WOMEN WAGE PEACE: 50 DAYS OF FASTING FOR PEACE IN ISRAEL / Aura Hammer, 10.9.15, Women Peacemakers Program

Operation Protective Fast

I fasted on the 11th of August this year. I sat in a white tent in a white t-shirt with a turquoise ribbon, with women from all across Israel who, like me, could no longer sit back and wait. A whole year had passed since the last Gaza war, and there are no signs that our government is trying to advance any kind of peace agreement. So, this is how we commemorated that terrible war: 50 days of women in white, fasting in front of the Prime Minister’s office. Hundreds of women have fasted, each for a day or two at a time.

It was a typical day at the tent: two parliament members from a central party came and sat with us. They both agreed to create a round table in the parliament with members of various parties and delegates from Women Wage Peace. On the same day, a group of Palestinian women visited and promised to start a parallel women’s group in Palestine. Many parliament members of a wide range of political views have come to sit with us, writers and artists have come to support, even the Prime Minister’s wife invited a delegation of the women to her home. After a year of work, the media has also begun to take notice of our actions.

Enough is enough

Just over a year ago, in July 2014, the second Gaza war began. The call to violence and hatred was stronger than it had ever been before. Beyond the terrifying violence of missiles, planes, bombs and guns between defined enemies, we found that within Israel even young children spoke and acted violently and no one was safe in the streets if they questioned or spoke out against the war. A country in a constant state of war inevitably fosters violent behavior within its people. Fear, distrust and hate follow each other. It begins at the border, turns back into the society and finally it turns inward into ourselves. We distrust, not only each other, but our own judgment, instinct, knowledge and experience.

We who still questioned the decisions made by our government felt helpless. We found we could not express our questions, much less our disagreement. After years and years of working for peace, I had finally reached the breaking point of hope.

Then, we found each other on Facebook. Women who couldn’t speak in person began to speak on the Internet. Women Wage Peace was born as a place to say “NO! This is not right; I want to change this reality”. As suddenly as it was born, the movement grew – quickly, massively. Once we had discovered each other, there was no stopping us.

In August, there was a ceasefire in the War in Gaza, and by November we officially launched the movement in a wonderful opening action. One thousand women from all over Israel got on the train to Sderot – the closest town to Gaza – the Israeli town that had suffered more than any other Israeli town in the last wars. From the northernmost tip of Israel, the train going south filled with women at each stop. We rode the Peace Train together, full of hope and song – 1000 women in white. Yes, people cursed at us, they shouted at us and called us names, but we were strong together. We arrived at Sderot and walked from the train station along the highway to the college where a national congress was taking place. There we spoke to all present, and officially opened Women Wage Peace.

Since that day, we have grown and developed into a strong force of women. We work as a grassroots movement, as a feminist movement, as a peace movement. We are a nonviolent group, and more than that, we are a positive action group. We are now 14.000 strong, with about 15% of our members being men.

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