Peace group scheduled to speak at Milford City Hall Sunday

A peace movement that Milford resident Bruce Barrett has promoted for a number of years will be coming to Milford City Hall Sunday, Oct. 13, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Combatants for Peace is a movement of Israelis and Palestinians who support a peaceful solution for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The group will host two hours of sharing and dialogue with Palestinian members Mohammed Owaida and Khadir Najjar and Israeli members Erez Krispin and Adi Greenfeld.

“They are not going to tell you what to think; they are going to share their experience and transformation from advocates of violence to nonviolent activists for justice and peace,” organizers said.

A question-and-answer period will follow the presentations.

The event will be filmed as part of a documentary and admission is free.

Adi Greenfeld was born in Rehovot, and has been living in Jerusalem since 2008. She’s been a member of the Jerusalem-Bethlehem group of Combatants for Peace for two years, and is currently the Israeli coordinator of the group.

“I was born a year before the First Intifada broke out, and in my earliest childhood memories I remember the TV on, showing mass demonstrations, stone throwing and burning tires,” she recounts on the group’s website. “I went to elementary school during the Oslo years and the suicide bombings of the mid-90s, and went to high school during the Second Intifada. I grew up in Rehovot, a relatively small city in central Israel, and although two girls in my class were injured in the Dolphinarium suicide bombing in 2001, I remember most of the violence in the form of TV news coverage and big newspaper headlines.”

Khdair Najjar lives in the village of Yitma, near Nablus. He is one of the founders of the Tel Aviv-Nablus group of Combatants for Peace and currently serves as the Palestinian coordinator of the group.

“I come from a merchant family from the village of Yitma, near Nablus,” Najjar writes on the group’s website. “We are 11 siblings — five boys and six girls. I am the firstborn son. The first experience I had with the occupation was when I was 13 years old, in 1975. I was arrested by the military on my way to school. At that young age I knew nothing of occupation, of Israel, or of Palestine. I was accused of throwing stones at soldiers. The investigation lasted three days and included beatings and humiliation so that I would have to confess. My hands were tied over my head, a bag was put over my head and I was stretched forcefully.”

Erez Krispin is in charge of foreign affairs at Combatants for Peace and is a member of the management and the steering committee of the movement. He is also an active member of the Nablus-Tel Aviv group of the movement. Krispin was an officer in the Israeli Army, ranked captain.

“I grew up in a family with political opinions leaning towards the right, and so my personal views regarding the conflict during my early years were shaped accordingly — I believed that the occupied territories were ours, that the Arabs didn’t really want peace but wanted to chase us out of IsraeI, and above all, I believed that the only option for us to survive was by being strong and aggressive in terms of military force,” Krispin says on the peace group’s website.

He joined the army in 1987 and soon after enrolled in the officers course. He was sent to the Gaza Strip, to a refugee camp, called Dir el Balach.”It was my first time in the occupied territories and the first time I encountered the realities of occupation face to face,” he said.

The turning point was a meeting with Palestinian people organized by Combatants for Peace, he said.

Mohammed Owedah was born in the village of Silwan, near the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in Eastern Jerusalem. He has lived there ever since and works as a social worker. Owedah has served in several positions in Combatants for Peace.

“During the First Intifada, three of my brothers were arrested several times and my mother was diagnosed with cancer,” Owedah writes on the group’s website. “I would join her to visit my brothers in jail. One day, a day I will never forget, a commander from the Shabak (the Israeli General Secret Service) in Silwan came to our house and told my mother that she would never enjoy any holiday because each holiday he would take one of her children, and so it was — every holiday he would take one of my brothers and put him in prison for a few days. Afterwards he would release him, but the holiday would be ruined.”

Barrett, a local businessman, has been active with Combatants for Peace for a number of years and has helped spread the group’s message.

A Foran High School and Carnegie-Mellon University graduate, he spent one year teaching English and running a youth group at St. James Episcopal Church in Punta Arenas, Chile. With his missionary tour completed, he returned home to join and help build Barrett Outdoor Communications, the family billboard business.

In 2006 Barrett created IWagePeace.Org. In 2009, he directed, edited, and co-produced his first film, The Billboard from Bethlehem, chronicling the peace work of the Combatants for Peace. The film won four documentary film awards, including the Mondavi Award for Peace and Cultural Understanding at the Napa Sonoma Film Festival.

In 2010 Barrett created the IWagePeace Walk, where members of area mosques, synagogues and churches walk and support one another as Middle East peacemakers under the banner “We do not need to agree on everything to work together for Justice and Peace.” In 2011, Barrett sponsored the Combatants for Peace speaking tour of 10 area Rotary clubs. In 2012, in preparation for the third annual IWagePeace Walk, he returned to Israel and the West Bank to further document the work of the Combatants for Peace.