Ruth Matar, cofounder of an enduring grass roots movement, passes away

Matar and her husband gathered like-minded people around them, and in 1993, almost as an instant response to Oslo, established what was initially called “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow.’

A memorial candle (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A memorial candle
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Israelis first learned about Ruth Matar as an artist long before she rose to even greater fame as a co-founder of one of Israel’s most enduring protest movements: Women in Green.
Matar, who was in her late eighties, passed away on Saturday and was buried late that night at the Mount of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem, following a service at the Sanhedria funeral parlor.
A Vienna-born jewelry designer who developed her talents in America before moving to Israel, Matar had a studio and showroom in her home in the capital’s Yemin Moshe, which in her time was well populated by artists, craftspeople, novelists and poets.
Not everyone knew that she was also a child Holocaust survivor, who at age eight had witnessed Nazi stormtroopers come to her home, knock down the door and beat her mother, who had turned back to get warm jackets for the children.
Distinctly right-wing in her political persuasion, Matar was not only shocked but outraged by the Oslo Accords. She had never been well-disposed towards the Labor Party, and even when it was in opposition, she wrote scathing articles about what she perceived as the negative influence it had on life in Israel.
But before that, she was determined to do everything in her power to prevent the implementation of the Oslo agreements. Nothing could persuade her to cede territory which she believed belonged to Israel. To her, there was no such thing as the disputed territories. The disputes were among people, and the territories were part of the State of Israel.
Matar and her husband gathered like-minded people around them, and in 1993, almost as an instant response to Oslo, established what was initially called “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow.’ Matar saw it not only as a protest movement, but as a defense movement safeguarding Israel’s territorial integrity for future generations.
Rather than come up with uniforms that not everyone would be willing to wear, Matar hit upon peaked green caps for supporters to wear so that when engaging in any kind of activity as a group, they would stand out and be noticed.
Although men were among the members, they were heavily outnumbered by women, and when the name of the organization was changed in relation to its head hear, its new appellation was and is “Women in Green.”
Aside from its primary purpose, Women in Green has also had educational projects, tree planting events  and an annual encircling of the Old City walls of Jerusalem on Tisha Be’Av, and has been a networking movement for new immigrants and for English speakers and more recently French speakers who have difficulty in mastering Hebrew.
Whenever the movement needed to make a statement, small clusters of Women in Green holding up placards with the message of the day could be seen on street corners.
Matar was a great admirer of Ariel Sharon’s until he ordered the evacuation of Gush Katif, after which she called him a traitor and accused him of betraying the country.
She was very close to former tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi and was devastated when he was assassinated.
Almost everyone who passionately espouses a cause wants to be sure that someone will carry the ball when they are no longer in the position to do so.
Matar was fortunate in a having a charismatic, eloquent, multi-lingual daughter-in-law whom she was able to imbue with her worldview.
Nadia Matar currently heads Women in Green together with Yehudit Katzover, and has done so for several years. While the two share equal responsibility, Matar is the more convincing speaker, who can instantly switch languages depending on her audience.
Ruth Matar willed them to keep fighting for Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and they have every intention of continuing her legacy, and her belief that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.