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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

4 June 2001
Subject: Struggling for peace amidst the ruins


The news from the Middle East seems to go from bad to worse over the past seven months. The recent terrorist bomb that took the lives of 20 Israeli teenagers and injured over 100 must be condemned in the strongest terms by all people of conscience. We are all still in shock over this terrible loss.

On the political side, Israeli sentiment shifts again to the right as a result. I respect the decision of Peace Now to cancel its rally scheduled for Saturday evening – to set aside political debate during the period of mourning. Others, including the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, felt that we could not abide the right-wing takeover of the streets with its call for revenge (and attacks on Jaffa Arabs), and we demonstrated with the new Ta’ayush movement that afternoon under signs saying “The Occupation is killing us all,” “End the violence,” etc. Needless to say, we were met by a torrent of abuse by extremists on the street.

I have heard political pundits, both Israeli and Palestinian, say that Israel will not compromise until Israelis have suffered sufficiently. I take my response from Gandhi, who said that the end will be only as good as the means we use to achieve it. Violence begets violence. By the same token, retaliation by either side serves no purpose other than to fan the flames. Again to quote Gandhi: If we all believed in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we’d all be walking around blind and toothless.

Friday’s Women in Black Vigils

We now know of vigils planned in 120 different locations in the world, on or about this coming Friday – June 8. To mention some of the locations that caught my eye: Cairo (Egypt), Derry (N.Ireland), Ankara (Turkey), São Paolo (Brazil), a “Peace Boat” off the Maldive Islands, 17 cities in Italy, 5 locations in Spain, 5 in Canada, 4 in France, 3 in Australia, 3 in Germany, 3 in Switzerland, 2 in Sweden, and 45 cities in the US, including Woodstock (NY), outside CNN headquarters in Atlanta, at New York city’s Prophet Isaiah Wall opposite the UN, Abilene (TX), Charlottesville (VA), Lake Janaluska (NC), Honolulu (HA), and many more. For a full listing, see These vigils are open to men wearing black this Friday as well.

In Israel, we decided to begin Friday’s noon vigil with an all-night, torchlight vigil that will begin the previous evening (Thursday at 6:00 pm Israel time). During the night vigil, we plan to read and discuss feminist texts concerning peace, war, racism, homophobia, sisterhood, and whatever women feel is relevant or relates to the current reality. We are calling this a “Feminist Night Vigil.” We’d like to invite any and all of you to “join” us that night by sending (this week) texts or poems or even thoughts that we can read out loud (in any language). After the event, we’ll post these on our website. Thanks to Hannah Safran, who teaches Women’s Studies at Haifa University, for this great idea and for coordinating the event, and to Donna Spiegelman in Boston for the idea of inviting contributions from all over the world.

To send your contribution to the Feminist Night Vigil, email it to Hannah at To fax it, write “Attn: Hannah Safran” on it and fax to (972-4) 851-1954 (From the US, add 011 to the beginning; from other countries, check your directory.)

Nobel Peace Prize

Perhaps you have heard by now that the movement of Women in Black, represented by the Israeli (where it began) and Serbian groups, was nominated for this prize. We have no idea if this is a realistic possibility, but we are encouraged by the nomination, and hope it will strengthen our call for peace. As a result, we have been invited for a modest amount of radio and TV interviews here in Israel, and hope that the very nomination will give our view greater legitimacy.

Death of Faisal Husseini

Finally, we grieve over the loss of Faisal Husseini, a dear friend of peace and of the Israeli peace movement for many years. He was one of the few Palestinian leaders who rejected the Palestinian injunction against “normalizing” relations with Israelis, and continued to cooperate with Israeli peace activists. The ad placed by the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace in the Arabic newspaper al-Quds read: “We mourn the loss of Faisal Husseini, a true friend of peace.”

Last November (11/25/2000), in the midst of some of the worst violence, Faisal met with a large group of Israeli activists, outlined a reasonable and pragmatic solution, and made the following statement, with which I close during these difficult days:

“We are at the last 100 meters of the climb of Everest. At this point it is so cold, so difficult, so vague – but we can see the target. Together we can cross the last 100 meters.”

Shalom/Salaam from Jerusalem,

Gila Svirsky

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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