The Movement Women Wage Peace was founded in 2014, toward the end of the war in Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. During the nine years that have passed thousands of women have dedicated their lives to promote a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors. Quite a few members of the movement lived in the western Negev, where the horrible massacre by Hamas took place on October 7th. Among the more active members of the movement from that area was Vivian Silver from Kibbutz Be-eri, who was kidnapped to Gaza, and tragically more members and supporters of Women Wage Peace were among those who were murdered.
Just three days before the attack, about 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian women took part in a “Quest for Peace,” a full day of events in Jerusalem and at the Dead Sea where they expressed their desire for peace and their refusal to raise their children only to lose them to violence and wars. The rally included, among others, peace activists from the West Bank and Gaza. It is so painful to think back to this hopeful day and to know that at that time the Hamas was already making the final preparations for the pogrom.
At the end of April 2021, following months of investigation,Women Wage Peace held a “Civilian Cabinet” at Kibbutz Nahal Oz (one of the kibbutzim attacked on October 7th). In its report, the Movement warned the government to pay attention to the situation along the Gaza border. At this time it is chilling to reread the report, here it is:
“The cabinet is the culmination of the journey we have undertaken in recent months, observing and studying the complexity of life in the area in a state of war for more than 20 years. We met people, heard their stories, and visited places. Together, we will ensure that we give visibility to the people here and raise awareness of their condition, since the people living in the area feel invisible. We will put their plight on the agenda and demand decisive actions to end the current situation.
During our journey, we met dozens of residents from various places, people who love the area, love the country and believe in their choice to live here. Yet, we heard about fatigue, a feeling of being “survivors” (as they defined it), but they remained optimistic despite the difficulties and challenges that they face daily. We surveyed the border, the walls, and the fence. We observed the Gaza Strip and received explanations from different women.
In all our visits, one question was asked once and again: ‘Where is the state?’ The answer was the same: the state has neglected its fundamental contract with the citizens in this region. It fails to ensure our personal security, in physical, economic, educational, and social terms.
After a mostly quiet year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a sense of relative but fragile peace. But there is a clear understanding among the people of the region that this situation will not last, and it’s only a matter of time until the next round of fighting begins. There is a realization, and even a sad resignation, that the general public is detached from this region and apathetic toward the problem of Gaza. Perhaps people prefer not to see, or there is some kind of alienation between the center of the country and the periphery. This distance and indifference enable decision-makers to declare that ‘Gaza is not a strategic problem,’ while the people in this area continue to live from one war to the next. Now, when the guns are silent, it is precisely the time to discuss policy alternatives and make decisions.”
(The Newsletter of Women Wage Peace, April 29th, 2021)
This report was written almost 3 years ago, and unfortunately no one paid attention to these warnings. In our worst nightmare we could not have foreseen the tragedy that befell our country. As for the future, I believe that there is no other solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict than a peace agreement. We have no better option; otherwise, we won’t be able to continue living in this area for much longer.