(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, the wife of Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, has written to America’s first lady, Michelle Obama, to ask her to convene a summit meeting of the wives of leaders, politicians and elected officials from the Middle East with the aim of promoting coexistence and understanding.
In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Shalom, who might have become Israel’s first lady if her husband did not withdraw his candidacy from the last presidential race, said that she had not indicated in her letter to Obama who her husband is or what his role is in Israel’s government.
A media personality in her own right and a spontaneous social activist who does not hesitate to make her views known via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Shalom does not need to walk in her husband’s shadow.
This is one of the reasons that she merely signed her name to the letter without any explanation beyond what was implied in her opening paragraph, namely that as the wife of a politician, she was addressing Obama in the latter’s capacity as a woman, a mother and the wife of the most important world leader.
Shalom said that she was prompted to write the letter because men are not making any headway toward peace, whereas mothers, who do not want their sons to go to war and to risk being maimed or killed, are more likely to find common ground and to think out of the box in an attempt to resolve their differences and to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shalom believes that she will find a kindred spirit in Michelle Obama, who has been in the forefront of organizing action and movements for change, thereby giving ordinary people a place in the democratic process, and supporting grassroots movements on issues that matter most to the nation. Obama also added her voice to the global social media campaign for bringing home the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.
For these and other reasons, Shalom is hopeful that Obama will consider her request and will host a meeting of this kind in Washington, which would be neutral territory for all concerned.
The letter reads: “I allow myself to address you by your first name because although we are married to politicians, neither you nor I are elected officials. I am writing to you as a woman, a mother and the wife of the most important world leader.
“I would like to propose that you make use of your unique position to convene a summit meeting of the wives of leaders, politicians and elected officials of the peoples of the Middle East. Together, I believe we can launch an international dialogue of unprecedented scope to promote coexistence and understanding that will benefit from our unique perspective and positions as wives, mothers and women leaders.
“Conflict, hatred and violence continue to spread throughout the Middle East with no end in sight. The region’s rulers, all males, are driven by many different interests including religious belief, political agendas, prejudices and even ego.
“We, the wives of political leaders and mothers to the next generation already born into conflict, have a special responsibility to do whatever is possible – and maybe a few things that are impossible – to ensure that our children face a better future; one of cooperation, coexistence and harmony.
We are uniquely placed to exert influence over the society we live in.
“I know there are women in similar positions in the Arab countries surrounding Israel, and especially in the Palestinian Authority. Similarly to you and me, they feel compassion, sympathy and care for their next generation.
“It is time to get a group of women together, women who share our belief in peaceful coexistence but have not yet made their voice heard loudly and clearly.”
Shalom is confident that if Obama agrees to host such a conference, “we women will succeed where men have failed and bring some light to the end of the tunnel.”
During Operation Protective Edge, Shalom spent much of her time in the South, helping to ease the situation for soldiers going into or coming out of Gaza and bringing relief to civilians.
She organized gala fashion shows in bomb shelters in Ashdod so that women could temporarily forget their fears and tensions.
She also took a large group of women from the South to a luxury spa in order to get them out of both their physical and mental environment and to bring some joy into their lives.
Together with broadcaster Nissim Mishal, she runs “Hom” (Warmth), an organization dedicated to providing food for hungry children from poor backgrounds.
She was also the head of an organization dealing with the rehabilitation of drug addicts. She attends numerous charity events and does a lot of behind-the-scenes social work.
Shalom is on a lecture tour to the United States this week. Will she make an effort to meet Michelle Obama while she’s there? She won’t say.
But if the first lady invites her to come by, she’s not likely to decline, because both these women, when they embrace a cause, mean business.