While global attention was fixated on the intractable violence plaguing Syria, women in another part of the Middle East were taking action to promote peace.
At the close of Rosh Hashanah on October 4th, thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women gathered in northern Israel to begin a two-week march to “wage peace.” The 150-mile trek ended on October 19th in Jerusalem outside of the residence of Israel’s hawkish prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
One participant – Donna Kirshbaum from southern Israel – discussed the impetus that compelled her and others to participate:
We really needed to get off our couches and away from our phones and physically do something, otherwise we remain passive and resigned. We are literally putting one foot in front of the other for peace.
Affinity protesters joined in solidarity around the world, from Australia to Morocco.
Families along the route provided housing for the marchers. On the final day, more than 1,000 Palestinian women joined the marchers in the Jordan Valley.
The 14-day trek was Organized by Women Wage Peace (WWP), an organization constituted of Israeli and Palestinian women pushing for a restart to the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories. WWP’s website reads:
We demand that our leaders work with respect and courage towards a solution to the ongoing violent conflict, with the full participation of women in this process. Only an honorable political agreement will secure the future of our children and grandchildren.
While the organization’s tenets include nothing that precludes men, Kirshbaum argues that women offer “a richer language of connection” that can help the stagnant negotiations.”
Along with recent mass mobilizations in Poland and Argentina, WWP’s march is yet another example of women taking direct action to enact positive social change. These popular movements will not only add pressure to parties blocking meaningful progress, but will serve as training grounds for future pro-social good leaders.