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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

14 March 2001
Subject: Stop the Siege!


A new stage of oppression has been imposed on the occupied territories.
Cities and villages are totally cut off from each other.
Many villages have no access to food.
Pregnant women and the infirm cannot get to hospitals.
Life is paralyzed.
Soldiers with their fingers on the trigger are given free reign.
The Sharon-Peres-Mofaz government says one thing and does the opposite.
War crimes are being committed in our name.
Let us not remain silent:

This was the text of last Tuesday’s newspaper ad, placed jointly by the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and Gush Shalom, inviting Israelis to a demonstration that very afternoon. Despite the short notice, people did turn out – to four different sites around Israel – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the Jezreel Valley – to demonstrate against the cruel closure. In fact, this was the second day in a row of demonstrations against the closure, with Peace Now initiating the first. Demonstrators held their signs “Stop the Closure” and “Closure –> Hunger –> Violence” behind big spiral coils of barbed wire, in a symbolic depiction of the closure. Both major TV stations carried brief clips of the demonstrations, I’m glad to report.

Perhaps you have seen the news clips of deep trenches gouging out the roads leading into and out of Palestinian towns. These trenches not only prevent the passage of vehicles, but their excavation often bursts water pipes and tears up telephone lines, further isolating these areas and adding to the general hardship. Picture to yourself living in a small town (all Palestinian towns are small) and unable to leave it for work, food, doctor’s visits, school, visiting your grandchild...

The situation has become unbearable, and several peace organizations have banded together for a major action to break the siege on the city of Ramallah. More information about this as it is made public.

And some bright-side items this time:

The international movement of Women in Black is the recipient of not one, but two awards:

  1. The Millennium Peace Prize granted by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was awarded to the international movement of Women in Black and two other organizations (in Colombia and Papua New Guinea) and three women (one from Kosovo, one from Rwanda, and two from Pakistan). The award ceremony was held on International Women’s Day last week at the UN, and Belgrade Women in Black accepted on behalf of the movement, founded in Jerusalem 13 years ago.

  2. The Peacemaker Award of the Jewish Peace Fellowship was awarded to Women in Black in Israel. The presentation will be made on May 6 in New York.

And, lo and behold, now that the world at large has given recognition to Women in Black, the Israeli media are suddenly taking an interest. One Woman in Black was interviewed on the Good Morning Israel TV program, and features about the movement will be appearing in several papers this weekend. A prophet in her own city...

Also thought you’d like to know – on International Women’s Day last Thursday, a group of 1,000 mostly South African women held a mass Women in Black vigil in Cape Town. Slogans ran the gamut from “Stop Abuse of Women,” “Say No to Fundamentalism,” “End Exploitation by the IMF and World Bank” to a few “End Israeli Occupation of Palestine” and many other causes. Probably not a single woman at that mass vigil, except for me, knew where Women in Black vigils had begun 13 years ago.

Gila Svirsky

PS The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace needs a volunteer in the US for the following task: to make about 20 brief phone calls for us to various locations in the US once every two months. We’ll give the list of names and addresses, but the phone number has to be obtained through Information. Anyone out there willing? Many thanks.

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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