Members of Women Wage Peace gather in the capital from across the country to protest stalled peace negotiations, March 4, 2015.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Amid chants of “1, 2, 3, 4: We don’t want any more war!” more than 5,000 mothers and women from across the country gathered in front of the Knesset on a gray and drizzly Wednesday afternoon to demand the resumption of peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders.
As she held a megaphone to lead the chorus, Lily Weisberger, who helped coordinate the gathering, said the group is exasperated by the ongoing conflict.
“We want to bring peace,” she said on behalf of the group ushered to the event by dozens of chartered buses from as far as Sderot and the Golan Heights. “We are tired of war; we are tired of despair.”
The demonstration was organized by Women Wage Peace, an NGO whose mission is to “prevent the next war and lead to resolution of the conflict that is non-violent, respectable and agreeable to both sides – Israeli and Palestinian – within four years,” according to its website.
While the NGO does not support any single party for the election this month, Weisberger said it is demanding that whoever leads the Knesset take immediate action to resume negotiations and finalize a viable peace agreement.
“Israel has forgotten about peace and we want to remind people that this is a realistic option and that not making peace is a lot more dangerous to Israel,” said one mother and businesswoman who attended the event.
“We need to sit with the Palestinians at the same table and talk to each other,” added her friend, yoga instructor Dana Chinsky. “It’s the right decision to continue to talk to each other and stop the bloodshed.”
Efrat Bashiry, an educational adviser at an Arab-Jewish school in Beersheba, said the collective toll that war has taken on all Israelis has reached a critical mass.
“We don’t want to have wars anymore because we pay a big price every year in every family in Israel, and on the Palestinian side, as well. We want to have a real peace and invest our money for good purposes on both sides,” she said. “We don’t want our children to go to the army anymore.”
Eliezer Harkavi, one of the few men in attendance, said he came from Kfar Saba to support his wife and express his disappointment in foundering peace talks.
“We are of the opinion that the solution to this conflict is through negotiations and what drives us is that when our kids were born we said hopefully they would not need to go to the army and now we are saying the same thing about our grandchildren.”
Octogenarian Naomi Pearlman, of Kibbutz Barkai, echoed Harkavi’s sentiments, noting that as she celebrates her 63rd year since making aliya from South Africa, her greatest wish is to ensure a timely and peaceful resolution for her 10 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
“Today we have to realize that we are here, that this is our homeland; but we also have to realize that the Palestinian population is here,” she said. “The important thing is that there be a political arrangement, whichever party is elected.
“I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to live normal lives and not fight in wars,” she added.
According Irit Keynan, who holds a PhD in history and spoke at the event, generations of Israelis have been scarred by post traumatic stress disorder, the subject of a book she has authored.
“Many of our soldiers are coming back with PTSD because now we know that the price of war is not just physical wounds, but mental wounds and living in fear all the time,” she said. “Israel as a state is going through a kind of collective PTSD… and it’s time to help our people heal.”
Noting that her son is a captain in the IDF reserves, Keynan framed the conflict as deeply personal.
“When I was a child, my parents said ‘you have to stand up for the call of your country because we only fight when we have no choice,’” she said.
“Unfortunately, I cannot say this to my son today and it tears me apart. I’m forced to send him to war and I feel there is another choice.”