There were many moving moments at Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv this week when Women Waging Peace (WWP) organized a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, with the slogan “Yes It’s Possible!” Despite the tensions on Israel-Gaza border, WWP deserve to be congratulated for deciding to go ahead with the ceremony.
Everyone who came encountered a series of beautiful quilt patches laid out throughout the square calling for Israeli-Palestinian peace, as a follow-up to the Israeli-Egyptian treaty. One of the organizers explained to me that women (and men) from Israel, Palestine and around the world had each contributed one quilt patch, and the intention is to create a quilt path stretching all the way from Jerusalem to Hebron.
“All are preferable to the Victims of War” – Menachem Begin
“Yes, there are difficulties in the struggle for peace,” said Prime Minister Menachem Begin back in 1978 in the Knesset debate to ratify the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, “yes, there are pains in peace, there are victims who fall during the quest for peace, yes, but all of them are preferable to the victims of war”. That statement by Begin, along with statements by Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat, were quoted from the stage. They also appeared this week in the new 3 part series on Begin on public Channel 11 and opened the Meretz Party election video.
Former MK Yael Dayan was there, sitting in her wheelchair, recalling how proud she was that her father, then Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan had a major role in promoting the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Some say that Moshe Dayan together with Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann had to drag Begin “kicking and screaming” to agree to the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty. The TV series claims that it was part of Begin’s policy to guarantee peace and security on the Egyptian front, enabling him to advance the settlement project in the West Bank to undermine the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement
Bringing Peace back to the Public Discourse
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, sitting next to Dayan, took to the stage to say how important it was that Women Waging Peace were returning the very concept “Peace” to the public discourse.
Particularly moving was the appearance of an 8 year old on the stage, who bore witness for what’s it’s like living in a kibbutz on the Gaza border when the rockets fly. Reading from a piece of paper, she described how frightening it is to hear the Red Color alert sirens followed by the BOOM when the rockets hit the ground. The up side of the situation is that “when this happens, we always leave the kibbutz to go visit aunt Yael in Tel Aviv.” She concluded that she hopes “there will be peace and quiet on the border, no more BOOMS, but that we will still be able to visit aunt Yael in Tel Aviv”.
While many wish that the peace between Israel and Egypt would be warmer than it is, that really cannot be expected until the occupation is ended and there will be an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. Yet, as leading Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi says in the video released by Peace Now this week in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian treaty, “I’m here today, because no Israeli soldier has been killed by an Egyptian soldier in the past 40 years because we have a peace treaty between us.”
The event opened with a performance by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa young wind instrument orchestra, with pictures of Sadat, Begin and Carter in the background. Some of the instruments actually looked bigger than the players! They were followed by a Jewish-Arab youth choir from a community center in Jaffa. More music came later from the Coral Ensemble, which sang freedom spirituals, including “Lay Down My Sword and Shield – Ain’t gonna study war no more”. Followed by Miriam Tokan, the Palestinian-Israeli singer from the village of I’billin in the Galilee,who sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” in English, Arabic and Hebrew and a song about how the wolf will lie down with the lamb, concluding with Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluyah”, also in the three languages, a song which is sung at all WWP events, with everyone linking arms and swaying together.
The young Tel Aviv Wind Orchestra, with Sadat, Carter & Begin in the background
The Coral Ensemble: “Lay Down Your Sword and Shield”
“Be the Change”: Dr. Arun Gandhi
Afterwards, with the sun having set, those who remained went into a tent at the edge of the Square to have an intimate meeting with Dr. Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson. Dr. Gandhi said he was particularly proud to be present at the event for a number of reasons: because his grandfather believed that women would have a major role in bringing peace; because it’s important to celebrate the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty; because he believes in the importance of working for Israeli-Palestinian peace; and because of the symbolism of the fact that the event was taking place at the square where Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated, who he believes was a strong supporter of the need for peace. Dr. Gandhi shared some of the lessons that he learned from his grandfather, including a wonderful story about how throwing away a broken pencil was a violent act, and about the need to create a genealogy of violence to help struggle against it.
A Hebrew translation of his book “The Gift of Anger: And Other Lessons I Learned from my Grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi”, was given to Women Waging Peace to sell to help support their activities. While others took selfies with Dr. Gandhi, I bought a copy of the book, and asked him to sign it. He asked me what’s my name, and signed with the following dedication:
Be the change
Dr. Arun Gandhi: “Be the change”