The shock, grief and loss continue. On Sunday I attended a rally to demand the release of over 200 men, women, children and babies who have been abducted by Hamas and are being held hostage. The words ‘Let Them Go’ were repeated over and over again. Each person’s name – the young ones with their age – was read out slowly as we stood silently internalising our sadness and our fear of what is going to happen next .
Strong emotions here in London. And In Israel and Gaza the experience worsens and the pain is not receding. All are victims of the devastating surprise attack launched by Hamas just over two weeks ago and of the subsequent on-going warfare. Innocent Palestinians and Israelis are dying daily. Hearts are hardened and people are retreating to their own tribe. At such times it is easy to believe that the ‘other’ is your enemy.
Astonishing understanding in the face of Hamas’s brutality
But there are people who refuse to believe this. These are the victims who refuse to be by-standers. Such a couple are Yocheved and Odeb Lifschitz. Both known as peace campaigners who helped transport sick people out of Gaza to hospitals in Israel. Having been held hostage, 85-year old Yocheved was released this week and you can see her shaking hands and saying ‘Shalom’ to her Hamas captor, as he handed her over to the Red Cross. The couple’s daughter Sharon, who is still waiting for her father to be released, said they will never stop working towards peace with their neighbours.
The Lifschitz family know that bringing Jews and Arabs together is important. The initiatives that TalkMatters’ promotes know that too. They bring people together through a shared interest. Whether it is sport, music, hi-tech, ecology, religion, policy change or education, etc. there is the chance for people from different backgrounds, cultures and religions to talk, build up trust and eventually listen to each other’s story.
People ask me “Is it possible for this work to continue now?”
I think it is really difficult and truly respect our Associates’ determination to stick with this very different approach to the on-going crisis. Over the past few weeks, TalkMatters has been sharing regular updates to keep you informed about how these initiatives are coping. We will continue to let you – the UK public – know what is going on through video clips, articles, and live events.
This week’s updates
Here are the detailsof the regular multi-faith prayer vigil organised by the Abrahamic Reunion andupdates from both Tech2Peace and Women Wage Peace. More information and the ways you can support each organisation can be found underneath their updates.
Please pass on this information to colleagues and friends so more and more people know about the brave Palestinians and Israelis who refuse to see one another as enemies, and who, against all the odds, are working to build a future of peace, justice, and equality.
Abrahamic Reunion’s prayer vigil
The Abrahamic Reunion recognizes that creating understanding and empathy between diverse faith communities is fundamental to developing multicultural acceptance, constructive cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
PEACE PRAYER VIGIL
11:00 EDT (16:00 BST London time)
Multi-faith ~ All Welcome
Prayers for the peace & safety for all people in the Holy Land
AMIDST WAR BETWEEN ISRAEL & HAMAS
Prayers are needed and the community of peace that is being built on these vigils is growing, providing important compassionate middle ground amidst so much horrible and heightened conflict. All welcome. Leaders from different faiths at each program. Please join in compassionate peacebuilding community together to support the Holy Land, the peacemakers, each other, ourselves, and the world.
Peace ~ Salam ~ Shalom
You can join the prayer vigils at 16:00 UK time every day via Zoom. The Abrahamic Reunion is featured in our Directory, has its own website and joined TalkMatters for a webinar in November 2021. Information on supporting their work with donations is here
An update from Tech2Peace
Tech2Peace began work in 2018, with the aim of connecting Arab and Jewish youth from Israel and the Palestinian territories through hi-tech & dialogue seminars
As we navigate through these turbulent times, it’s like riding an emotional rollercoaster. While we are engaged with many members of our community and find joy in supporting them, and having them step up in support of each other, we must also acknowledge that conversations have become increasingly difficult. The prevailing sense is that divisions have widened, making it more challenging to bridge the gaps. Emotions are running high, and it is natural for some to find it challenging to engage in open dialogue. The gap between perspectives has grown, which can create additional hurdles in our mission to foster understanding and unity.
We recognize that building trust and promoting peace becomes more complex when tensions are at their peak.
Despite these complexities, our commitment to our mission remains unwavering. We are dedicated to creating spaces for dialogue, understanding, and cooperation, even when the path is challenging. The difficulties we face only reinforce the importance of our work, as we strive to navigate these uncharted territories together.
