A Year After Gaza War, Women Wage Peace Ends 50-day Protest Fast

At the demonstration outside Benjamin Netanyahu's residence, right-wingers who came to mock the protesters were invited in to talk.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Women Wage Peace on the last day of a protest outside the prime minister's official residence, August 26, 2015.
Women Wage Peace on the last day of a protest outside the prime minister's official residence, August 26, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

The Women Wage Peace movement ended a 50-day protest fast Wednesday with a rally outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, where they urged Benjamin Netanyahu to obtain a peace agreement.

Hundreds of women from throughout the country attended — Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, native Israelis and new immigrants.

For 50 days, the length of last summer’s war in Gaza, the women staffed a protest tent outside the residence. They took it down every night because the municipality did not let them sleep there.

They fasted in shifts of 25 to 50 hours each. Organizers said some 300 women and men from 114 localities took part.

During the vigil they were visited by politicians from across the political spectrum — from Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) on the right to MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) on the left — as well as authors, artists and ordinary people. But not Netanyahu.

Zohara Antebi, a leader of the Four Mothers movement that successfully advocated for an Israeli pullout from Lebanon in the 1990s, was one faster. “Persistence is women’s secret, and it’s what will crack the intolerable reality,” she said. “A woman can’t stand a situation where they tell her there’s no solution.”

Women Wage Peace, which was inspired by Four Mothers, calls for a peace agreement without specifying its terms, to attract as much support as possible.

“They say ‘a nonviolent agreement that respects both sides,’” Antebi said. “It’s so pretty, and it doesn’t just arouse hope. It’s achievable.”

She said the goal was “to collect the critical mass that will start showing up more in the opinion polls the politicians feed off. For this you need persistence and patience, and that’s something women have.”

Women Wage Peace, Antebi added, has accumulated “much more strength in a much shorter time” than Four Mothers did.

Yael Admi, one of the organizers, said: “We called it the magic tent — politics of love and listening.” Right-wingers who came to mock the women were invited in to talk, she added; “Everyone was listened to, and we reached agreements with everyone.”

“Every conflict ends eventually,” Admi said. “The question is after how many cycles of pain and how many people buried.”

Still, Admi was disappointed by the meager media coverage. When Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who lost three daughters in the 2009 Gaza war, came to visit, Admi was sure it would attract massive media attention, but it didn’t.

“What has to happen for this to interest them?” she said.

But Lili Weisberger, another activist, counseled patience. “We’re embarking on a marathon of several years,” she said. “We aren’t willing to give up the hope under any circumstances, because that would be death.”

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