Donna Kirshbaum \ from the streets to the halls of power

This time we took seats at the table. In the two years since our founding, we’ve circled and spoken in front of the Knesset [March 2015, our second national action], marched past it during Oct. 2016’s  March of Hope, and most recently rallied outside, weekly, with 120 posters, each bearing the face of an MK [member of parliament] and the words What have you done today for an agreement? or A strong government makes peace. This week WWP made more history when we were formally invited inside to launch the Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security, the first of its kind in Israel’s nearly 70-year history. With our support, women MKs will initiate, craft, and pressure colleagues to support legislation leading to greater peace, security, and shared prosperity. In brief, we’ve arrived among our decision-makers and we plan to stay. Our voices have been heard and we’ll continue to make them heard until we reach our one goal: a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians.

The launch ceremony demonstrated, once again, our ability to unite as women to demand a secure and peaceful future. The limited-seating hall was filled to capacity with WWP members  – easy to spot in white shirts and turquoise scarves – who had come from throughout the country to support those formally representing us: Yahaloma Zechut from Ofakim near the Gaza border [a current steering committee coordinator profiled in the September newsletter]; Dr. Rehab Abed Elhalim [see article below] from a town near Haifa; retired Judge Saviona Rot-Levy from Tel Aviv [co-coordinator of our Government Relations team]; and Michal Froman from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Founding MKs of the new caucus [sh’dula in Hebrew; often translated as ”lobby”] Ksenia Svetlova and Michal Rozin also spoke, joined by Merav Ben Ari, Amir Peretz, Zahava Galon,Yehuda Glick, Eitan Broshi, Yehiel ‘Hilik’ Bar, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Revital Swid, Meirav Michaeli and others. Well-known academics Prof. Galia Golan and Dr. Sarai Aharoni offered encouragement, as did Orna Shimroni of the “Four Mothers” movement and Sarah Rosenfeld, a twice-bereaved mother from a West Bank settlement who lost a son during his army service and then another to an act of terror last year. WWP members reported being greeted warmly by MKs from the Left and Right who noted the growing strength of our movement, thanked us for bringing peace back into the public discourse, and acknowledged our role in reminding the nation that peace is possible.

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Excerpts from Yahaloma’s speech; click here for entire speech [translated] and here for the Hebrew video.

Two years ago… facing despair, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness and loss of security, a group of determined women chose to create an alternative of hope and peace. We women are waging peace because [we know that] no one else will do it instead…because we’ll never agree to living indefinitely without a sense of security… and we won’t let up until there is peace. We are here for the sake of our families and future generations. Today, women are waging peace in the Knesset. 

WWP intends to achieve a non-violent end to a reality drenched in blood. We call for bringing the mandate to the people of Israel, to all its citizens, because peace belongs to every one of us. Our movement now has 33,000 supporters worldwide; tens of thousands of women – Jews and Arabs, from the right, center and left of the political spectrum, religious and secular, participated in the March of Hope this past October. Also [when you reckon our influence] remember that each woman represents an entire family. We have proved to Israel and the world that this is the time for women to claim our power, taking responsibility for our lives and deciding our future, ourselves. 

My name is Yahaloma Zakut. I was born, grew up and raised a family in the development town of Ofakim near the Gaza border, where during incoming rocket fire we have 45 seconds to get to a shelter and where we live our daily lives in the shadow of uncertainty and tension. Today I am the Director of the Hosen [Resilience] Center there and a member of the steering committee of Women Wage Peace. I came to the Knesset to speak as a simple ordinary woman, to call on you to create a new dialogue for peace … Peace is the demand of the people for hope…

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Read also Dr. Yael Braudo-Bahat’s and Sarit Bloom’s articles on the launch of the Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security ,