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On October 5, 2000 Israelis gathered in the northern city of Rosh Hanikra to send off hundreds of Women Wage Peace (WWP) activists on a two-week long March of Hope to Jerusalem. They are marching to demand that the government return to peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The March of Hope was born at a joint Israeli-Palestinian weekend encounter held last year in Jerusalem between Israeli and Palestinian members of Women Wage Peace. A flyer for the March describes the meeting:
We brainstormed together, trying to find a game changer, an action that would arouse hope. Inspired by the great marches that changed the course of history, we imagined our march as a huge magnet of hope, drawing women, men and children. During October 2016, the Jewish High Holiday season, many Israelis will take part in various outings. Families will hike, picnic, visit relatives, vacation all over the country. It is our intention that anywhere one goes for the holidays, one will encounter WWP activists marching, presenting, and delivering messages of hope.
Recognizing that Israeli peace activists have historically been overwhelmingly Ashkenazi and male, Women Wage Peace prioritizes bringing together diverse groups of Israelis, and empowering women’s voices in peace negotiations.
During the concurrent marches taking place throughout Israel between October 4-19, men and women, settlers, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews and Palestinian Israelis marched together to demand peace. At an event hosted in Jordanian border city Naharayim on October 6, prominent politicians not usually seen at peace rallies, including Druze-Israeli Likud Member of Knesset Ayoub Kara, Likud party member Mato Yogev and Gil Alexander from the religious peace group Oz Ve’Shalom, all addressed the crowd.
Solidarity events are taking place around the world. For instance, on October 16, 2016, 100 supporters marched on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to demonstrate solidarity with Women Wage Peace.
In the face of stagnant politics, Women Wage Peace is building an optimistic vision for a better future. Far too often those of us concerned about the ongoing occupation are disheartened by the lack of a political horizon. But we can take tremendous inspiration from the marchers who have overcome their pessimism in their quest for peace. By overcoming their own fears, these women hope to inspire the Israeli government as well as other activists to do the same.
J Street is excited to highlight Women Wage Peace’s impressive achievements and critical mission. In the coming weeks, we will be posting personal stories by women attending the March in Israel and concurrent solidarity events in the US. Stay tuned!