From the Streets to the Hall of Power \ Sarit Bloom

The Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security, an initiative of the WWP movement, was launched in the Knesset, on Monday, 30th January 2017.

About 250 women went up to the Knesset for the launching of The Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security. The security men at the entrance were not sure how to handle such a large number of women in white. But, eventually, we managed to overcome that hurdle and reach the hall where the opening ceremony was taking place. The sight of so many women sitting around the square table played on the heart strings. We could feel the positive vibes of energy in the room, the acceptance and the approval of everyone within it. There was a fusion of women of different backgrounds, who have different viewpoints, diverse opinions and dissimilar ways of life and who were looking for something in common, something which could unite us all.

Yahalom and Rehav representing WWP at the panel in the Knesset

For over two hours we were captivated, listening to around twenty five speakers, members of the Knesset and others. Each contributed, in their turn, their messages, wishes and visions. It was stated that WWP are steadfast in our belief, that we are determined that we should reach a peace agreement with our neighbours, ‘because peace belongs to everybody and has to be the popular produce for us all’ (MK Amir Peretz). We understood that it is unwise to just manage the conflict, and that we should try to achieve a clear plan for a better future. The voices were strong and clear in their messages aimed at the elected members in the hope that they would understand that leaders are chosen in order to bring about a solution to a conflict and not in order to manage a conflict. Here, in the Middle East, it was stated, there is the need to instigate initiatives and the time is here and now. And, that we do have a partner as is evident by the participation of the Palestinian delegation from Ramallah who have come to celebrate with us the launch of this caucus.  The speakers and the supporters stated clearly and loudly that it is vital to make changes to the country’s condition. These statements were made in the right place – the Knesset. Although, as MK Eitan Broshi mentioned, there was a wide gulf between the energies in the room we were in and what was happening in the other rooms in the building, a wide gulf which needs to be closed, and, indeed, this is one of the caucus’s aims.

It was mentioned that women, as mothers and wives, are paying a heavy price at times of war. But, it was also very apparent that we, as women and mothers, have managed to bring about a discourse that has been a long time in coming as well as bringing back the word ‘Peace’ from the depth of oblivion. At this occasion of the launch, it seemed that WWP managed to arouse a new mood in which women could take their destiny in their own hands and become full participants in the country’s momentous decisions concerning security and peace. The UN 1325 resolution, which speaks of incorporating women within decision making bodies, must be implemented here too. Women have the right and they should be partners within the decision making bodies where they can contribute their points of view and their feminine voices. The current situation trades off peace for security – a concept which is seen as ruling and controlling. But, Professor Galia Golan challenged, does the current situation really bring about security? The discourse of peace and security could not take place only through the barrel of a gun; women are able to extend the concept of security to include peace as well.

It was clear to all of us how important it is that women should be heard ‘because society’s strength stems from diversified points of view brought into any discourse’ (Dr Shlomit Meir).

The feeling was, as Yael Admi put it, that we are witnessing an historical moment, another step on the way to the negotiating table. We all sensed that the female strength and voice hold a wealth of sympathy, empathy and mutual understanding. Now it is time to use the tools at our disposal in order to challenge the Knesset, to change the current thinking for the better. The challenge is to produce a large and powerful body, which will include all the parties of the Knesset, in order to be able to strive together towards a common vision. It is time to make a decision as to the character we wish the country to have and to realise that there are difficult decisions to be taken, and compromises and concessions to be made. Yet, we must not give up or be fearful for, as Michal Frumin put it – ‘we must not let fear drive us. Agreement could be reached only when people see each other and can live with each other.’

‘Ideology stems from pain,’ said Dr Rahab Abd Halim, and Sara Rosenfeld, a bereaved mother from Kokhav HaShahar, is proof of this; She chose to attend the launch rather than be at the rally for Amona, which took place at the same time, because she felt that ‘WWP is a group generating hope’, and ‘maybe’, she added, ‘only women can give birth to peace and quiet, because we are all tired of wars.’

This country belongs to all of us, and we all need to work to make it a better place and produce a better future. Possibly, it is the female touch which brings diversified and determined voices that have been missing from the public discourse. It could bring with it sensitivity to others and the beginning of a constructive dialogue. Now, with the launching of The Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security, we have also an address for the suggestion of initiatives and concrete ideas. As Saviona Rotlevi summed up the discussions – Now the time has come to demand to be part of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, to take part in the Committee for the Advancement of Women, to call on the government to look for solutions and to demand of the elected members to do something every day for the advancement of peace.

The following people contributed to the discussion (in order of appearance):

Dr Mailyn Smadja, Orna Shimoni, Yael Admi, Aviva Flakser, MK Ksenia Svetlova, Yahaloma Zechut, KM Yehiel Bar, KM Amir Peretz, KM Michal Rozin, KM Zehava Gal-On, Dr Sarai Aharoni, KM Eitan Broshi, Sara Rosenfeld, KM Revital Swid, Amal Muasi, Prof Galia Golan, Dr Shlomit Meir, Dr Sahana Britansky, Michal Frumin, Dr Rahab Abd Halim, KM Yehuda Glik, Tova Forman, KM Merav Michaeli, Dr Sarah Feinberg,   Abdullah Abu Marouf, Tova Levi, Orit Kashi, Saviona Rotlevi