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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

3 October 2001
Subject: San Francisco Peace Rally


I thought you’d be interested in reading the moving words of Penny Rosenwasser at the San Franciso Peace Rally, held last Saturday, September 29th:

Woman standing in front of signs that say War Is Not the Answer

I work with the Coalition of Jews for Justice and Bay Area Women in Black, and am closely connected to Jewish Voice for Peace.

And I want to recognize that today is the one year anniversary of the Al Aqsa intifada, the newest chapter in the Palestinian people’s resistance to Occupation. But while we were consumed with our catastrophe here, Ariel Sharon invaded Palestinian villages and refugee camps, killing over 34 Palestinians in the four days after our tragedy, and injuring over 200. It’s so important right now that in the midst of our own mourning, that we not forget this liberation struggle.

I have seen firsthand the violence of Israeli occupation, what happens to real live people. I have clasped the hands of a Palestinian mother whose son was gunned down by Israeli bullets, for throwing a stone. A poster I saw in Gaza last month showed such a mother with the caption “Her grief is the same as yours.” Just like an Afghani mother’s grief is the same as that of a mother in San Francisco. Or New York.

Today I also bring a message from the Israeli Coalition of Women for a Just Peace ­ women who are tough and loving and committed, who have been working nonstop to end Occupation, to create peace with justice:

They say “We Palestinian and Jewish women from Israel, stand in solidarity with you today in your struggle to prevent a new war from painting a mural of bloodshed and destruction across the globe. We join hands on behalf of a demilitarized world, in our common struggle against violence, racism, and the oppression of one people by another.”

And my friend Terry Greenblatt, who leads the Israeli feminist peace organization Bat Shalom, reminds me: “If time and time again, the ‘answer’ is war, then we are not asking the right question.”

These days feels so uncertain and scary to me – and I also notice so many examples of people reaching out to each other with kindness and compassion. As Jews, as people who understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of hatred and intolerance, let us reach out our hands to our Arab American, Muslim, and South Asian sisters and brothers. Let’s ask how they are doing, and what we can do to help, showing them that we care, that they are not alone. We know what it means to have allies during times of crisis – let’s demonstrate that understanding and solidarity.

I leave you today with the words of one of my heroines, award-winning Jewish lesbian poet and writer Adrienne Rich, who wrote years ago: “A patriot is not a weapon. A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country as she wrestles for her own being.”

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, Penny Rosenwasser. The featured graphic is from the website of the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

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