Exactly a year ago I visited the tent of Women Wage Peace in front of the Prime Minister’s residence.The Movement organized a communal fast that lasted for 50 days to commemorate the last war, and to protest against the possibility of a future one. The women took turns fasting for 50 days–the number of days of Operation Protective Edge.
Unfortunately in the year that followed, we haven’t seen any progress toward peace. Here are some of my impressions from last year.
July 27th 2015: Yesterday on 9th of Av, in the tent of Women Wage Peace, there were more fasting women than usual, as women fasted to commemorate ancient and recent national tragedies.
Some calamities are inevitable, but the last war, known by the euphemistic name Operation Protective Edge, was not one of those tragedies. Few days after the beginning of the war in July 2014, in the Israeli Arab town of Tira, more than thousand people gathered at the center of town taking part in the demonstration: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They were speeches pleading that it was still not too late to stop the war, many people carried signs in Hebrew and in Arabic. One woman stood next to the stage holding a big sign in Hebrew “Jewish and Arab women refuse to be enemies.”
The activists of Women Wage Peace want to make sure that this time, someone will actually see the signs, listen to reason and take action.
They have been camping at a tent outside the home of the Prime Minister since July 9th, 2015, exactly a year after the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. On that day, they also started a 50 day fast. The women of Women Wage Peace are calling on the government to return to negotiations with the Palestinians.
In my two visits to Jerusalem to sit in the tent, it was filled with action. In spite of the grim reasons for the protest, the energy and hopeful atmosphere were uplifting. Some women wore a blue sign of “fasting,” and other women encouraged passers-by to come and sit in the tent. Every so often, there were spontaneous discussions and short talks.
On my first visit, a young Haredi man took the stand and preached to the group trying to convince them that peace was neither attainable nor necessary. The hospitable women listened patiently, perhaps even too patiently, while he kept talking.
Once, we actually got a glimpse of our Prime Minister. We saw his convoy passing by, operating the sirens. But, as expected, he didn’t stop to talk to the women in the tent.
Several years ago Sarah Netanyahu offered pizza to demonstrators outside her home. Although pizza won’t work, as the women of Women Wage Peace are fasting, they surely would welcome a friendly gesture. I have to wonder, doesn’t Sarah Netanyahu, a mother and an educator, want peace?
Few days after publishing this post, Sarah Netanyahu met four representatives of the Movement. From reading about the meeting in several newspapers, I concluded that it did not go well. Here are my thoughts from that time, I believe that they are still relevant
August 17th, 2015: Following their meeting with Sara Netanyahu, the four leaders of Women Wage Peace were labeled “left wing activists” in two different newspapers. This is another example in which, despite the effort we put into our words and our actions, we have very little control over the way other people perceive us.
Since its inception in 2014, shortly after the end of Operation Protective Edge, Women Wage Peace has insisted that it did not identify with any political party. It started as a grassroots movement which aimed to gather under its umbrella as many women as possible, and it has purposely remained within the consensus focusing only on universal, seemingly non controversial, values. It should have worked: is there a woman who’d admit that she doesn’t want peace?
But in today’s reality even a Hallmark Card is not above suspicion, and members of a group of “ordinary” women, from all walks of life and from all over the country, who sit outside the home of our prime minister and fast, must be left-wing. It only took a short meeting of the four activists from Women Wage Peace with our first lady Sarah Netanyahu to ruin almost a year of walking on eggshells.
After more than 30 days of fasting for peace, when our first lady finally found the time to meet the representatives of the largest ever women movement, most of them mothers, she banished them to “hold their vigil outside the home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as “It is Abbas who is responsible for the stalled process,” “Let him work to renew negotiations instead of trying to promote boycotts of Israel.”(Haaretz 12/8)
At a time when “left-wing” has deteriorated from being a legitimate world view to a derogatory name, which is almost synonymous with being a traitor, I hope that branding the four activists of Women Wage Peace, who met Sara Netanyahu, as “left-wing” is not a cynical attempt to break the spirit of the movement and put a stop to such an important initiative.
I am happy to report that no one was able to break the spirit of the dedicated activists of Women Wage Peace. The movement continues to work throughout the country in order to raise awareness and to engage the public in a discussion about the feasibility of a political resolution. The movement also organizes national events in order to pressure decision makers to work toward reaching a viable peace agreement. One such event is planned for Sukkot. Women Wage Peace will hold a national March toward Jerusalem.
Hopefully, unlike last year’s fast, the March of Hope will be able to wake up the leaders of both sides. We have grown so tired of their excuses why they cannot bring us peace.