International Women’s Day 2017

The Bereaved Families Forum decided to mark International Women’s Day on the West Bank so that Palestinian women from Jenin, Nablus, Beit Omar, Deheisha and other villages would be able to attend without having to ask for permits. Buses from all over Israel and Palestine brought together some 200 women from all walks of life, to be together and discover the humanity in the other.

It was also an opportunity to share our message with those who had never heard it. The day started with a painful, honest and heartbreaking sharing by the mother of Muhammed Abu Khdeir who was brutally murdered and burnt by some crazed Israelis. She has joined the Parents Circle as she believes that her son would want her to prevent further deaths on either side. The dignity with which she spoke and her wise words left us all in tears.

Three generations of peacemakers from the forum shared their stories of loss, their road to reconciliation and their contribution to our work on the ground. Anyone looking to vent their anger and frustration at the wall which divides us from each other could have joined the ladies enthusiastically painting slogans on a 10 metre wall which we built for the occasion and then (with even greater enthusiasm) breaking it down with special hammers and jumping on it to make sure it was destroyed.

Two hundred women took a silent walk to the checkpoint, with signs calling for an end to the occupation, to demonstrate that our tears are the same. The army arrived within minutes. But a non-violent walk by 200 women with placards had them stumped and I think in their hearts they could not help but be moved by the headscarves and the bare-headed walking in complete harmony. A candle was lit in memory of all our beloved children, brothers, sisters and parents we would never see again.

We know that the time has come for women to be at the negotiating table. We are the ultimate victims of war. I remember running to the shelter in my building in the last Gaza war, watching a neighbour standing there with her small baby who was holding a ball, and thinking to myself, how fortunate I am. This may sound rather strange, but at least I had a shelter to run to, unlike the women in Gaza; or the woman in Sderot who said that she only had 15 seconds to get to the shelter and with three children, one in a wheelchair: which should she take?

How many more victims before this ends?

– Robi Damelin.

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