Rejecting the Status Quo of Despair

Categories: Israel, Seek Peace and Pursue it

“IsWomen-Wage-Peace-2[1]raeli Salad” is how these women refer to themselves – women from the Periphery [from the outlying areas, the northern and southern parts of the country], women from Tel Aviv, settler women, Arab-Israeli women, Palestinian women from the territories.  A huge a-political, non-partisan movement of thousands of women, boasting a name that perhaps sounds presumptuous, even naive: “Women Wage Peace.”  It is a movement that has decided to leave ideology behind in the hope of mobilizing a critical mass of women who will force decision-makers on both sides of the conflict to sit down and talk.

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The movement was founded during Operation Protective Edge [the 2014 Gaza War] by mothers of soldiers who were inspired by the women of Liberia to do something, rather than merely try to avoid bad news. In 2003 Liberian women brought an end to a decades-long civil war and the dictatorship of Charles Taylor.  A leader of that protest, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, succeeded in uniting women from all parts of Liberia in order to end the bloodshed. By the end, their unified activity had sent the dictator into exile, brought about the disarmament of warring factions, and led to democratic elections.  The challenge in Israel is not a simple one. The Prime Minister is a sophisticated politician, a master of mass communication, who excels in stirring the conflict together with anything that could kill a possible solution: Iranian nukes, instability in the Middle East, Islamic State terrorism. And on top of all that, Abu Mazen and Hamas give him plenty of excuses not to act.

At the moment [early August 2016] there are memorial services taking place for the soldiers who fell during Operation Protective Edge two summers ago. In the current government and in the Knesset there have been commissions of inquiry and discussions of lessons to be learned for the coming war; but the real war, it seems, that the Prime Minister means to fight is in the field of mass media. Rumor has it that he’s recruited reinforcements from home for this war, and his son – a graduate of the Army’s ‘speakers bureau’ brigade – is his brigadier for the internet.  In any event, not only doesn’t the Prime Minister speak about peace but even the opposition parties avoid that word like the plague.

And despite all of this, the faith of the women in this movement is rock solid, even when we remind them that Israeli women are not like Liberian women whose daughters were raped, whose sons joined gangs, and whose spirits could be crushed by hunger at any time. We Israeli women know how to ask tough questions, we live in a functioning democratic state and life here is relatively good – until the moment when truth  knocks on the door, one of the movement’s women says to us. And that son of yours who lights up your life tells you he’s going to enlist as a fighter. You, his mother, who taught him to be open-minded, find yourself asking if this is what you had in mind. And you begin to wonder if you’ll be able to act the part of the heroic mother of a son going off to battle. But the big question really is: is this an act of fate?

The Prime Minister believes it is. At memorial services, he pulls out his own personal handkerchief for grieving,  as if it has the power to wipe away the shards of now-broken hearts and protect him from the pain of bereaved parents. But the principle – according to his way of thinking –  cannot be changed.  “We must always live by the sword,” he said a few months ago.

“It’s happened all over the world; difficult and complicated conflicts have been resolved, and it can happen here, too.”  So say these women determined to spread the vision of peace. During Sukkot, they’ll be holding a March of Hope despite knowing that the government is driven by a militant agenda and is stuck on the idea that there is no solution.  Our job, these women say, is to hold up a mirror and ask if we, as parents and citizens, have the privilege of being drawn into endless conflict, of living in denial, of accepting the status quo of despair.

This article originally appeared on Ynet.il on August 7th, 2016.

Translated by Donna Kirshbaum

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