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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

6 June 2001
Subject: Women in Black Vigils – A Momentous Gathering


The international movement for a just peace in the Middle East is clearly gaining momentum. The response internationally and regionally to our call for Women in Black vigils this Friday has exceeded the expectations of even the most wildly optimistic among us. Thank you everybody for organizing in your corner of the world.


As of this writing, we know of vigils planned in 142 different world locations. Every continent but Antarctica has a vigil. And in every one of these vigils, signs will be held aloft that say, “End the Israeli occupation.” This is a powerful, multinational message to Israel and world leaders.

To mention some vigil locations: Cairo (Egypt); São Paolo (Brazil); the Canary Islands (Spain); Ankara (Turkey); a “Peace Boat” off the Maldive Islands; 19 cities in Italy; 6 locations each in Spain, Canada, and France; 5 each in Australia and Germany; 4 in Switzerland; 2 in Sweden; and 57 cities in the US, from Abilene (Texas) to Woodstock (New York). For a full listing, see This Friday, these vigils are open to men wearing black as well.


All the events in this region will be marked by the solidarity of Palestinian and Israeli women for peace. On Thursday evening at 18:00, the first torch will be lit and held on the vigil plaza by a Palestinian woman – Sumaya Farhat-Naser, professor of botany at Bir Zeit University in the Occupied Territories – and Gila Svirsky, Israeli peace activist. The signs beside them will read, “End the Occupation” and “We Refuse to be Enemies.” The torch will change hands all night and through the next day through the mass vigil, which begins at noon.


All through the night at the vigil plaza, a “Tikkun Olam Feministi” will be held, when women will read and discuss feminist texts concerning peace, war, racism, homophobia, sisterhood, and whatever women feel is relevant to the current reality. Many women from other countries have faxed and e-mailed their writing to share. Thanks to Hannah Safran for this idea and coordinating the event, and to Donna Spiegelman (Boston) for the idea of inviting contributions from all over the world.


The vigil on Friday has now become huge, and will include Israelis (Jewish and Palestinian), internationals, and Palestinians from across the Green Line, who will make every effort to join us, despite the stringent closure now imposed. It will begin at 12:00 noon at Hagar Square (opposite Terra Sancta in Jerusalem). At approximately 1:45 p.m., presentations will begin with a minute of silence in memory of all those on both sides who were killed as a result of the ongoing occupation.

The speakers include Israeli, Palestinian, and international women who have shown a commitment to peace and justice in this region. While the three distinguished Palestinian women from the Occupied Territories may be prevented by the Israeli army from joining us, the very fact of their acceptance sends a message of Palestinian-Israeli women’s solidarity for a just peace. We are pleased to announce the following speakers:

Ruthie Gur - Coordinator of Programs at Isha L’Isha - Haifa Feminist Center, and a longtime Mizrahi activist in poor neighborhoods.

Hulud Badawi - Chairperson of the Association of Arab University Students of Israel.

Dalia Ravikowitz - This eminent Israeli poet has had to cancel, but will send a poem to be read.

Luisa Morgantini - Member of the European Parliament from Italy, and long-time ally of the Palestinian-Israeli women’s peace movement.

Zahira Kamal - General Director of Gender Planning and Development, Palestinian Ministry of Planning, and also a leading spokesperson for Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories.

Claudia dela Setta - Israeli performing artist.

Rana Nashashibi - Director, Palestinian Counseling Center, and Professor of Community Mental Health at Bir Zeit University, Occupied Territories.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan - Lecturer in Language Education, Hebrew University; outspoken and eloquent peace activist, whose daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997.

Rawda Suliman - Palestinian performing artist.

Hanan Ashrawi - A leading civil rights spokesperson in the Palestinian Authority; founder and Executive Director of MIFTAH: the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Occupied Territories.

Shulamith Aloni - A leading civil rights spokesperson in Israel; former Minister of Communications and the Arts, Science and Technology.

The program will be moderated by Olivia Attrash (from Acre) and Dalit Baum (from Tel Aviv).


The entire event has a permit, and it is hoped that the Jerusalem police will manage to keep counter-demonstrators away from the Women in Black vigil.

A professional unit will be filming the event for a documentary they are making about events in the region.

In Costa Rica, a “webcast vigil” will be held this Friday at noon, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (local time) by Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE). Vigil participants from all over the world can send in statements to be read on the air (, and, that evening, can give live reports about how their vigils went (

Finally, about the Israeli media: Until this morning, and with the exception of one TV spot, Israeli media have refused to report this momentous gathering of vigils throughout the world or even the nomination of Women in Black for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, despite the best efforts of our professional PR person. Ha’aretz newspaper told us yesterday, “This is not the time to be talking about Women in Black and its views.”

We do not agree. We believe that this is exactly the time to be talking about Women in Black and our views. We invite all those who agree with us to join us. We want to make it impossible for the media, or our governments, to ignore us.

Just as this is being prepared for mailing, the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace had a call from Ma’ariv, Israel’s second largest newspaper, that they plan to do a major feature about the Coalition for their weekend edition. Are things changing?



We desperately need contributions to help defray the costs – ads, buses, signs, sound equipment, flyers, banners, etc. If you can contribute, please do! All money goes straight into activity to end the occupation. You can contribute in one of four ways:

  1. For a US-tax deduction, make out a check to “Bat Shalom” and mail it to the New Israel Fund, PO Box 91588, Washington DC 20090-1588. Please be sure to write that it is “For the Coalition of Women.”

  2. Alternatively, and also US tax-deductible, make out a check to “Bat Shalom” and mail it to US/Israel Women-to-Women, 275 Seventh Avenue - 8th Floor, New York, NY 10001. Please be sure to write that it is “For the Coalition of Women.”

  3. Checks can be written to the “Coalition of Women for a Just Peace” and mailed directly to “Bat Shalom” at P.O. Box 8083, Jerusalem 91080, Israel.

  4. You can contribute by credit card online. Click into the web site and then follow the instructions for “Send money.” Before you enter the site, copy this e-mail address, as you will be asked to fill it in: The money reaches us virtually instantly, and Gila Svirsky will write to you to confirm it.

Please, please let us know if you send a contribution, so we can make sure it reaches us.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The Coalition

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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