Penny S. Tee
May You Live in Peace, שלום and سلام.

Why Are We “Passing Over” Peace’s Most Valuable Players?

Check out the 2024 Peace Haggadah for free!

OK, the Peace Haggadah title is, Commentary: Why Are We Ignoring Peace’s Most Valuable Players? Give me a break; it’s the last day of Passover. I couldn’t resist.

Note: Regardless of convention, I always capitalize “Peace”; Peace is so important!

Passover 2024 has flown by this year and ends today. So many special events took place: helping write the Peace Haggadah and co-hosting the Peace Seder, our family Seder where I used some parts of the Peace Haggadah, and attending an introspective, educational and meditative morning on Sunday with Chaim Lev and Rabbi K’vod.

The event on Sunday was called “Freedom from the Inner Pharoh” and was everything I’ve come to expect from spending time with Rabbi K’vod and Chaim. What is the inner Pharoh? Those parts of yourself that you’d prefer weren’t part of the package called You. It’s the narrow place where you know you could do better. It’s unique for each individual and can be variable depending on their mood. For instance, I know I’m usually kind, but when my husband does something I don’t like, I can handle it with less care than I’d do for my friends. Sorry, Hunny Bunny.

The event combined meditation, introspection, deep learning, and cool music. Chaim played the guitar, the Hand Pan (like a thinner, portable steel drum, or for you Star Trek fans, it was silver and looked like a round spaceship : ), a bouzouki (originally a Turkish instrument credited today to the Greeks. It has the Middle Eastern sound and looks like a miniature guitar with a tooshie : ), and Chaim played a shruti box (an Indian instrument that has bellows. It reminds me of one of those brown file folders with accordion-like pockets, but when you move it back and forth, the sound is drone-like), with his bare foot as he played the bouzouki and sang! Chaim could definitely walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. My husband and our friend Evan also played djembes, and at times, I couldn’t help myself but stand up and move to the beat.

Passover is a holiday of freedom, and the music inspired times of praying/singing, dance and movement. There was also a Peaceful atmosphere. We were all free to be authentic, filling me with a relaxing calm.

Chaim told us that the Hand Pan was akin to the steel drum, whose history intertwined with the slave trade in Trinidad and Tobago. Later, looking into the instrument’s history, one can see that it had its harsh past, like the enslaved Africans who played it. There were times when the enslavers banished the use of steel drums, and “In 1785, plantation owners held the first Carnival in Trinidad. Many white plantation owners masqueraded as enslaved people (presumably in blackface). They marched down the streets mocking African slave dress, singing, and dance customs, including banging on talking drums.”1 Although many people live honorable lives, there are far too many shameful episodes throughout our history. Let’s hope all this current antisemitism and islamophobia doesn’t write another sickening chapter.

In the following commentary that I originally wrote for the Peace Haggadah, I wanted to shine a light on the impact of war on women, including sexual violence, the inexcusable difficulties placed on them when they do get the opportunity to work as Peace activists, and the indisputable benefit when women are involved with Peace efforts.

Let’s take a moment to honor our sisters who have sacrificed both in wartime and for Peace. Work in these areas takes courage and devotion. Women give with their minds, bodies, hearts, souls, and lives.

Women’s voices are essential for building a just and long-lasting Peace. The United Nations reported that Peace agreements were 20% percent more likely to last at least two years if women were involved in negotiating them.2 Who better understands the impacts of situations such as sexual violence, displacement, and relocation?3,4 Yet only 16% of conflict party delegations in UN-led or co-led Peace processes included women, from a high of 23% in 2020.5

What are the obstacles to including more women, and aren’t you sick of asking this question?

