Shoshana Lavan

Together we will speak

Hand in Hand school logo

I’m not sure what most people are doing with themselves in their spare time, for at least we do have some, unlike the hostages waiting to be released. I’ve found it almost impossible to write any fiction, or indeed to read any. Instead, I’ve been working on interviews with survivors who have lost their parents, either murdered or taken hostage, or they’re unsure which.

Some say they are trying to keep their sanity by spending time with their families, their communities.

I know other people who are going to every possible demonstration they can; for peace; to release the hostages; to overthrow the government; running from one place to another. Trying anything.

Some are frantically writing about, organizing, publicising, the dire straits of the hostages and trying to get something done about it.

Others, I have heard, are sitting at home in their little homey bubbles trying to pretend nothing is wrong. They look on as others demonstrate against the government, against its ministers, and they request it to stop; they wish only for peace in their communities. These people haven’t heard, perhaps, of the phrase: for evil to exist, it just takes good people to stand by and do nothing. In our community, we are using our time to inform these people, to tell them what Diaspora affairs and combatting antisemitism minister, Amichai Shikli has done. They don’t know. They don’t watch the news. They just want peace and quiet.

After 7th October, do any of us truly have peace and quiet?

On a Saturday sometimes my family and I sit and watch a film together. Eat snacks. Laugh. Cry. But it’s just a couple of hours of respite before my husband and I begin again. One weekend recently, there was an urgent meeting of the steering committee of the NGO Forum of Peace NGOs, which included meeting the father of one of the hostages who was released after 54 days. Her father is working day and night to bring peace. He’s flying back and forth to and from America, working with the White House, followed by a film crew. And his daughter who has been released, and his wife, were with him at the meeting.

I wasn’t involved in the discussions, for the most part, so I spent time getting to know them. What they’d been through. What they’re still going through. The daughter’s husband was murdered on 7th October. Hamas were also shooting all the dogs in case they followed the hostages into Gaza. Their dog had only three legs. Hamas shot it anyway. Then they took the daughter hostage. For 54 days. Not much could be worse than being kept imprisoned with the knowledge that if you are ever released, you’ll be coming back to an empty home, right? Wrong. Her home was burned down. So she knew, in captivity, she couldn’t ever go ‘home’. And yet there she was, at this peace meeting with her father, telling us she only wants peace, telling us she’s willing to fight for peace. Looking at her father in admiration as he works his guts out for peace.

These people, with their loved ones slaughtered, their pets murdered, their homes burned to nothing, they do not want revenge. Nor do they hate.

A few days ago, I was working on an interview with a survivor who said she was certain she was going to die on that black Saturday. She wrote to her son on her computer to give him all her passwords. She looked the interviewer in the eye and told how she also wrote that there must be no war in her name. Only peace.

If you read my last blog, you’d have heard the truth behind the saga with my peace hat. If you were one of the thousands who didn’t, yet saw the short film of the Palestinian side of the hat, or the other one, with just the Israeli side, or even the third one, which featured both sides, you may indeed still not know I am a peace activist who wore her knitted hat, a hat symbolising peace – a present from another peace activist, Gina David, who knits them for people all over the country – at a demonstration for the release of the hostages and a ceasefire. One parent, after seeing the film, made a complaint against me to the ministry of education. I was apparently at a protest AGAINST Israel. The ministry representative, after he heard the real story, told me there was no reason to even investigate me.

I spent one and a half hours with a student (17) who could not and would not accept my hat was a sign for peace. How dare I wear the Palestinian flag, she kept on saying to me, never accepting the hat was the two flags sitting peacefully side by side. ‘Would Vivian Silver, if she were alive today, wear that hat?’ ‘Yes’, I said. ‘Yes, I think she would’. But the student didn’t listen. ‘How can you work for peace?’ she asked me, ‘don’t you know about all the suffering Hamas has caused, the torture, the pain, the hellish nightmares they’ve given us as a Jewish people?’ She spent long monologues describing the day to me, the 7th October, describing how Hamas had taken the Palestinian flag and used it to celebrate slaughter, for hatred and death. How could I dare put that flag on my head? ‘Have I suffered?’ she asked me. I told her it was not a competition, and this particularly upset her. As if she was trying to compete with me. But she was. She couldn’t understand how I could be working for peace, talking about peace, fighting about peace if I really knew what had happened that day. Little does she know how much I know about what happened. And little does she know that the people who were actually there are also talking about making peace. They don’t want a war IN THEIR NAME. I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen. And I wondered how much she is simply a mouthpiece for so many people in this country right now.

