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Front Page |  In Depth |  Middle East |  Voices from the conflict 
Voices from the conflict
Introduction
Yonatan Yagodovsky
Israeli emergency worker
Mahmoud Shahin
Palestinian from Bethlehem
Ron
Israeli army reservist
Mohammed Bakri
Israeli Arab doctor
Yehuda Aslan
Israeli restaurant owner
Abu al-Abed
Palestinian militant
Rifka Goldschmidt
Israeli settler in Gaza
Map indicating Jerusalem

Gila Svirsky
Gila Svirsky, an Israeli peace campaigner for more than 15 years, lives in Jerusalem. She is a founding member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, a grouping of eight Israeli and Palestinian women's peace organisations.

The violence has led me to devote all my day-to-day life to the conflict. I have no life outside the conflict and addressing the issues of the conflict. Of course all Israelis suffer in that we are fearful of terrorism, but I don't suffer in the same direct way that Palestinians do. But all of my hours, virtually all, are directed to figuring out how to end the conflict and get to peace. My partner is very annoyed at this situation.

I have set myself certain rules, as many Israelis have. For example, I am going food shopping late this evening because I believe that the markets will be less crowded. I don't go on buses these days. If I don't have the car, I go by taxi. I don't go to restaurants or cafes that are crowded I go to places that are empty. We have all restricted our lives in a way that will protect us. Of course it doesn't always help, but it helps your chances of survival.

I don't go on buses these days. If I don't have the car, I go by taxi. I don't go to restaurants or cafes that are crowded I go to places that are empty. We have all restricted our lives in a way that will protect us. Of course it doesn't always help, but it helps your chances of survival.
Listen to audio Real 28k 
The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace have a strategic plan that we periodically change in the context of events. But all strategy fell away with this recent invasion of the West Bank [starting at the end of March 2002]. Most of our time is spent trying to get word out from behind the locked iron gate on what is happening in the Palestinian cities and trying to get humanitarian aid in to them. Yesterday I spent all day, trying to facilitate the passage of a convoy of 41 trucks laden with food and water into Jenin. By the end of the day, although all 41 had crossed the road block after enormously long negotiations, only five were allowed to go into the city. When we called the UN for help, they said they had 60 tonnes of emergency aid that they couldn't get through either.

Our long-term strategy is to engage in activities in Israel that will not only persuade Israeli public opinion that the only way to end the violence is to arrive at a just political solution, but also to demonstrate to foreigners that there is a large constituency of Israelis who do want a just political solution, who believe that the occupation is unjust and must end. Only through ending the occupation, can we arrive at this just end.

At the moment there are two entirely separate things going on in the minds of Israelis. On the one hand there is the patriotic fervour that accompanies military action. When the general announces that this is a matter of survival, everyone rallies behind him. But the other side of this is an underlying belief that ultimately there is no military solution to this. That belief is as well entrenched as the current belief that says right now we have no alternative but to use arms.

The belief in our ideology has been growing over the years. This says that ultimately the occupation must end, that we must return to some semblance of the 1967 borders and we must figure out a settlement on Jerusalem. Only 35% of the Israeli public voted for Ariel Sharon. Others voted for Barak or they abstained from voting all together. Although Sharon received the plurality of the votes, he did not get the majority.

Ariel Sharon will never make peace, because he will not give up the settlements. That is his life's enterprise. He also thinks with his fists rather than his head. But he does not represent most Israelis in this respect. I believe the subtext of this is that the settlers are fanatics and are driving us towards something that is bad for us.

I have every belief that we are going to get to peace sooner rather than later, though admittedly, not in the term of Ariel Sharon. The reason for my optimism is that both sides are fed up. We cannot tolerate the kind of life we have been living for so many years much longer.

I was driving in a beautiful area of Israel… I thought I hate this scenery. I hated it because to me it represented something so terrible - it represented hurting other people, being inhumane towards them, behaving in a way that is not befitting of Jewish people.
Listen to audio Real 28k 
Right now there is a sense of fury, frustration, bitterness and hatred on both sides. What the Israeli action combined with the terrorist bombings have done is to foster more hatred than anything over the last 30 years of occupation. We will be able to get past it – Japan got past two nuclear bombs – but it will take time, and something a bit more than 'confidence building measures'.

Yesterday I was talking to a Palestinian man, and he said to me the Israelis do not understand the Palestinians. He said to me that the moment an Israeli prime minister stands up and says that we apologise, please forgive us for all we have done to you in the past, we did it out of a sense of self defence and insecurity - the hatred would then be erased in the hearts of most Palestinians. Not all but most. I suspect that the Palestinian is right.

There are a large number of people in Israel who are like minded but it still hurts to read from surveys that I and people like me are regarded as pariahs in this society. About a year ago, an article was published in one of our leading newspapers about the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace. There were huge blown up pictures of 10 of us in the movement. Mine was the first and there was a long interview with me. The title of the whole article, and it was featured on the front page, was 'The pariahs'. That of course spread to my neighbourhood and my friends. It didn't feel that great.

I spent half a day today trying to get away from things, and I drove out to a beautiful part of Israel. I looked for a little spot where I could stop and read my book. The whole time I was driving through this beautiful area I was looking at the trees and thought I hate this scenery. That is the first time I had ever though that about his country that I love so much. I felt terrible, about feeling this way. I want to get back to loving it. I hated it because to me it represented something so terrible - it represented hurting other people, being inhumane towards them, behaving in a way that is not befitting of Jewish people.



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