Female Peacekeepers often battle against deeply entrenched patriarchal sensibilities that do not see them as equal or even legitimate actors. They face violence, legal restrictions, physical attacks, intimidation, and criminalization. The UN Human Rights Office states that between May 2021 and April 2022, 172 women human rights defenders and civil society organizations faced reprisals or intimidation for their cooperation with the United Nations.6 Nevertheless, 12,000 women continue to serve in twelve Peacekeeping missions worldwide, performing various military and civilian duties.7

Even where women are nominally equal, there can be communication barriers. Israeli couples’ therapist Susan Heitler explains in Psychology Today that women are relational: they tend to collect the facts, study the details, and explore alternatives, thus formulating a more well-rounded solution. According to Heitler, men generally like to get to the solution fast. This difference can be a sticking point in interactions.8 Ladies, we all know how unsatisfying that can be.

In Israel, women must serve in the military. Some of these women deployed to form the bulk of the surveillance team for the Gaza border. Surviving surveillance soldiers report that, months in advance of October 7, they had repeatedly warned superiors of Hamas training activities in Gaza. However, superiors ignored their concerns, telling them that the activities were normal, no matter the frequency or types of activities described. “It’s infuriating,” one of the survivors told Kan News of the intelligence failure. “We saw what was happening, we told them about it, and we were the ones who were murdered.”9

What could be the reason for ignoring their pleas? Could it be that an age-old issue had reared its ugly head? Women were the ones doing the reporting. I could picture their superior saying, “There, there, sweetie, calm down. It’s normal. Everything will be all right.” Until it wasn’t.

Ignoring their pleas seems to reflect the arrogance of those in positions of power, who often do not see the impact of their ways on those with less or perhaps virtually no control. The price for their disdain was the wretched sorrow of their entire nation, of Jews in the diaspora, and others who love Israel throughout the world.

We see that same arrogance from a power imbalance distorting the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. It can put blinders on many Israelis who are often not merely dismissive of Palestinian pleas and suffering but also seem oblivious to them.

And the Palestinians also cannot discount the impact of years of terrorism that Israelis have endured. The bottom line is that we have both sides suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If a fair resolution to Peace is the goal, those in power can’t ignore decades of fear and trauma. How do these excruciating experiences impact decisions? The Israel-Hamas War added unfathomable pain for us all.

We have to tread lightly to help. The essential tool for working on Peace is listening with compassion. To do this, we must often keep our mouths shut and listen to the feelings beyond the words. Only then can we begin to see the human connection that can lead to a brighter path.

As a woman, I feel visceral pain from the violence Hamas unleashed against women on October 7. Girls and women were tortured, violated, and murdered.

May their memories be a blessing.

Sexual and gender-based violence, a psychological tool for perpetrators to assert control and humiliate the enemy, 11, 10 is a breach of international humanitarian law. The physical mutilation of the victims of October 7, combined with the torment inflicted on parents and children as their families were savagely harmed or killed in front of them, goes far beyond an act of “resistance” or even warfare—it was evil. The denial of these atrocities is another paragraph in the tragic history of the Jewish people.

The silence of some women’s rights organizations in the wake of October 7 was deafeningly painful for women. I am left feeling that as a Jewish woman, my life is perceived as less important, and those who otherwise stand up for women ignore crimes against Israeli and Jewish women. How does the world allow this to be acceptable? Heartbreakingly, it’s not the first time. The question is: what can we do to make this the last time?

And now we read about the humiliation, rape, and threats of rape that Palestinian prisoners have suffered at the hands of the IDF. It is essential that all the claims of rape and sexual violence, whether alleged by Palestinians against the IDF or by Israelis against Hamas, be investigated by expert, vetted women (for the comfort of the potential victims). Rape and threats of rape have no legitimate place anywhere. Who will most of the innocent victims of these crimes be in any wartime scenario? Predictably, women. Also, even more atrociously, children.

In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, Peace, and security. It was the first Security Council resolution that required parties in a conflict to prevent violations of women’s rights, to support women’s participation in Peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction, and to protect women and girls from wartime sexual violence. It was also the first to mention the impact of conflict on women specifically. The resolution has since become an organizing framework for the women, Peace, and security agenda.12

I’m sorry, but reading the tepid wording of this resolution, emphasizing these firsts, I find it too little, too late, and too self-congratulating. It seems so trivial in its intentions, compared with the gap in women’s protections, even for 2000.

