Five years ago, in summer 2014, all hell broke loose and Operation Protective Edge – the war with Gaza – started. My son fought there and I stopped breathing throughout this 50-day war. I was terrified and felt totally alone. I promised myself that when the war ended, I wouldn’t forget the horror and would act in order to stop this violent madness.
Other women in Israel have also woken up and said enough is enough. We are not waiting for anybody anymore; we are going to make sure that this was the last war. From this collective trauma, Women Wage Peace was born. I joined, and I wasn’t alone any more. Along with my sisters, I led marches and events that inspired hope in thousands of women and men. It was then that I learned the power of women coming together, and it was there that I witnessed the miracles of radical listening and compassionate dialogue.
Last April, I co-initiated “The Mother’s Tent” of Women Wage Peace. We established a tent in the Rose Garden across the road from the Knesset, where we stayed throughout the Knesset winter session (72 days) and demanded from our leaders to seek political alternatives before using force, as true and long lasting security is only achieved by political agreements. We hosted in our tent people from all walks of life and various political orientations, including Knesset members.
Towards the end of the session, in July 2018, the Nation-State Law passed. I was shocked. We all felt devastated by its divisive and discriminating nature and by the pain it caused so many of us, especially those from minority populations who felt that their very presence in Israel was being called into question. I felt that the light was dimming again and it was then that I understood that it wasn’t enough for me to sit across from the Knesset; that women’s values and perspectives should be represented much more within the Knesset. What is needed is a new political discourse that is courageous, compassionate and empathic, and it is time for a politics that brings us together rather than divides and splits.
The vision was to create an inclusive political home, based on equality between Jews and Arabs, and led by women. I was looking for my group of lionesses with whom I can change the political dialogue, and I found them! Two of them are: Anahar Masarwa, from Arara, who’s been working for years to advance women in Arab society, and courageously took on being the first religious Muslim woman to run for the Knesset, and Dr. Rabia Basis, a trailblazing Druze educator who served in various national committees and was willing to be the first Druze woman candidate to the Knesset. Of course, there are many more incredible women (and men), some running with us as candidates and the others supporting our efforts.
It is very important for us to walk the talk, to demonstrate what we consider to be the “normal” way for Arabs and Jews to live together, each bringing their piece of the mosaic. Together we create a beautiful and inspiring picture.
Running for the Knesset at this time and in the current political climate requires courage. It seems that most political players relate to the elections as if it is a war, and as in wars, the first people to be pushed to the back are women and minorities. In the next Knesset the prediction is for less female parliamentarians than in the last one. Our women’s voice is critical, and suppressing it is bad for everyone, not just for women. Women’s perspective, women’s interpersonal skills and women’s leadership are crucial. Studies show that gender equality is the number one predictor for a peaceful society and that in countries where there is high participation of women in government the population is healthier.
As we in Pashut Ahava (the Simply Love party) campaign in our branded minivan all over the country, we are being received with open hearts and enthusiasm. Whether it is in Lakiya or Jerusalem, Yarka or Tel Aviv, we hear many say: “We feel that you represent us, now we have who to vote for.” Their voice, our voice, must be heard in the Knesset halls and addressed! We can never be united until all voices are heard, a society in which women and minorities are not fully heard is like a bird with a broken wing. It can’t fly.
This is why we are running!