Four Brave Women in a Fearful Time

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Playwright, author and actor Gila Almagor.Credit: Gabriel Baharlia

Today’s column, for a change, is a thank-you note. It expresses my gratitude to four courageous women – Orna Banai, Shira Geffen, Gila Almagor and Achinoam Nini – whose mouths say what is in their hearts and reveal it to us. In a place where there were no men, they were women.

Our thanks are also due to the other few good women and men who have waived their right to remain silent and fulfilled their duty to the state and society. If they have slipped my memory for a moment, history won’t forget them; it remembers despite its advanced age.

From my own experience, I know they are now feeling abandoned, completely alone; but they aren’t feeling miserable. They are sure of themselves, yet their isolation must weigh on them. All those who hesitate to express their own views will surely be too afraid to support the views of these women. But haven’t we always been impressed by “opinionated women”? How did it happen that they have suddenly become witches, that they, of all people, are now being hunted?

Do Nini, Geffen, Banai and Almagor love the children of Sderot and Zikim any less? Are they any less concerned for our soldiers in Gaza? Does the cacophonous MK Miri Regev love and care about them more? They say there is love and solidarity in war, but what exactly is this love? Hatred, in contrast, is far clearer; it explains itself with a shriek.

I would have expected one other woman – Limor Livnat is her name, and she happens to be the minister of culture, the four womens’ minister – to come to their defense. She isn’t obligated to agree with every word, but she is obligated to defend their right, and their obligation, to say it. But what does the culture minister have to do with the culture of public discourse?

One would also have expected a suitable statement from the education minister, Shay Piron, but his mouth is full of pronouncements about how “Israel is moving up a grade” and about “meaningful learning.” And thus, altering a single Hebrew letter, he has turned “Quiet, they’re shooting” into “be quiet, teachers” – male and female alike.

Each of these four women has expressed herself in her own fashion. Nevertheless, their statements have a common denominator: At a certain moment, they became ashamed of their Israeli identity – all of them together and, above all, each one individually. One became ashamed when the spirit of revenge began sweeping through the land and terrorizing it; another became ashamed when four children were killed while playing on a beach in Gaza; a third became ashamed when thugs rained blows on demonstrators as policemen simply stood there, just as they did in notorious pogroms; and the fourth became ashamed when Bedouin were killed and wounded in “open spaces” as transparent, unrecognized citizens. Has there been a lack of opportunities for shame recently?

I, too, was filled with it, when I heard a major general of the reserves, or of nothing, urging on television this week that a neighborhood full of people be wiped off the face of the earth. I was also ashamed to see a war criminal from the last war invited to Channel 2’s television studio to give advice on the current war. And I was ashamed to stick my nose into the filth spread across the pages of “the country’s newspaper”: The son of a former prime minister, a dubious character in his own right, was recommending that we “put the entire neighborhood to sleep.” “You don’t remove fleas from a dog with tweezers; you dunk the entire dog in the stuff,” the author barked like a rabid dog, dripping saliva.

Thank you, my friends, for not being afraid. After all, it’s clear “they are afraid,” for if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have come down on you like a ton of bricks. Fear speaks from their throats; they aren’t confident that they are right.

Thank you for standing up for what you believe, for not regretting and not apologizing, for refusing to give in to either Hamas or the local rabble.

They aren’t just threatening your lives and your families; they’re also trying to damage your careers. But you have already proven more than once that your anger is stronger and more important than your pocketbooks. I read in Israel Hayom today that Mano Maritime Ltd. – there is such a company – had decided to do without Orna Banai’s songs and advertisements. Businessmen at sea are the first to identify which way the evil wind is blowing, and they will divert their battered ships to shallow water, wetting themselves from terror of the public.

Look into your hearts and tell me: Haven’t you ever felt a sense of shame over what we have done, or over the songs we have sung? If so, this might be the moment.

Shira GeffenCredit: Eyal Nevo