It’s Time to Listen: Women Wage Peace

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, when we lost the brakes in our car on the highway in Italy, we knew that we were going to hit the car in front of us.

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 throughout the event, holding a big sign in Hebrew “Jewish and Arab women refuse to be enemies.”

The women 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  in a tent outside the home of the Prime Minister since July 9, 2015, exactly a year after the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. On that day, they started a fifty day fast to commemorate the fifty days of the war. 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.

Last week  I heard an interesting talk by Dr Esther Guluma, the retired Regional Director for UNICEF in West and Central Africa and Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, who shared her experience in Liberia with the group and stressed the importance of listening to the needs of the other side in conflict negotiations.

We know that, all over the globe, for hundred of years, women have always been listening  But now, it is finally time that our leaders start listening to us.

On Tuesday, 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.

When I read in Ha’aretz that Sarah and Bibi Netanyahu had, a well publicized dinner at the home of the journalist Benny Ziffer, it bothered me that our busy Prime Minister and his wife had the leisure to have a “tender night” at the Ziffer’s in Raanana, but for more than two weeks of fasting, they never once found the time to come by and visit the tent of Women Wage Peace, less than 200 meters from their home.

In the past, 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?

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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