Yahalom Zechut: A Woman Wages Peace

Translated and edited by Orna Raz

This week again, Yahaloma left her home in Ofakim to take part in the fifth gathering of Israeli Salad in Kibbutz Snir at the far north of the country. Israeli Salad is the brainchild of Yahaloma, and it came to life as the result of collaboration with another member of the movement, Lili Weisberger.  The Salad takes places in selected locations across Israel, and brings together women from different segments of the population with activists from Women wage Peace

These gatherings celebrate the diversity in Israeli society, as the participants share not only their special food, but also their special insights and world view. Whether the event takes place in the south, or in the far north: Yahaloma and her friends are always there.

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In the first meeting of “Israeli Salad” Yahaloma introduced the concept: “Israeli Salad answers the need of our society for a new type of discussion. Women from peripheral areas and women from the center of Israel get together and construct a new personal and collective identity. The bond between them opens up a new channel of communication and inspires a shared vision.”

Last summer  (2015) the movement organized a communal fast that lasted for 50 days to commemorate Operation Protective Edge. Yahaloma joined Women Wage Peace following a visit to the tent of Women Wage Peace in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

As a resident of Ofakim Yahaloma personally experienced the last two wars in the south. Her desire for peace is deeply connected to the events that took place in her town and to her own biography. She firmly believes in waging peace amongst us, which will bring about peace with our neighbors. She promotes a new kind of inclusive dialogue, and in the Salads she practices a “discourse of listening.”

Yahaloma was born and raised in Ofakin, she served in the Israeli army as an airplanes electrician until she took an early retirement. In 2012, after a bomb fell near her home, causing panic and anxiety, she founded a Resilience Center in town. That center offers emotional and psychological assistance in times of need, and serves as a community and cultural center in other times.

Last year Yahaloma was invited to speak about the Resilience Center at the AIPAC convention.

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Her friends in Women Wage Peace regard Yahaloma as a natural leader who is fighting for justice. She is full of ideas, and is a tireless activist. For them her first name Yahaloma (diamond in Hebrew) is especially meaningful, as it is a perfect name for a precious member of the movement. But even her family name Zechut (one’s right) is symbolic as it captures her special commitment to those who have less. Behind this strong woman stands a strong family: Shuki Zechut, her husband and four daughters and grandchildren.

Yahaloma compares the different segments in Israeli society to a salad in which each ingredient still maintains its special quality and flavor. Similarly, The divisions within Israeli society (between center and periphery, right and left, religious and non-religious people, and Arab and Jews), are always present, but in a mixture they turn into a healthy diversion.

So far the Israeli Salad have been extremely successful in creating meaningful encounters and spreading good-will.