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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

30 May 2001
Subject: FW: International Vigil: June 8, 2001

To our sisters and brothers everywhere:

What began as a good idea has now grown into a worldwide movement: As of this writing, 102 vigils of Women in Black are planned for Friday, June 8, 2001 to demand an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

From Adelaide to Zurich, from Cairo to Washington, from Jerusalem to the Maldive Islands, the voice of this movement calls out its message: Women and men of conscience, regardless of their race, religion or nationality, will not be silent in the face of oppression. The liberation of the Palestinian people with a state of its own is not only the moral solution, but one that serves the best interests of Israel as well.

We join hands in sisterhood and brotherhood to all those who pursue peace and justice.

The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace
Consisting of the following ten Israeli women’s peace organizations: Women in Black, Bat Shalom, Machsom Watch, NELED, New Profile, Noga Feminist Magazine, TANDI, WILPF, Women & Mothers for Peace (formerly “Four Mothers Movement”), Women Engendering Peace

Women in Black:
An International Movement of Women for Peace

The international movement of Women in Black began in Jerusalem in January 1988, one month after the first Palestinian intifada broke out, with a small group of Israeli women who carried out a simple form of protest: Once a week at the same hour and in the same location – a major traffic intersection – they donned black clothing and raised a black sign in the shape of a hand with white lettering that read “Stop the Occupation.”

The idea spread quickly and spontaneously to other places in Israel. It was a simple form of protest that women could do easily. We didn’t have to get to the big city, we could bring our children, there was no chanting or marching, and the medium was the message. Within months, vigils sprang up throughout Israel.

Several months after the first Women in Black vigil in Israel, “solidarity vigils” began in other countries: Initial reports came from the United States and Canada, and these later spread to Europe and Australia. Some vigils were primarily Jewish, while in other cities, the groups were mixed Jewish and Palestinian.

Around 1990, Women in Black vigils took off with a life of their own. They formed in many countries, and many of these had nothing to do with the Israeli occupation. In Italy, Women in Black protest a range of issues, from the Israeli occupation to the violence of the Mafia and other organized crime. In Germany, Women in Black have protested neo-Nazism, racism against migrant workers, and nuclear arms. Women in Black in Belgrade and Zagreb set a profound example of interethnic cooperation that was an inspiration to their countrywomen and -men. And, in India, Women in Black hold vigils that call for an end to the ill treatment of women by religious fundamentalists.

Women in Black has become a movement of women of conscience of all denominations and nationalities who hold vigils to protest violence in their part of the world: war, interethnic conflict, militarism, the arms industry, racism, neo-Nazism, violence against women, violence in the neighborhoods, etc. Each vigil is autonomous, setting its own policy and guidelines, though in all the vigils the women dress in black, symbolizing the tragedy of the victims of violence. What unites us all is our commitment to justice and a world free of violence.

The movement of Women in Black in Israel won the Aachen Peace Prize (1991); the peace award of the city of San Giovanni d’Asso in Italy (1994); and the Jewish Peace Fellowship’s “Peacemaker Award” (2001). In 2001, the international movement of Women in Black was honored with the Millennium Peace Prize for Women, awarded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

On June 8, 2001, over 100 groups of Women in Black from around the world (listed in the web site below) will hold vigils to protest Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories.

This international protest was initiated and organized by the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, an umbrella organization of ten Israeli women’s peace organizations.

Web site of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace:
(in the process of being updated with more vigils)

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
Resources and Links

© 2001 Gila Svirsky.
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