It’s been a week since the Journey to Peace led by Women Wage Peace – where 10,000 Jewish and Palestinian women dressed in white marched in the Dead Sea, and were then joined by over 30,000 (!!) women who marched together in Jerusalem. And I just can’t get over my amazement at being surrounded by so many determined women.
It’s not that I don’t think women are strong. I’m a feminist, of course I do. But watching thousands of women making their way through the Jericho desert sands, toward the Sarah and Hagar Peace Tent, I just couldn’t stop thinking to myself – this is incredible. So many women, dressed in white, marching in the scorching hot desert, armed with sun screen, white scarves, bottles of water, and drenched in sweat. Hugging their Palestinian sisters, singing and….sweating like crazy.
And I thought to myself, wow. These are determined women.
Leading up to the march was the Journey To Peace — two full weeks of marching all over Israel, beginning in the south, in Beer-Sheva and Dimona and Bedouin villages, settlements near Gaza, then on to Gush Etzion and then Nazareth and Hazor in the north. On every one of these day-long marches, hundreds of women walked through the streets, met with the local population and mayors, and recruited more and more women to join us in our demand for a political agreement to stop the cycle of violence. Some of the women participated in all 14 days of the trek, leaving their families and jobs and whole lives just to be on this Journey to Peace. These women left their egos at home, alongside their office stilettos, trading them in for clumpy hiking boots.
For example, take Tammy Avigdor and Avital Brown, two of the movement’s leaders who in real life” run a consulting and training company for high-tech executives. They closed down shop for six weeks, waiving all expected income, so they could plan this huge operation – permits, police, buses, tickets, donations, t-shirts, stickers and everything else that your typical journey for peace with thousands of women and mass media coverage would entail, if you were to run one. And all this on a volunteer basis, just like all the other one hundred percent dedicated women in the movement.
On one of the evenings, after marching all day in the sun, Avital got a call from a major television talk show, asking her to be interviewed on behalf of Women Wage Peace. She was told she would be picked up and taken to the studio, and to be ready the next morning at five. After calling her friends and family with the exciting news, to be sure they tuned in, including those who live overseas, doing a make-up practice run, deliberating whether to wear hair up or down and what white shirt looked better on camera and practicing how to respond to any imaginable question, at two in the morning she got another call. Sorry, the producers said, but we’d rather interview “someone younger.” So. Let me just say that Avital is a confident woman in her late fifties, and proud of it. But she is also human. She did take a moment to get just a tiny bit insulted. But then, just as quickly, she bounced back and enthusiastically recommended “someone younger” who could do a great job representing Women Wage Peace. As she explained to me later that day: “I said to myself, this is not about me, it’s about what I believe in. And if people think a younger woman will get the message across, let’s go for it!”
And take Yael Steimberg, a senior researcher in real life, who was one of the Journey’s head organizers. As part of this huge responsibility, she took on the not-so-glamorous behind-the-scenes task of directing traffic during and following the main event in Jerusalem. And so, as masses of people started leaving, full of inspiration, people, I see Yael, dressed in a bright yellow vest, patiently directing hundreds of tired bus drivers how to safely get everyone home. She didn’t even get to see the actual event she had worked so hard planning, but yet, she was still smiling.
Looking around me in the Dead Sea, I see young women, women with toddlers, religious women, secular women, old women and young women, and high school students. And some men. And 5,000 Palestinian women who march with us. And when we look into each other’s eyes we see something we almost forgot exists here in Israel: we see hope. So I know white is not my best color and I realize that I am not one of those people who look fabulous in 40 degree heat. But surrounded by all these determined women, I also know this: We have had enough war. We demand peace, not only for ourselves but for our children and for the future generations in Israel. When you are working together to reach a goal that big, that important, giving up is simply not an option.
And nobody can stand in the path of determined women.
Women Wage Peace are not stopping until there’s an agreement.