Palestinian: Withdrawal a victory for peace efforts
Family is scarred, but not resentful
From Ben Wedeman
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DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza (CNN) -- Living on the edge of an Israeli settlement in Gaza, Khalil Bashir has been wounded by Israeli shrapnel. An Israeli soldier once shot his son in the back. And Israeli troops have occupied his home near an Israeli settlement.
But the Palestinian school principal still considers the Israelis friends and teaches his children to do the same.
"Suppose I think of taking revenge. What is the result? What is the outcome?" Bashir asked. "I do believe that to forgive gives room for changing the mentality."
When the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom is evacuated in the coming days, the Bashir family will be able to accept visitors without permission from the military for the first time in five years.
That was when Israeli soldiers moved into the top two floors of his home. The soldiers had asked Bashir and his family to leave, but he refused.
"They repeated their order three times. I refused," he said. "They said if you don't want to leave, you must follow the stringent restrictions."
As a result, the family has endured battles between the soldiers and militants trying to infiltrate the nearby settlement. Their home is scarred with bullet holes and damage from missiles.
In April 2001 bullets crashed through the bedroom window, and shrapnel ripped into Bashir's skull.
Last year an Israeli soldier shot Bashir's then 15-year-old son Yusif in the back in the presence of United Nations personnel. The incident attracted the attention of international media.
The Israeli Army apologized for the shooting, and Yusif was treated in Israel.
The bullet still lodged in his spine, the Palestinian teen harbors no resentment.
"I love the Israelis because one day they saved my life," he said. "So if the soldier will change his uniform, (he) can speak with me without any problem."
Yusif spend three weeks at a Seeds of Peace camp in Maine, which brings together Israeli and Palestinian youths in an effort to foment better relations.
Donning a "Seeds of Peace" T-shirt, a cheery Yusif said he planned to become an "ambassador of peace" for the program.
The Bashirs have received thousands of letters of support over the years. Khalil Bashir said he plans to throw a party at his home to celebrate the pullout as a chance to put the past behind.
"I don't look upon their withdrawal as a victory," he said. "The only winner is the cause of peace."
Friends and family will not have to request permission from the Israeli military to attend the Bashirs' party. Khalil Bashir said everyone -- even Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers -- is invited to the party.
"We must not let our wounded memory guide our future," he said.
CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.
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