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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

8 December 2000
Subject: Women in Black today


I have read several letters from Palestinians that ask a very important question: Where is the voice of the Israeli peace camp? I know that enough can never be done until this occupation is over, but I would like to say that the women’s peace groups in Israel continue to speak out on behalf of a just peace.

Today, Women in Black in Jerusalem were a case in point.

We knew it would be a difficult vigil because just this morning, a woman settler, mother of six, had been shot to death in a car near her settlement just outside Hebron. The killing of Israelis is always an occasion for the right wing to seek scapegoats among the left, and today was no exception. This was aggravated by the fact that the settlers decided to drive the funeral procession past the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem — one block away from Women in Black, and exactly during the vigil — between 1 and 2 p.m.

Just as we women gathered at the plaza, the settlers also appeared, many armed to the teeth — revolvers in their belts and rifles over their shoulders. They began by hurling verbal abuse — she was killed because of you, you orphaned the children, you are the murderers, didn’t the Holocaust teach you anything, and the popular “Kahane was right.” (Kahane was the racist rabbi who called the Arabs dogs and demanded their death or exile.) We knew enough not to answer them, but they could not abide the silence of our vigil combined with our signs — “Dismantle the settlements,” “End the occupation,” “Return to the ’67 borders,” “Sharing Jerusalem.” They began to grab our signs, rip them up, and push some women off the ledge. There were only 3 police at that time, and the settlers, now joined by the Kahanists, became uncontrollable. Some women were injured, but not seriously. More police arrived, and the fighting spilled over onto the streets at this busy intersection, as the police tried unsuccessfully to subdue the more violent ones. Most of the blows were exchanged between police and settlers/Kahanists.

As the violence was peaking, the funeral procession was massing a block away, and we knew that we were like standing targets on the vigil plaza. We decided quickly among us that we would not leave, but that we would lower our signs before they passed us. Some women disagreed with this quick decision, but there was no opportunity for discussion as the cars approached and turned alongside the plaza. They would have to travel about 15 meters (45 feet) along the line of women, when we would be no more than 3 meters away from them. We stood in silence, without signs, but making a very clear statement as the leaders of the group drove by — Levinger [himself convicted of killing a Palestinian in Hebron, who served 6 months (only!) to pay his debt to society], Noam Arnon (the spokesman of the Hebron settlers, who got out of his car to tell the media that the presence of Women in Black was a “provocation”), and Geula Cohen (who was a member of a Jewish terrorist organization prior to 1948), as well as cars filled with weeping women and children. My heart grieved to see that.

The progress of the motorcade was constantly interrupted by settlers/Kahanists who jumped out to come to blows with the police who now formed a cordon separating us. It was clear that the police were taking the blows that were intended for us. And they kept this up until the last car finally passed out of sight making its way to the cemetery. Thank you, Jerusalem police.

I wonder how the media will frame it on this evening’s news. Allow me to pre-empt them: Today, as every Friday for the past 13 years, Women in Black throughout Israel maintained their vigil calling for an end to the occupation and a just peace with Palestine. The Jerusalem vigil of about 100 women stood quietly as a large crowd of armed settlers sought to threaten and intimidate them. It did not work.

Gila Svirsky

Back Introduction
January 1991: War Is a Crime
March 1996:  Bombs, Revenge, and One Iota of Hope
   2 Nov 1996: Hand in Hand in Hebron
  4 Apr 1997:  Children Still Alive and Abdallah
25 May 1998:  So We Won’t Die in Any More Wars
10 July 1998:   Lena Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  2 Aug 1998:  Lena’s New Home... Destroyed
  3 Jan 1999: Rifle Grenade #400
  9 July 1999: A Housewarming for Peace
23 Jan 2000: The Politics of the Tree
18 Oct 2000: On Violence by Israeli Arabs
10 Nov 2000: Peace Efforts in Israel
22 Nov 2000: We Refuse to Be Enemies
23 Nov 2000: Meeting of Women MKs for Peace
26 Nov 2000: Views of Faisal Husseini
28 Nov 2000: Lack of coverage for women’s events
  1 Dec 2000: Principles and Action
  8 Dec 2000: Women in Black today
30 Dec 2000: On the Way to Crowning Jerusalem with Peace
Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
Resources and Links

© 2000 Gila Svirsky.

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