Some 30,000 people took part in the Women Wage Peace rally in Jerusalem on Sunday night in Independence Park.
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The rally was the high point of a “peace walk” that began two weeks ago in Sderot in the Negev and passed through the territories and Israel, with the participation of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women, calling for a peace agreement. Adina Bar-Shalom, founder of an ultra-Orthodox women’s college and the daughter of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also participated.
Among the speakers was former MK Shakib Shanan, whose son Kamil was killed in a terror attack at the Temple Mount three months ago. “Although my heart is bleeding I stand here tonight with you. In pride and faith that only peace and love must connect us. We have suffered so much, Palestinian families and Israeli families have lost their loved ones and been left with a wound that does not heal. I came here to say, we want to live! We are allowed to say this out loud – we are peace-loving. In the name of this huge audience here and hundreds of thousands of Israelis I call on Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu – enough! Sit already. Sit already! We want peace. Listen to our cry, it comes from our hearts. Listen to the cries of truth and justice, we want peace, from this place hope emerges.”
Women Wage Peace
The Women Wage Peace movement was founded three years ago after the war in Gaza, and today numbers 24,000 members.
To be able to have an impact on decision-makers, the founders of Women Wage Peace understood they would need a critical mass of supporters. To achieve that, they knew they would have to appeal to women way outside their natural base: right-wing Israelis, religious Israelis, even settlers. To appeal to such a large and diverse base, they realized they would have to steer clear of controversy and focus on the issues almost all women could agree on.
The organization's message is this: We will not stop until there is a peace agreement. But how exactly this agreement will look – will it include, for example, an independent Palestinian state and the evacuation of settlements, or alternatively, a binational Jewish-Arab state? – these are questions for Israel’s elected leaders to decide, according to the mission statement of Women Wage Peace.
The group owes much of its success – it is by far the largest-growing peace movement in Israel in recent years – to this strategy of focusing its lobbying efforts on what it’s for rather than what it’s against. By avoiding discussion of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has succeeded where similar movements have failed in infiltrating segments of the population once considered to be a lost cause.
Judy Maltz contributed to this report.