The turning point in Bardin’s life occurred in the midst of the first Intifada, when he was 52, during a reserve service in Jericho.
What he witnessed there, in the spring of 1988, deeply confused him. On TV, he saw Arabs throwing stones; while in service, he met a squad commander who presented him with a molotov cocktail that he always kept. He explained it’s kept for a case he would get to kill a Palestinian, and then he’ll use it to persuade the investigators it was meant to be thrown by the Palestinian. He also assured the squad that came to replace him that they’ll finish this service convinced without a doubt that the Palestinians are sworn enemies.
That’s not what happened to Bardin. The Palestinians, despite the stones and molotov cocktails, seemed like decent, ordinary people to him. Once, they even helped them start their stuck military jeep.
To his surprise, they were happy to speak with him; contrary to the common Israeli claim about the Palestinians wanting to throw all Jews into the ocean, they actually said that all they want is their own state alongside Israel. When he came back with Israeli friends, a gaunt, old Palestinian rose from his bed to greet them, gave them a hug and asked: “where have you been? We waited for you for so long.”
During the next reserve service, Bardin convinced his commander to allow the Palestinians to hold nonviolent demonstrations, if he can locate local leaders who encouraged them. He failed. Instead, he found himself in military prison. The army authorities weren’t happy with his initiative.
Bardin, on the other hand, was disappointed from the lesson he learnt, that meant that the army would rather deal with stone-throwing Palestinians than with nonviolent protests.
Out of this experience and disappointment, a long-year activity was born. Bardin joined the establishment of Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue groups in a dozen cities, villages and Palestinian camps. The total acknowledgement in both nations’ ability and need to work together, led him to Combatants for Peace.