Women would handle it differently

Haim Haviv's very name seemed to match his character: lively and warm-hearted.

Women in Jerusalem (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Women in Jerusalem
I went to Haim Haviv’s funeral last Wednesday in Jerusalem. His life was taken violently on the morning of October 13, as he was riding a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. I never new him personally, even though I do believe he once came to the nature museum’s communal garden where one set of his grandchildren whom I know closely play and work the land on typical Thursday evenings.
Haim Haviv, I learned at the funeral, had come to Israel from one of the Arab countries as a kid, lived in a ma’abara (refugee absorption camp) for some time, and as an adult worked hard in the construction business to support his family.
His sons, daughter and granddaughters spoke at the funeral, saying how he was a man who respected life, honored human beings and was kind to Jew and Arab alike, addressing people courteously. A man who loved life, made the best out of it, an optimist, who along with his wife Shoshana – who was wounded in the same attack that claimed Haim’s life and is hospitalized at Sha’arei Zedek – did all in his ability to give his children an education so that they could have a better life than his.
And Haim and Shoshana succeeded.
They created a loving family, united and caring. Their adult children are successful professionals, good parents and loving human beings. His children and granddaughters are all heartbroken over the loss of Haim Haviv, whose very name seemed to match his character: lively and warm-hearted.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was also given the chance to speak.
Barkat said he would try to make Jerusalem a better place to live in, by providing security to us, its residents.
As I heard Barkat speak, I wished I could also speak, not only on behalf of myself but of fellow women who feel as I feel.
If I had the chance to speak out about the current situation, I would talk about the exclusion I feel as a woman, I would talk about the public discourse being occupied by male experts in uniforms, police officers, army generals, commentators or politicians. I would talk about women not being part of the public arena, about women’s wisdom and insight not being valued, heard and considered.
I would speak about the pain women feel at our exclusion, about all the opportunities we would seize to negotiate matters politically and not by might.
If my voice were to be heard I would say: there is another way.
What we are seeing all around us is masculine energy in opposition to masculine energy, a fight for a fight, a stabbing for a shooting, a shooting for a killing and by now we have all witnessed how this ends.
In death, bloodshed, crying mothers, devastated wives, daughters and sons. We have seen it again and again, and each time we see it, our inner voice says that if it were up to us women we would handle it differently.
We would foster communication with the Palestinian Israelis and Palestinians rather then shy away from it. We would organize opportunities for us to meet and discuss, face to face, in a safe environment supervised by psychologists and mental health professionals from both sides. We would ask the bereaved parents’ circle for their expertise, as they have managed to create a supportive and loving Arab-Jewish space, where they meet based on the pain they all carry, the pain of their sons and daughters being killed prematurely by the others’ side sons.
The bereaved parents have managed to meet as human beings, they have grown to respect and love each other and are able to see and hear the other’s point of view. They don’t need to agree to honor life.
And by meeting their former enemy they have managed to undo their preconceptions. They have come to see that both sides hold part of the truth. And that both sides hurt.
But today’s grandmothers take for a fact their inability to be heard.
Many of them had never had an education. Most married, had kids, worked in nursing, caring and teaching, and left politics to men, thinking they knew better.
The grandmothers’ voices today are mostly quiet, mostly heard at home and in social events and gatherings.
Their voices, all but a very privileged few, seldom reach the public arena.
Grandmothers are surely in awe, shocked and appalled by our society not being wise enough, creative enough and adult enough for a new kind of strength; a strength that drives us to the negotiating room, a strength that drives us to communicate and have a meaningful discourse, a strength that educates and teaches its young to reach out, meet the other, and carve a path toward the resolution of our differences.
The great grandmothers have been shut away in old age homes, left to die among their peers unheard, their wisdom unrealized and their creative ideas unexplored.
What a terrible waste of resources! Half of the community’s wisdom is being put aside, left unnoticed, only to be whispered in old age homes and women’s salons, at the margins of society.
We all lose by excluding feminine wisdom from the public sphere.
By including the voice of the feminine, the voice that holds the head’s forces in balance by checking them with the heart, we all have to gain. Let us not miss yet another opportunity, let us ask now the feminine wisdom of daughters, mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers to play its part and offer its insights. Instead of the masculine going against the masculine yet again, let the masculine cooperate with the feminine toward a balance that we both yearn for. And yes, maybe then we will be able to enjoy a more balanced and peaceful life, chaim havivim.
The writer is the author of the collection of poems They All Sound Like Love Songs, Women Healing Israeli- Palestinian Relations, published by Ktav. She lives with her family in Jerusalem.