Not following all the news carefully at the moment, or following only one narrative, results in these dangerous and slanderous misconceptions people carry around with them along with their anger and fear since October 7th.  And this is being misdirected at those who are trying to create some kind of peaceful future for our children. Our teenagers at school run the risk of not being taught any other narrative, other than: ‘together we will win’.

I’m not sure what the word ‘win’ means precisely when you’re talking about so many hostages still being in Gaza, hundreds of fallen soldiers, and a huge refugee camp where thousands of Palestinian citizens are at the risk of dying because of the number of diseases spreading through it.

I’m not sure what the word ‘win’ means exactly, when at least half the country is ashamed of its government and is desperate for it to change, but it seems we are helpless right now.

I’m not sure what the word ‘win’ means, when friends and neighbours turn to me and say they are not prepared to stay in this country at any price; for their children’s sake they will get out before things become unbearable.

The problem is things already are unbearable. Those who lost loved ones, friends, entire communities, homes, beloved pets, and their hope for a peaceful, happy future. Those since, who have been displaced from their homes, who are living indefinitely in hotels or other people’s houses. Those who have lost brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers, fighting so that we can ‘win’ this war. Those who have lost their faith in God and humanity, because of the immense grief and disbelief that came to greet them with this human, or inhumane, catastrophe.

I don’t think any of those people can say ‘together we will win’ without choking on the words.

And then there are the Palestinians. Perhaps some of them did dance on the streets on the 7th October, educated to believe that all Jews hate them, and all Jews want them to leave Israel and never come back. (And let’s face it, they’re right about some.) But many of them didn’t. Many of them were simply living their lives as best as they could under the Hamas terrorist government, that is only interested in inflicting terror on Jews and never focusing on the needs of their own citizens. And suddenly they have all lost their homes, too, running from place to place, trying to find safety and food, now cursing the day their government came into power but not knowing what the future has in store for them. (How could they know – our government isn’t making those kinds of plans.)

If they had been saying on the 7th October what a victory it was for them, they certainly aren’t now.

So perhaps it is not accurate to call this a war. The word suggests one side who wins and one side who loses. I can’t see any winners here.

Our seven-year-old, who goes to a Hand in Hand, dual-language school, containing 50% Jewish and 50% Arab Israelis (yes, they do exist, and they are extremely successful – this one even prize-winning) was in a performance with his year group last night where they sang a song for peace. The words of the chorus were: Together we will speak.

But you know the saddest, simplest truth? Israelis all over the country think peace would be ‘giving in’ to Hamas. Letting them win. Do they really believe Hamas want peace? Do they really not understand how we’ve played directly into the hands of Hamas, by causing mayhem in Gaza and the world to also turn against us? It’s been easy for them to ignore how careful our IDF has been. And Hamas knew this. Hamas was also perfectly aware how much antisemitism already existed in the world, like a block of dynamite just waiting to be lit, perhaps more than Jews were aware. We always think it might have gone away, finally. We always think that this time…..

But Hamas doesn’t want peace! Hamas doesn’t want peace just as much as Bibi doesn’t want it. And for the same reason. The more we continue this war, the more the world will hate us, and the longer Hamas will stay in control and even be respected by people who don’t understand them for the terrorists they truly are. And the more we continue this war, the longer Bibi stays in power. The longer he can even try to persuade the country that it is because of him, that we are ‘winning’ this war ‘together’.

Imagine working for peace, together. Imagine turning to Hamas and saying, not only do you now lack the human power to have any control in Gaza, but we’re going to work with Palestinians who DO want peace. Your time is up. No deals. No discussions. Just a future of peace for our children. Together we will speak.


About the Author
Shoshana Lavan is a published author, high school teacher of English Literature and Language, teacher of English as a foreign language and most importantly, a very proud mother of her gorgeous little boy. She is a peace activist and a committed vegan. A keen runner, she adores the mountains and glorious sunshine in this wonderful country.
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