Traveling For Peace: Jewish and Arab Women

Today around  noon several hundred women will board a train from Tel Aviv to Sapir College in Sderot,  to mark the launching of “Women Wage Peace.”

Last July, after taking part in a demonstration in Tira, I wrote an essay titled “Jewish and Arab Women Refuse To Be Enemies,” in which I asked  to let women have their say.

Here is the essay, and good luck to the women who are “travelling for peace:”

The announcement on Facebook read: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” and next to it a call for a demonstration in the Arab Israeli town of Tira. I knew right away that I wanted to go.

This morning we gathered,  about 1000 participants, Jews and Arabs, many carried signs in Hebrew and in Arabic. My favorite was one held by a young woman which said in Hebrew: “Jewish .and Arab women refuse to be enemies.” I could sense the good-will and the positive energy all around.

The speakers were Jews and Arabs and I appreciated the fact that everyone’s suffering was acknowledged: that of the Palestinians civilians in Gaza whose life is in danger because of the Israeli air raid and that of the Israelis civilians, especially in the south, who suffer the Hamas rockets attacks..

In preparation for today’s demonstration I reread  a small British pamphlet written in 1952 by that period Feminists, in the Conference on The Feminine Point of View.

On the topic of “World Peace” the women  claimed:

“It has been  generally believed through the ages that women are more averse to war than men (a view expressed in the Greek play Lysisstrata  over two thousand years ago). Certainly war disrupts the home life which is the woman’s main interest and concern. In so far as women are in general less aggressive than men, more averse to physical violence, and more concerned for the suffering of the individual, there are grounds for hoping that their greater influence would make for world peace in the long run. The monstrous absurdity of modern weapons of obliteration is likely to make an increasing number of women reject war altogether on ground of commonsense as well as mercy.; whereas many men seem to be fascinated by exhibitions of vast power”

In 1952 the conference expressed the hope that  women will  “become better educated politically and more confident in their own point of view, they may be expected to be critical of war propaganda and the claims of national prestige. The tendency of women to be more emotionally disturbed by the idea of war and its horrors may bring about clearer thinking on the whole question of that “inevitable necessity” of war which so many men seem to accept with the kind of mesmerized acquiescence.“

In the demonstration today one of the speakers, an Arab woman, talked directly to the women in the audience and said very similar words. She said what all women know (and often say), that not a single woman from Gaza or from Israel is involved in the attacks, but that it is always the women who pay the price for men’s war.

The conference of the Feminine Point of View was seven years after the end of the Second World War. There were hopes for a better future, and fear of the consequences of  the cold war.

Today more than sixty years later,  women are “better educated politically,” but so far we have not been able to make a real difference, or to promote peace in this area. Publicly not much has changed, most of the politicians are still  men, and  they have no interest in finding a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Not too long ago, Israeli mothers were influential in getting the Israeli army out of south Lebanon. The men have failed us, let women have their say.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.
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