Lily Feidy, Palestinian team leader for Forward Global Women (FGW), proposed in Minneapolis in the summer of 2015 that it was time to have a massive women’s march for peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories. She suggested that 1,000 Israeli women and 1,000 Palestinian women meet at the Qalandia checkpoint, located between Jerusalem and the Palestinian city Ramallah.
Those of us in the room from the United States, Jordan, Israel and Northern Africa thought it was a fabulous idea. However, we knew that as a small group of women leaders from academia, politics and civil society, we didn’t have the capacity for on-the-ground organizing. We did what women do – we looked for a partner. Our Israeli FGW team reached out to a year-old Israeli peace activist organization, Women Wage Peace (WWP), which was founded on the premise that Israeli and Palestinian people had lost hope that there would ever be an agreement, and that women could change that attitude by instilling hope in the population.
It was the 50-day military operation in Gaza in 2014, called the Protective Edge, that was the catalyst for peace for many women. They formed small support groups and then became more widely known with their 50-day communal fasts at the one-year anniversary of the Gaza war in tents across from the Prime Minister’s house.
Great feminist minds think alike! Israeli women took the lead to build a sustainable peace. With the support and co-leadership of Palestinian women, an alliance was formed. The date chosen for the March of Hope was October 19, 2016, with two weeks of activities around the country leading up to it. The end location was changed from the Qalandia checkpoint to the Dead Sea, the womb of the earth, with a simultaneous march in Jerusalem to the Knesset (parliament). Thousands of women, wearing white, from a variety of backgrounds – religious, secular, Arab-Israeli, Russian-Israeli, mothers, daughters – marched together and sang songs of peace.
Forward Global Women helped spread the word and sponsored solidarity events in the U.S. along with the Women’s Leadership Forum of J Street (a pro-peace, pro-Israel, U.S. non-profit) and in our other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries. Four thousand women and men marched to the Dead Sea. And thousands more marched to the Knesset.
Many more women participated in the various gatherings, marches and events leading up to the March of Hope. There was an international peace quilt with patches contributed from all over the world. There were showings of the Liberian women’s peace film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” with post-film discussions. There were torchlight parades, art exhibits and group prayers for peace. Liberian 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, was a featured speaker at the Dead Sea rally and other events. Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women and male supporters marched 3.7 miles from the Allenby Crossing between Israel and Jordan to the Qasr el Yahud on the Jordan River.
It’s not over. WWP continues their efforts. On January 30, they launched Women’s Caucus for Peace and Security in the Israeli Knesset – the first such caucus in Israeli history. Two hundred and fifty women wearing white brought their passion, their desires and their vision to a forum in the halls of the government. With hope, they will finally be heard.
Sandy Pappas lives in St. Paul and has served in the Minnesota Legislature since 1985, first as a Representative, and since 1991 as a Senator.
Forward Global Women was founded in 2011 by Sandy Pappas from the U.S., Rina Bar Tal from Israel and Rula Ouawas from Jordan. The women in the organization are leaders who cross borders for peace. They are academics, politicians and activists. Members are from Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and the U.S. They cross borders to convene each year to develop relationships, plan joint projects and learn from each other, speakers and panelists.