Part 4: Pain and Empathy

Bassam and Itamar talk about their experience of pain - as children and as adults. Bassam is prepared to suffer for everyone but cannot bear others to suffer for him. Despite that Bassam's father tells him he has always suffered for him; first when he had polio as a child and his father carried him in his arms back and forth to doctors for three years; later when Bassam went to prison, and now because he has moved away from the village. Bassam tells how much his mother too suffered on his behalf, especially during the seven years he spent in Israeli prisons. He also describes his distress during his imprisonment of watching his father cry for the first time.


Itamar tells us of his childhood belief that he was ugly; this was especially painful when he went to school. He describes the comfort and loving support he received from his mother. Itamar also gives voice to his later pain over the ideological ‘lies’ of the collective narrative of his government, education, the military and even his parents. Together they invoked in him an imperative desire to protect his family and country from the Palestine enemy. Ironically, while Itamar's feelings of betrayal arise from his privileged upbringing, Bassam reflects on the positive life-lessons learnt during his imprisonment. Jessica Benjamin points out how the process of bonding and attachment to others begins in the sharing of pain (as in secure attachment) - that is - we count on others to witness and share our pain in order to be connected.

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