Opening words at the 19.7.17 Knesset session hosted by the Caucus for Women, Peace and Security / Saviona Rotlevy

On behalf of Women Wage Peace, I would like to thank the Caucus’ chairwomen Ksenia Svetlova and Michal Rozin for convening this session.

This special meeting today is the result of the wonderful initiative taken by the Canadian, Irish, Finish, Slavonic and French ambassadors who decided to create an all-women- ambassadors-to-Israel group in support of WWP,  which they launched this past March on  International Women’s Day.

I also wish to offer special thanks to the honorable French, Irish, Finish, Slavonic, Croatian, Cypriot, Ecuadorian and Maltese ambassadors, who have come to the Knesset today to support our movement’s aims and principles. As many of you know, these aims include

  • 1. striving to resolve the bloody conflict between us and our Palestinian neighbors by non-violent and respectful means in order to achieve a diplomatic agreement acceptable to both sides

2. involving women in the negotiating process as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of the year 2000, adopted as Israeli law in 2005 and backed up by the government in 2014. (Unfortunately this legal change has not as yet been internalized by our country’s decision makers.)

Our movement is determined to act in all possible non-violent means in order to achieve the above aims. 

Saviona Rotlevy and Suzan Abed Al-Kadar at the caucus meeting

The past week has been a difficult week, straining our belief in the possibility of bringing about change: two Druze policemen were killed by three Arab terrorists, all citizens of Israel. But, whoever remembers the daily television news only a few years ago, when bloodshed tore apart Ireland and our own neighbor, Cyprus, is not going to give up, but will continue to hope that, here too, a change is possible.

Your appearance, dear ambassadors, as far as I am concerned, is a feminist act of the utmost importance, as you are appreciative of the special voice women possess that can truly bring about change. You understand that it is not acceptable for women, who make up half the world’s population, not to have a say in important decisions concerning the survival of the human race.

You recognize that in places marked by violent wars led by men who were unable to end them for many years, women have managed to stop them by non-violent means – through negotiation, through their ability to listen, to connect, to include rather than exclude, to relate to the suffering and stories of others. This recognition was expressed very well many years ago by the anthropologist Margaret Mead who said: “It has been a woman’s task throughout history to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope.”

Jody Williams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work in the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines, raised another important issue of which we are also well aware. Here is how she expressed her disappointment at the small number of women who have received the world’s most prestigious peace prize: 

Men are the ones who decide to go to war. Following war, however, it is the women who heal the wounds and help their societies return to normal. Women are the ones holding society together after peace is achieved. But who gets the recognition for achieving peace? To whom does this [Nobel] committee give the prize? Almost always to men.   

Your decision, dear ambassadors, to be here today and share with us your countries’ experience and your personal insights, epitomizes, in my view, feminine solidarity – a solidarity which crosses continents, people, countries and religions.

Without this solidarity, also found among us here in Israel, it would be impossible to continue with our struggle and even harder to pay the price for this struggle.

Our solidarity – as Jewish and Arab Israeli women, along with Palestinian women – is a solidarity that may clash with the political aspirations of each side but that can, by the same token, be fused by our common desire to overcome disputes and ensure a better future for our children, grandchildren and generations beyond. Solidarity is vital in order for our struggle to succeed and it is based, to our great sorrow, on the common experience of war and suffering.

Women’s solidarity, it is important to remember, doesn’t come out of the air. It is based on what incredible women have done in previous generations. As Maya Angelou, an African-American poet and human rights leader, put it so succinctly: “How important it is to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.” 

We are a link in a long chain of determined, brave, daring, curious, wise, sensitive, and peace-loving women. We have been learning from others’ experience and know that our task, in turn, is to instill and bequeath our wisdom to others, best captured by the words, If you have knowledge, let others light their candles by it, spoken by Margaret Fuller, a 19th century American journalist and activist.

We have come today to learn from the experience of women who have fought for peace, including Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, the founders of the Peace Movement in Ireland, Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, as well as to a few other women – unfortunately not enough of them – who have been internationally recognized for their work.

I look forward to hearing from our honorable ambassadors and to a fruitful discussion afterwards.