Decades later, the impact of the resolution supports my disappointment. Because the UN cannot enforce but merely recommend, the resolution is little more than pretty words on paper. In the ten-year evaluation of the impact of Resolution 1325, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations reported that sexual and gender-based violence continues to be widespread, with impunity for those who commit it.13 Women in conflict areas are still essentially unprotected.

Let’s return to my favorite subject—Israelis and Palestinians working together toward Peace. One group, Women Wage Peace, started in 2014 after the Gaza War and has grown to over 20,000 members and supporters. It connects Israeli and Palestinian women from the grassroots, encourages Peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and urges the enforcement of UN Resolution 1325.14 Vivian Silver, one of its founders, may have died on October 7, but her work lives on.15

Other groups work hard to amplify women’s voices and issues in their cadre of activities for Peace. Even during the Israel-Hamas War, Roots-Shorashim-Judur and Interfaith Encounter Association continue to organize women’s dialogue groups of Israeli and Palestinian women. These women promote Peace together, even during war. Amen.

Let’s take one more peek at the 2024 Peace Haggadah above to see what makes you pause and consider the impact of the words on the paper. Chag Sameach!

May You Live in Peace, שלום and سالم


1 “Steepan,” Wikipedia,

2 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, “States must protect women human rights defenders working in conflict and crisis-affected settings: UN expert,” (October 13, 2023) accessed March 15, 2024, from

3 G. Gaggioli, “Sexual violence in armed conflicts: A violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” International Review of the Red Cross, (2014): 96(894), 503-538,

4 K. Mlaba, “How Do Women and Girls Experience the Worst of War?” Global Citizen, 9

5 UN News, “Explainer: Why women’s role in sustaining peace is more critical than ever,” Africa Renewal. (October 25, 2023):

6 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

7 UN News.

8 S. Heitler, “How Gender Differences Make Decision-Making Difficult,” Psychology Today,

(February 2, 2012): accessed March 15, 2024, from https://www.psychologytoday.


9S. Silkoff, “Surveillance soldiers warned of Hamas activity on Gaza border for months

before October 7,” The Times of Israel. (2023, October 26): https://www.timesofisrael.

com/surveillance-soldiers-warned-of-hamas-activity-on-gaza-border-for-monthsbefore-oct-7/. Survivors of the massacre on the IDF base say they passed information on regarding digging, mapping, and training near the fence up the chain of command long before the mass slaughter, but to no avail.

10 D. K. Cohen, A. H. Green, and E. J.Wood, “Wartime Sexual Violence: Misconceptions,

Implications, and Ways Forward,” United States Institute of Peace, (February 2013):

accessed March 15, 2024, from


11 P. Chiroro, G. Bohner, G. T. Viki, and C. I. Jarvis, “Rape Myth Acceptance and Rape

Proclivity: Expected Dominance Versus Expected Arousal in Acquaintance-Rape

Situations,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (April 1, 2004): 19(4), 427–442, Google Scholar, 10.1177/0886260503262081.

12 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, “Security Council Resolution 1325 |PeaceWomen,” Peace Women. (December 18, 2014): accessed March 16, 2024, from

13 United Nations Security Council, “Women and peace and security: Report of the SecretaryGeneral,” United Nations Official Document System, (April 6, 2010): Accessed March 16, 2024, from


14 D. Mukherjee, “Women who Wage Peace,” The Statesman, (May 22, 2017):

15 Greenslade, B. Greenslade, (2023, December 14). “Vivian Silver, activist killed in Hamas attack, remembered as peacemaker at Winnipeg memorial,” CBC, (2023, December 14):









About the Author
Penny S. Tee is a vodcaster, speaker, author, and educator. She interviews Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, together forging a better future. Why? Read her book, “BLASTED from COMPLACENCY: A Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel,” which describes her 2014 family vacation in Israel—daily touring sacred places, and cowering in bomb shelters at night. The missiles blew up her comfortable world—today she devotes her life to Peace.
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