Thousands of mothers, grandmothers and sisters from across the country united in Jerusalem to demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restart peace negotiations, at the culmination of a two-week “March of Hope.”
Organized by the NGO Women Wage Peace, the trek, which began in Rosh Hanikra, concluded on Wednesday night in front of Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, with several hundred demonstrators of all ages standing on a temporarily closed street holding anti-war placards.
According to the organization’s website, its mission is a “nonpolitical, broad-based and rapidly growing movement of thousands of women to restore hope, and work toward a peaceful existence for ourselves, our children and future generations.”
Wearing a Women Wage Peace T-shirt, Raya Kalisman, the 70-something grandmother who founded the Humanistic Education and Ghetto Fighters Museum in the Western Galilee, said the NGO was created a year and a half ago, following the 2014 war in Gaza.
“The mothers started asking themselves, ‘Why are we sending our children to war, and what is the future for our children and grandchildren?’” said Kalisman, who traveled from the Galilee to attend Wednesday’s demonstration.
“Women from across the country joined us from the Left, Right and Center – religious and nonreligious,” she said.
Asked what she would say to Netanyahu if given the opportunity, Kalisman replied, “We want you to start thinking differently.”
“We want him to start thinking not [of] war, but [of] negotiation,” she added. “And we will keep protesting until there is an agreement.”
Yigal Shebar, a 48-year-old school principal, and his wife, Daniella, a social worker, said they felt compelled to join the demonstration to express their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs between Jews and Palestinians.
“I believe that we can achieve some kind of agreement with the Palestinians,” said Yigal. “I believe we have a very tough partner, and that the two sides don’t like each other, and it may take a couple years to have an achievement, but we must do it.”
Daniella added, “We really got this feeling that this country is very, very stuck in a lot of areas because of the non-negotiations with the Palestinians, and it’s not allowing this country to be what it could be, and what we believe it should be.”
Mentioning their three children, Daniella said she does not want to be “a person who stays at home when everything is falling apart.”
The couple added that they directly blame Netanyahu for the impasse.
“We are Israelis, so our leader is Netanyahu, not Abbas,” said Yigal. “If we were Palestinian, we would blame Abbas, but I don’t care about Abbas. I only care about Netanyahu.”
“I think Netanyahu has failed in a lot of areas, and this is the main one,” added Daniella.
Sima Salh, a Druse grandmother wearing a hijab, said she traveled with 15 other Druse women from Haifa to demand peace negotiations.
“I want peace in all the world,” she said, adding that her son served in the IDF. “The problem here is the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They are not hearing our voice. Netanyahu and the government must listen to our voices. The mothers have much to say, but there are no ears to listen, not Netanyahu’s and not Abbas’s.”
Danny, a 73-year-old retiree who requested his last name not be published, said none of the hundreds of demonstrators was wearing a yarmulke, which he said is problematic.
“We are a very democratic country,” he said. “And the problem is that if you look around at the people supporting this demonstration, you don’t see [religious people] who belong to the right-wing parties, and they are setting the political tone in Israel.”
“Until they join us,” Danny continued, “there is no way that it will succeed.”