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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

4 December 2001
Subject: Time to end the dominion of death


I have no words to describe the nightmare of the last few days. And I dread seeing what the brand new level of retaliation will be in the next few days. I was one of about 100 at a Peace Now demonstration tonight holding a big sign that said, “War does not bring peace.” Why doesn't everybody get that? It’s beyond me.

With more fervor than ever, the Coalition of Women for Peace is planning a mass event for December 28th – a march of mourning for all the victims of the violence (Israeli and Palestinian) under the banner “The occupation is killing us all,” followed by a peace concert under the banner “Choose Life,” with Israeli and Palestinian speakers and performers. Delegations will be coming from Europe and the U.S. to participate, and almost 50 solidarity vigils of Women (and men) in Black will be held worldwide on that day. Write to us at if you want to organize your own event. And see below if you can help us with support for the event – it’s been very hard for us to raise funds for our expenses.

I am reprinting below an extraordinary article written by Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a long-time Israeli peace activist and recent winner of a peace award from the European Parliament. Nurit was the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997.

Let the killings end!

Gila Svirsky

The Dominion of Death
Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Dylan Thomas wrote a war poem entitled “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.” In Israel, it does. Here death governs: the government of Israel rules over a dominion of death. So the most astonishing thing about yesterday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem and all similar attacks is that Israelis are astonished.

Israeli propaganda and indoctrination manage to keep coverage of these attacks detached from any Israeli reality. The story in the Israeli (and American) media is one of Arab murderers and Israeli victims, whose only sin was that they asked for seven days of grace.

But anyone who can remember back not even one year but just one week or several hours knows the story is different, that each attack is a link in a chain of horrific bloody events that extends back 34 years and has but one cause: a brutal occupation. An occupation that humiliates, starves, denies jobs, demolishes homes, destroys crops, murders children, imprisons minors without trial under appalling conditions, lets babies die at checkpoints and spreads lies.

Last week, after the assassination of Abu Hanoud, a journalist from Yediot Ahronot asked me whether I felt “relief.” Hadn’t I been frightened that “a murderer like that was roaming free”? No, I did not feel relief, I told her, and I will feel no relief as long as the murderers of Palestinian children continue to roam free. The murders of those children, like the murder of a suspect without trial or the murder of a ten-year-old boy yesterday, shortly before the attack, guarantee that no Israeli child can walk to school safely. Every Israeli child will pay for the deaths of the five children in Gaza and the others in Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron.

The Palestinians have learned from Israel that every victim must be avenged tenfold, a hundredfold. They have said repeatedly that until there is peace in Ramallah and Jenin there will be no peace in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So it is not up to the Palestinians to keep seven days of quiet but up to the Israeli Occupation Force.

On Friday it was reported that politicians from both sides had reached a deal in Jerusalem to allow the reopening of the casino upon which their own livelihood depends. They did it without American intervention, without high-level committees, with just the assistance of lawyers and business people, who promised the parties what was required. What this shows is that the conflict is not between the leaders: when an issue affects them directly (unlike the deaths of children) they are quick to find a solution.

It strengthens my belief that all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, are victims of politicians who gamble the lives of our children on games of honour and prestige. To them, children are worth less than roulette chips.

But these attacks serve the interests of Israeli policy - policy designed to make us forget that the war today is about protecting the settlements and the continuation of the occupation, policy that drives young Palestinians to commit suicide and take Israeli children with them, animated by Samson’s invocation “let me die with the Philistines,” policy contrived to make us believe that “they want Tel Aviv and Jaffa too” and “there is no one to talk to,” even as they liquidate all those who might have been able to talk.

Now that we know our leaders are capable of peace when there is an economic motive, we must demand that they make peace when lesser things, like the lives of our children, are at stake. Until all the parents of Israel and Palestine rise up against the politicians and demand they curb their lust for conquest and bloodshed, the underground realm of buried children will continue to grow. Since the beginning of time, mothers have cried out in a clear voice for life and against death. Today, we must rise up against the transformation of our children into murderers and murdered, raise our children not to support evil machinations, and force the politicians – who say, with Abner and Joab, “Let the young men arise and play before us” – to make way for those who can sit at the negotiating table and agree to a true and just peace, who are prepared to engage in dialogue not with the aim of tricking and manipulating the other side, not to humiliate the other and force him to his knees, but to reach a solution that considers the other, a solution free of racism and lies. Otherwise death shall continue to have dominion over us.

I suggest that parents who have not yet lost their children look beneath their feet and heed the voices rising from the kingdom of death, upon which they step day by day and hour by hour, for only there does everyone understand that there is no difference between one life and another, that it matters little what is the colour of your skin or the colour of your ID, or which flag flies over which hill and which direction you face when you pray.

In the kingdom of death, Israeli children lie beside Palestinian children, soldiers of the occupying army beside suicide bombers, and no one remembers who was David and who was Goliath, for they have faced the sober truth and realized that they were cheated and lied to, that politicians without feeling or conscience gambled away their lives as they continue to gamble with the lives of us all. We have given them the power, through democratic elections, to turn our home into an arena of never-ending murder. Only if we stop them can we return to a normal life in this place, and then death will have no dominion.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan
Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 1, 2001

Translated by Edeet Ravel, Montreal.

We need help!

The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace is planning an outdoor, public march and concert on December 28th in an effort to help restore belief in peace among Israelis, and let international leaders know that there is support for compromise inside Israel. Our usual donors have not come through this time, perhaps because other post-Sept. 11th events are drawing their attention, but we have not despaired of reaching peace in the Middle East! Now, more than ever, we must convey the message inside Israel: Only peace will bring security, and only ending the occupation will bring peace.

If you’d like to help, there are four ways to make a donation:

  1. For a US tax deduction, make out a check to “Coalition of Women for a Just Peace” and mail it to the New Israel Fund, PO Box 91588, Washington DC 20090-1588.

  2. Also US-tax-deductible, make out a check to “Coalition of Women for a Just Peace” and mail it to US/Israel Women-to-Women, 275 Seventh Avenue - 8th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

  3. If a US tax deduction is not relevant, make out a check to “Coalition of Women for a Just Peace” and mail it to Bat Shalom, P.O. Box 8083, 91080 Jerusalem, Israel.

  4. To use a credit card, click on
    which will bring you into the web site of You will then have to register (“sign up”) 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 we will confirm it immediately.

Many thanks from all of us!

At-Home with Gila Svirsky

Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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