“I feel like I have a place to go to. I know there are good people with golden hearts.” – alumna
Update from Women Wage Peace
Women Wage Peace is a grassroots movement, founded in November 2014 in the aftermath of the Gaza War. Their mission is to reach an honourable and bilaterally acceptable political agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and increase the active participation of women in all aspects of negotiation.
It took us a week to formulate this statement. We are a movement made up of Jewish and Arab women with diverse opinions and positions, and we found ourselves inside this crazy, threatening, horrible and frightening movie. There are no words in any language to describe what we all went through this past week. We are still searching for the right words that we can share at this moment.
First of all, we mourn the brutal murder, in an indescribable and unforgiveable massacre carried out by Hamas, of over 1300 civilians, babies, children, women, men, the elderly, male and female soldiers, members of the security and rescue forces, among them Arab civilians and soldiers. We wish complete recovery and rehabilitation to the thousands injured in body and soul.
We share the deep sorrow of members of Women Wage Peace who lost family members; we offer support to the members of the movement from the Gaza Envelope who survived the horrific inferno last Saturday; and we are terribly worried about the safety and fate of all those missing, kidnapped and abducted – among them peace activist Vivian Silver from Kibbutz Beeri, a member of Women Wage Peace, and Ditza Heyman from Kibbutz Nir Oz, the mother of movement member, Neta Heiman.
We demand that the Israeli government begin negotiations immediately for the release of all those who were abducted. We call on the Red Cross and the international community to ensure their safety and act for their immediate release.
Despite the rage and pain in the face of the criminal and unforgiveable acts committed by Hamas, including incessant shelling of towns all over Israel, we must not lose human dignity. Even in the most difficult situations, it is our obligation as mothers, as women, as human beings and as an entire nation not to lose basic human values.
We hear words of revenge all the time – “all restraints have been removed”, “we will wipe out Gaza”, “we will act brutally”. But one cannot resolve one injustice with another injustice.
We grieve the death of innocent Palestinians, among them hundreds of children, who are being killed in this accursed war. The situation in Gaza is getting worse all the time. This war proves, more than ever, that the concept of “managing the conflict” failed. The idea that dealing with the resolution of the conflict could be postponed indefinitely has been proved to be fundamentally wrong.
For 9 years since the end of “Operation Protective Edge”, we, Jewish and Arab mothers have been telling the leadership in Israel – enough! We must turn every stone in order to reach a political solution. This is our obligation for the future of our children. This is our obligation to both Israeli and Palestinian children. They deserve a future of security and freedom, not a future of death, war and destruction.
Despite the complexity of the issue, we and the Palestinians have no choice but to strive for a resolution of the conflict. The Palestinian people will not disappear, nor will we. More wars, bombings, assassinations, arrests and a never-ending cycle of bloodshed will not allow us and our children to live here as normal people. All conflicts in the world have been resolved by peace agreements. Hamas acts to destroy any chance for peace. Hamas has already managed to destroy the negotiations with Saudi Arabia. Hamas must not be allowed to win!
We know these words sound imaginary, naïve and unrealistic, but this is the truth, and we must recognize it. Every mother, Jewish and Arab, gives birth to her children to see them grow and flourish and not to bury them.
That’s why, even today, amidst the pain and the feeling that the belief in peace has collapsed, we extend a hand in peace to the mothers of Gaza and the West Bank. We mothers, together with women from all over the world, must unite to stop this madness.
It is our obligation to say, even if it is difficult to say this now – Israel must consider its steps and actions responsibly and morally and prevent needless deaths of civilians and soldiers and, at the same time, wherever possible, prevent harm to innocent people in Gaza.
We raise difficult questions and expect answers – ground action, destruction of Gaza, forcing one million Palestinians to flee their homes – will all of this lead to a future of security? And what will happen the day after? Isn’t it essential to deal with the issue of the abductees first? Do our leaders have the answers?
We must maintain and strengthen the solidarity and unity between the Jewish and Arab public in Israel and continue to act against racism and hatred. The Arab public, which has lived for years with the internal conflict of being citizens of Israel and being part of the Palestinian people, rallied in this difficult time of crisis for the sake of the entire society in Israel.
Yours in hope that this horrific time will end soon.
Jenny Nemko and the TalkMatters Team