Taking distinctive action against what they view as dead-end politics and failed peace processes, thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women joined together on a two-week march across the country to call for an end to the bloodshed of an intractable conflict.
The march was organized by the Israeli grassroots Women Wage Peace movement, and culminated in a rally of some 30,000 people in Jerusalem on Oct. 8. This year’s march was the second of its kind, the first having taken place last year.
One of the participants on the march this year was Israeli believer Hedva Haymov, leader of the women’s department at the Musalaha reconciliation ministry.
“As a believer I feel it is my duty to pursue peace, as much as it is possible, with all people. I also wanted to connect with the larger population and was curious to see how people of so many differing views could stand together for something they believe in,” Haymov told KNI. “What I saw on the march was women connecting. The march was inclusive, nurturing and encompassing.”
Women Wage Peace (WWP) was founded after the Israel-Gaza war of 2014. The organization has two principal demands of Israel’s political leaders: 1. the immediate negotiation of a mutually acceptable and sustainable agreement with the Palestinians, within a predetermined time period, and 2. the equal representation of women from diverse communities in all aspects of the decision making process.
Lisa Loden, co-founder of Beit Asaph, a Messianic congregation in central Israel, told KNI how she got involved with WWP after becoming acquainted with one of its organizers.
“When I heard the organizer’s passionate heart for peace and her commitment to actively do something to bring change, I decided to take part in the WWP march last year,” Loden said. “It was an incredible experience — marching through the streets of Jerusalem with thousands of women from every walk of life, singing and chanting, ‘There has to be another way.’”
This year’s march began in Sderot, continued through the desert city of Dimona, proceeded to the towns around Gaza, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Nazareth and culminated in a major rally in downtown Jerusalem.
In his address to the rally, former Knesset Member Shachiv Shnaan, who lost his son in July’s Temple Mount attack, urged: “Stop terrorism and stop the occupation. Let us live for the memory of both our fallen and our children that still remain.”
Loden said that the initiatives of WWP are the first steps taken by people who want to see Israel take responsibility to initiate and follow through with a solution that will bring about an end to the conflict.
“WWP are highly organized and are active throughout the entire country in large and small communities,” Loden noted. “As women we can make a difference and our voices can be heard in the places of power and decision making.”
”As WWP members we have demonstrated at the Israeli Knesset and have met with lawmakers,” Loden said. “We regularly hold banners at highway intersections throughout the country, declaring our commitment to continue to make our voices heard until the government takes heed.”
In regards to political color, Haymov explains that WWP is neither a right- nor left-wing effort, but rather one that is underwritten by suffering.
“This is not a pro-Palestinian organization, nor is it only Israeli,” Haymov said. “The leadership of this movement have, themselves, lost someone dear to them in this conflict and so they have the right to speak.”
“WWP has chosen at this stage not to use rhetoric that would distance or polarize those it seeks to engage,” Loden added. “This does not imply that they are unaware or indifferent to the imbalance of power, or to the issues of land, injustice and security.”
Marilyn Smadja, one of the movement’s founders, emphasized that WWP is not promoting one particular agreement, simply seeking an agreement reached within a predetermined time that is “agreed upon by all sides.”
“For the first time in Israel’s history, a single movement has brought together women from every corner of the political spectrum to wage peace,” Smadja told reporters.