first one, the last one that I know close. So at least we need to stop the losing of life and we need to do peace.

SHAPIRO: There is sadness here but the overwhelming feeling seems to be exhaustion. People want this conflict to end. And their frustrated that they cannot see how it will. Judy Dresnick keeps repeating, this is not normal.

JUDY DRESNICK: Every day I pray that this bomb won't be on my house and our kids will be safe and all the situation is not normal.

SHAPIRO: The reason we attended two funerals - one in Israel, one in Gaza - was not to pit one tragedy against another or compare suffering. We wanted to ask different people similar questions, see how civilians on opposite sides of a decades-old conflict are responding to this round of violence and loss. Israeli politicians talk about revenge and punishment but almost none of the mourners at this funeral say they want blood for blood. Dov Bar-Elan is related to the man who died.

DOV BAR-ELAN: No. I don't think so. Even if in our Bible it's written I don't think because we'll take revenge and then they will take revenge and so on and so on and it will never finish.

SHAPIRO: Still, some take Dror Hanin's death as evidence that Hamas only understands the language of violence. Carmella Nahari's son was best friends with Hanin. She used to believe in talking, not anymore.

CARMELLA NAHARI: We have to find partner to talk to him and Hamas is not talkable. Sorry.

SHAPIRO: Does any part of you feel also for the families and friends of people in Gaza who have died in the last nine days?

NAHARI: Yes of course. They are holding them like prisoners. They're suffering at Gaza as we are suffering here.

SHAPIRO: The hundreds of people who have gathered for the funeral start to close in around the family. They join together in saying kaddish, the mourner's prayer. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Jerusalem.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: I'm Emily Harris in Gaza City. Just as the funeral for Dror Hanin began near Tel Aviv yesterday, Israeli warplanes struck the beach at Gaza's fishing boat pier, twice. Ambulances rushed to the beach but four young boys were already dead. Cousins between the ages of 9 and 12, part of the extended Bakr family of fisherman. After the attack gray smoke rose from a shack on the pier, one boy's body was pulled from the rubble. The three others were found on the sand. Less than two hours later, hundreds of men gathered at a neighborhood mosque for short prayers over the boys' bodies. Mourners shuffled out quietly, slipping back on their sandals and flip-flops. A crowd of young men carried the bodies high over their heads, outside the dead boys were covered with sheets just their small faces showing. The crowd broke into religious chants.


HARRIS: The Bakr family cemetery is a short walk away. Mohammed Bakr cried as the body of his 12-year-old son Ismail was carried past him.

MOHAMMED BAKR: (Through translator) They were just playing on the beach, washing themselves on the beach. Those are just children - what would such a small children do? They don't have any weapons. What would they do? Why would they target them?

HARRIS: Is a time for a cease-fire? I asked. It's too late, he said.

BAKR: (Through translator) We don't want cease-fire. What cease-fire are you talking about? I want the cost of our kids' blood. Yesterday we wanted cease-fire now, no, we don't want it.

HARRIS: In the crowd a short boy with long eyelashes says, neighborhood kids kept swimming at the beach even during this war. The young man's chanting turns overtly political.


HARRIS: Netanyahu, you coward, they call. Gazans will never be humiliated. Watching nearby, Mohammad Ezz, a father of three, said he does want the fighting to stop. But he does not want to surrender.

MOHAMMAD EZZ: (Through translator) We want a cease-fire but we cannot trust the Israelis. They're asking to dismantle the weapons of the resistance in Gaza Strip. I don't mind that in principle but they don't keep their promises. If we throw our weapons into the sea, they'll come attack us later on.

HARRIS: More than 200 people have died in Gaza over the past 9 days of fighting. Israel says the target at the beach yesterday was operatives with Hamas, the militant organization fighting Israel. The Army is investigating why the boys were killed. Twenty three-year-old Mohammad abu Watfa is one of three people wounded yesterday in the attack. Lying on a lacy white pillow in the hospital, he touches a bandage on his left abdomen he says, he was at the family cafe down the beach and ran to help after the first airstrike. He was caught in the second. His brother-in-law, Abu Yazan Bardah, says this flare up in fighting has taken a deep toll on Gaza.

ABU YAZAN BARDAH: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: To many people killed on our side, he says. He also says he knows how to end it.

BARDAH: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: If the Israeli occupation ends, he says, the problem will solve itself. For him, ending the occupation means giving Palestinians real control over themselves and some land. The four boys were buried on a patch of Gaza close to where they died by the sea. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

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