Jewish And Arab Israeli Women March To ‘Wage Peace’

The 150-mile, 14-day trek to Jerusalem may not be making headlines but this gathering of women is by far the biggest peace event over the past few years in Israel.

The March of Hope, a program of Women Wage Peace (WWP), was a two-week event during which hundreds of Jewish and Arab Israeli women wearing white and chanting songs of peace made their way through northern Israel on their way to Kfar Yehoshua in the Jezreel Valley.

The 150-mile, 14-day trek to Jerusalem started in Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel and ended on Oct. 19 with a massive protest in front of the president’s and prime minister’s residences.

The women called for a restart to Palestinian-Israel peace negotiations.

"We demand that our leaders work with respect and courage towards a solution to the ongoing violent conflict, with the full participation of women in this process. Only an honorable political agreement will secure the future of our children and grandchildren," participants said.

Local marches and events took place all over the country as well, including a torchlight parade, a traveling performance of “Looking Peace in the Eyes,” children’s activities, art exhibits, rallies and prayers for peace.

The guest of honor was Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the women’s activism that brought an end to Liberia’s bloody civil war.

“Men try to demean women’s activism as if it isn’t important, as if it isn’t ‘the real stuff,'" she told Haaretz. “But guns and bombs are not aimed only at men. Women suffer real pain — and we have real things to say. And women have the ability to come together and bridge our divides — and that is very real, very political and very powerful.”

“We really needed to get off our couches and away from our phones and physically do something, otherwise we remain passive and resigned,” said Donna Kirshbaum from Omer in southern Israel. “We are literally putting one foot in front of the other for peace.”

“We cannot count on men to create peace. We will have to do it by ourselves,” said Fadwa Shear from Ramallah.

Hadassah Froman, the widow of Rabbi Menachem Froman, a renowned peacemaker and negotiator,  and her daughter-in-law Michal Froman, who was wounded in a stabbing attack in 2015, attended the rally as well.

"There is a lot of energy which will lead us on a new path — maybe even to change. I hope that it will be possible to see the connections and to see what can be done to create a solution," Froman said.

Michal attended the rally with her baby daughter. "I believe that the peace we want will happen, and that it will come after we see what is possible and what is definitely not possible. Even the right-wing will work with us towards peace," she said.

"Life will be possible for us here only if we stop being victims of terror, of the occupation. We all need to rise up and begin to work very hard for the sake of our lives here," added.

The Israel-Palestine conflict started with the Middle East war, aka the six-day-war, of June 1967 when Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights, together with the Sinai Peninsula (later traded for peace after the Yom Kippur War).

Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Baz Ratner 

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