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Women March, and Speak Out, for Peace

On January 21, 2017, women across the country will come together to march in protest of a Trump presidency. Earlier this year, across the world, another passionate group of women rose up to speak out against violence and to stand in support of peace. The Women Wage Peace (WWP) movement planned and executed their signature event this October: the March for Hope.

Months before the march , energetic women throughout Israel volunteered to plan a variety of successful march-related events to draw awareness about WWP and their goal of uniting Israelis under the banner of common humanity and inspiring hope for peace. Eschewing a hierarchical structure, hundreds of women from every geographic region, every political viewpoint, every socioeconomic and religious sector of society,emerged to lead their respective communities in this movement for peace.

From October 4-19, supporters marched from the north and bicycled from the south.  They marched from the east and the west to eventually convene in Jerusalem to join a rally at the Knesset. From there, these supporters marched to a Sukkah built across the street from the Prime Minister's residence. More than 20,000 Israelis participated in the March and subsequent rally. Solidarity events were held around the world, including in the US, Australia, Morocco, and Europe. Major news outlets covered the march within Israel and internationally. WWP’s emphasis on non-violent demonstrations created an atmosphere that allowed these women to tell their own stories.

Here’s how Ori Gold-Haklay, one supporter of WWP, explains her evolution as an activist:

I had always prayed for peace in synagogue, and once in awhile I attended a political rally. But as a mother of four...juggling a job and raising a family... my life was consumed by everyday concerns. When Operation Protective Edge broke out...– my daughter was in the army and my son, Guy, was about to be drafted. My two younger kids were terrified by the constant rocket attacks close to home... All the neighborhood women started bringing over anything they could think of that would help the soldiers at the front...When the terrible news came that two soldiers from our tiny town had been killed in combat, I found myself standing in the tiny cemetery – twice in one week – next to the same women who had just collected underwear with me, staring in shock at the fresh graves. One of the boys killed, Noam, attended elementary school with my eldest daughter. I think that was the breaking point for me, standing there in the cemetery. I started thinking, why? Why do we have to accept this reality, of war and war and more war? Why can’t we, as women, and as mothers, make a change?

Vivian Silver, a grandmother who lives in the Western Negev, describes her motivation to join WWP:

When the “red alert” sounds, people in my community have up to 15 seconds to make it to a shelter or safe room. I live in Kibbutz Beeri, 2.8 miles from the border with Gaza.  We are lucky. People in neighboring communities closer to Gaza have even less time.  For all of us, an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an existential imperative.

One of the highlights of the March of Hope events was the march to Qasr el-Yahud.  3,000 Israeli supporters were joined by 1,000 Palestinian women, bused from the West Bank with the blessing and support of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas had even provided white baseball caps embroidered with a dove, which the Palestinian women proudly wore over their hijabs. Led by Huda Abu Arqoub, a native of the West Bank and the Regional Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, the Palestinian women joined the Israelis as partners in the quest for peace. Arm in arm, 4,000 strong, these women marched and rallied together.

Accompanying them was Yael Decklebaum, a renowned Israeli singer-songwriter who wrote "The Prayer of the Mothers" in honor of WWP and the March of Hope. You can watch Yael perform this anthem, interspersed with clips from the March of Hope in this video.

Hamutal Gouri, Executive Director of the Dafna Fund, spoke these words at Qasr el Yahud: “Motherhood is not only the act of bearing and rearing our own children. Motherhood is a spiritual and ethical position of responsibility for the world and for future generations.”

Gouri explains the significance of the March for Hope, saying:

It was an historic event... It was also a political event: a clear and resounding statement by women who are tired of war and bloodshed, who have had enough of being excluded from discourse and action for peace and security.

To learn more about WWP, their supporters, the March of Hope, and the details of their plans for 2017, visit their English website or Facebook page.

You can read the women's stories and quotations cited here in their entirety at the Women Wage Peace archive, hosted on jstreet.org.

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Women March for Hope, Oct. 2016
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A photo of women marching in Women Wage Peace's March for Hope on October 2016.
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How to cite this page

Goodwin, Joanna . "Women March, and Speak Out, for Peace ." 5 January 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 18, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/women-march-and-speak-out-for-peace>.

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