Yahaloma Zakut’s speech at the inauguration of The Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security at the Knesset, 30.1.17

We have brought a feminine spirit to the The Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security

Women Wage Peace was established two years ago during Operation Protective Edge. 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.

Women wage peace – because no one will do it instead of us.

Women wage peace – because we won’t agree to live with a sense of insecurity.

Women wage peace – because we won’t ease up – for the sake of our families, our offspring and future generations. We won’t ease up until we reach our goal – peace.

Women wage peace – today here in the Knesset.

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The movement works to achieve a non- violent resolution to a reality that is drenched in blood. The movement calls for bringing the mandate back to the people, to all its citizens because peace belongs to the people. Our movement now has 32,000 supporters. 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. Each woman represented a family and we proved to Israel and to the world that this is the “time of women” – that we have the power to take responsibility for our lives and to decide about our future.

My name is Yahaloma Zakut. I was born, grew up and built a family in the development town of Ofakim, where during emergencies we have 45 seconds to get to a shelter, where we live our routine lives in the shadow of uncertainty and tension. Today I am the director of the Hosen (resilience) Center in Ofakim and I’m also a member of the steering committee of Women Wage Peace. I came to the Knesset, as a simple woman, to call on you to create a new discourse for peace emphasizing the fact that peace belongs to all of us. Peace is the  demand of the people for hope.

In 2012, a few months before Operation Pillar of Defense, the security situation in the south was defined as “drizzling” which means that every now and then there were sirens and missiles and we went about our lives- business as usual. A Grad missile fell right near my home. The panic, confusion and hopelessness that were felt by all the neighbors led us to understand that we needed an emergency squad. The Hosen Center was set up and grew. We get professional support from Natal (an organization that provides help for trauma victims); we have 350 volunteers who represent all the various groups within Ofakim – religious, traditional, students, new immigrants and youth, with women in leadership positions in most of these groups

My message from this multi-cultured community in Ofakim is that it is possible to do things differently. I want peace first within our society and also with our neighbors.

The meeting with Women Wage Peace challenged us to find a common denominator. The difference between us revealed the social gaps within our society  to me and my community; these differences are reflected in political affiliation, voting patterns, socioeconomic status, language, discourse, and ethnic and religious identity.  But, we learned very quickly that the whole is greater than its parts; the partnership between us is not based on bereavement, fear, pain or weakness, but on strength. We are strong enough to lead towards change and peace. We feel powerful, determined and motivated to promote the interests of the State of Israel for hope, the sanctification of life, and peace through a political agreement. Yes, there is a place for leadership by women in the political discourse – this is the time of women!

Yes, we want PEACE! I ask the government, the Knesset and public representatives: ”Are you representing the will of the people?” I, Yahaloma Zakut ask as an Israeli citizen: “What did you do this week, as a representative of the people, to promote a political agreement? “ You can’t say that I don’t understand anything about security; coping with security is my everyday life – social, human and occupational security.

We demand an Israeli initiative for ending the conflict -immediately! We will not agree   to the conflict managing us. As we say at the Hosen Center “The situation is crazy, but we are normal”. We are not willing to remain in a situation of “reacting to events”; we demand a clear plan with a vision, strategies and responsibility for decision making in order to achieve a political agreement that will bring back hope and peace to our lives.

Very often when women become involved in security issues, we are told that we are naïve and lack understanding of these matters, that we are emotional and weak. Oh really!!

The reality washed away the naivety from our eyes a long time ago! We pay the price of this reality without being part of creating it. Together we can fight on any front, including the home front and the international arena. We will not agree to be another fly on the wall. Together we will make sure that women are included in every sphere of influence, including peace and security.

We are capable and determined to be part of creating a reality of peace. And we won’t ease up.

We promised my grandchildren, Israeli children, a “dove with an olive branch” and this will happen!

We, Women Wage Peace, won’t ever ease up. We will act according to what is written in Psalms: Seek peace and pursue it. Rashi says: Seek peace in your home and pursue it elsewhere. Peace among all of us and with our neighbors.

Women Wage Peace, women of Israel – now is the time of women!

Translated by Sue Levinstein