As someone who longs for and actively pursues peace, to join a march with thousands of women who share this passion was not much of a question for me. Despite never having taken part in a public march, this one, from the first time I heard about it seemed right. It was more than right; it was a hope-inspiring journey for me.
From early morning when I left my home to travel on a bus with women I’d never met to the end of the day when I arrived home near midnight on the same bus, this time with women whose names I now know and who I’ve seen both laugh and weep with happiness and hope, this was an extraordinary day.
The numbers who marched are disputed, but in the end, exact numbers are unimportant. What is important is that thousands of women (and hundreds of men) joined together to publicly proclaim their passion and commitment for peace—for a peacefully negotiated settlement to end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The morning events began near the Dead Sea at the baptismal site of Jesus at the Jordan river with a gathering of three to four thousand women from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I met and exchanged greetings of peace with Arab Muslim women from Ramallah, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Jenin, Hebron and their nearby villages who were bussed in with the full cooperation of the Palestinian Authority.
I watched as Israeli Jewish women from all over Israel embraced their Palestinian counterparts, marched together and spoke words of peace to each other. I saw Christian Israeli Palestinian women, Jewish Israelis and Muslim women embrace. I heard their shared heartfelt words of peace.
We marched down a long hill and gathered at the Jordan to hear women speakers powerfully speak about peace, justice and equality for all. I heard the cry of thousands of mothers for a better future, for another way, for an end to violence, bloodshed, and terror. We raised our voices in Arabic, Hebrew and English singing a song especially composed for this event:“From the West to the East, from the North to the South, hear the mother’s prayer, Bring down the peace, Bring down the peace.”
Then we traveled to Jerusalem where we were joined by thousands more, including more than one hundred Druze women from the north of Israel. Still singing, we marched together through the streets of Jerusalem, three kilometers to the Prime Minister’s house, ending in a large rally in central Jerusalem. There we heard deeply moving personal stories of the quest for peace and its cost.
All the speakers, from across the wide spectrum of society, from the right and the left, Jews and Arabs, secular, religious, settlers, business women, mothers, politicians, young and old all spoke powerfully about an end to war, peace, justice and equality for all. We were encouraged, even exhorted, to continue, to be steadfast, to believe that we can make a difference; that together we can turn the tide away from war and violence. For the sake of our children, for the children of Israel and Palestine, for our shared future.
As a Messianic Jew (a Jewish follower of Jesus) I am a minority in Israel. In this gathering I could have felt very alone. To my knowledge, in the morning I was one of less than five from my faith community. In the afternoon and evening I don’t know if there were any from my community. But I never felt alone. I was with sisters who share my heart and God’s heart for peace.
Again and again I heard the words “Blessed are the peacemakers” and from Psalm 34 “who is the one who loves life. . . let him turn from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue it.” Together, thousands of like-hearted people, we said no to despair and death and yes to hope and life.
My joy in this day was colored with sadness by the absence of many from my community. But hope, together with longing, was kindled in my heart for my sisters and brothers to walk in solidarity with me and with the many others from among our people Israel who are seeking peace and pursuing it, together crossing every divide and difference the world can lay in our paths.