To read the news, you'd think that all Jews and Arabs are at each other's throats, aiming for the destruction of the other. That's certainly true about the people in power, but not so true about the people in the streets...especially the women.
Last October, hundreds of Jewish and Arab Israeli women wearing white and singing about peace walked through northern Israel to Kfar Yehoshua in the Jezreel Valley in the March of Hope, a 150-mile, 14-day walk for peace in the Middle East.
“We needed to get off our couches and away from our phones and physically do something, otherwise we remain passive and resigned,” said Donna Kirshbaum from Omer in southern Israel. “We are literally putting one foot in front of the other for peace.”Sponsored by Women Wage Peace, the march culminated with a protest in front of the President’s and Prime Minister’s residences. At the same time in Jerusalem, women demanded a reboot of Palestinian-Israel peace negotiations. Many people hosted the marchers along the way, and others attended local marches and events all over the country, including a torchlight parade, a traveling performance of “Looking Peace in the Eyes,” children’s activities, art exhibits, and rallies featuring prayers for peace. Solidarity events also happened in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, North and South America, and Europe.
“Hearts are connecting and we’re receiving overwhelming support from mayors and municipal leaders, journalists, men and women from all over the world, including the Arab world, and in particular from many thousands of civilians who are searching for hope,” said WWP Chairwoman Yael Admi in her opening speech.WWP, named for Judyth Hill’s “Wage Peace” poem written after 9/11, was started by 40 Israeli mothers of soldiers who were serving in the 2014 Gaza War. Today, WWP has 1,000 Jewish and Arab members and close to 9,000 Israeli supporters from every religious and secular stream and region of the country. Volunteer run, with a network of 17 regional coordinators and 21 work groups, 57 percent of WWP’s funders are Israeli philanthropists. It is the largest women’s grassroots movement in Israel.
This month WWP has been invited to a meeting during Hol Hamoed Passover to create ties with the residents of Beit Shean. Women in white (and men and families too) will ride a peace train to the event on April 13, 2017.
Women working together can change the world, I'm convinced. Here's the poem "Wage Peace":
Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firefighters and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.