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PHOTOS: Israeli women who have stood up to the occupation for 26 years

In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills pays tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in the main squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at, cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.

Project by: Keren Manor & Shiraz Grinbaum / Activestills.org

Women in black cover

Dafna Kaminer: It was the time of the First Intifada, and we wanted to support the Palestinian struggle. So we decided that we would stand out there with signs calling to end the occupation. It was the simplest and most visual thing we could do.

Edna Glukman, 83, active for 25 years in Women In Black.

Edna Glukman, 83, of the Tel Aviv group and co-founder of Women In Black holds a sign that reads ‘stop the occupation’ in Hebrew.

Edna Glukman: In the beginning, the right-wing protesters started to attack us during the vigils. We sewed big black banners and with small white letters we wrote slogans against the occupation, as well as for justice, peace and women. By the time we began writing the word “women” on our banners, it was already starting to become a women’s movement.

Tamar Huffman: You could say we are handful of women with a lot of opinions; it is definitely a feminist group. If we had a man on the board, he would probably be the one making decisions.

Stela Tzur, 86, active for 25 years in Women In Black.

Stela Tzur, 86, co-founder of Women In Black and part of the Haifa group holds a sign that reads ‘an eye for an eye until all go blind’ in Hebrew.

Tamar Huffman, 58, Tel Aviv group, active for 4 years in Women In Black.

Tamar Huffman, 58, Tel Aviv group, active for four years in Women In Black holds a sign that reads ‘stop the occupation’ in Hebrew.

Tamar Lehan: I didn’t join for feminist reasons, but rather for the persistent and clear statement of the group. However, I think that it is very logical that it is a women’s group, since women are accustomed to doing hard work for long periods of time without seeking immediate results.

Dafna Kaminer: In times of unrest, we expect more verbal and sometimes physical violence. People curse at us as if we were the ones responsible for the situation, and not Israel’s policy makers. When things are more calm, people just walk by and say nothing. Like we are transparent or nonexistent.

Dafna Kaminer (sitting), co-founder of Women In Black and Tamar Leahn, 71, active for 20 years in Women In Black, Jerusalem group.

Dafna Kaminer (sitting), co-founder of Women In Black and Tamar Leahn, 71, active for 20 years in Women In Black, from the Jerusalem group.

Aliya Strauss, 78, active for 24 years in Women In Black, Tel Aviv group.

Aliya Strauss, 78, active for 24 years in Women In Black and is part of the Tel Aviv group, holds a sign reading ‘stop the occupation’ in Arabic.

Aliya Strauss: People approach us and cynically ask “What occupation are you talking about?” But there are also young people who come to ask the same question in all seriousness, since they simply learn nothing about it. In the first few years, many women stood at dozens of junctions – Jewish and Arab women together. Today we are far fewer. It is truly difficult to come every week, to dedicate a day for this cause. We are the ones that continued to do so. People on the street should know that we think there should be a solution.

Dalya Segal: In 1967  my husband came back from the war cheering. I went with him to see the Western Wall that I knew from my childhood. I saw the ruined houses all around. It wasn’t the narrow alley that I used to walk in. Then I started asking myself, what are they planning here? Why are they expelling people from their homes? When I came to join the vigil, the women there asked me why I wanted to join.  I answered simply, ”I came to stand with you.” It was so natural, like I was there all my life.

Dalya Segal, 79, active for 8 years in Women In Black, Tel Aviv group.

Dalya Segal, 79, active for 8 years in Women In Black, and part of the Tel Aviv group, holds a sign reading ‘stop the occupation’ in Hebrew.

Ruthi Geler: We took the black color code from Mayo Mothers‘ in Argentina and Chile, as part of a worldwide political movement against violence, occupation, discrimination and racism. In the historical context it makes sense – it should be thought of as one cause.

Edna Zaretzki Toledano: Our state should be a state for all its citizens, while at the same time it should open the door for refugees from around the world. That’s how I see our humanity. Unfortunately, we are going through a process of de-humanization. As part of the second generation of Holocaust survivors, it is very hard for me to see.

Edna Zaretzki Toledano, 72, co-founder of Women In Black, Haifa Group.

Edna Zaretzki Toledano, 72, co-founder of Women In Black, Haifa Group, holds a sign that reads ‘stop the occupation’ in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Orly Natan, 52, active for 10 years in Women In Black, Haifa group.

Orly Nathan, 52, active for 10 years in Women In Black, Haifa group.

Orly Nathan: Unfortunately, we are diminishing in numbers and also getting old. I think that perhaps Jewish women today consider our vigils too passive. But that is not true. Standing in a public space at noon, on the busiest day of the week, in the middle of the town – that is not a passive act. Our goal is to make the occupation present. To make people realize that the occupation is wrong.

Vered Madar, 44, active for 4 years in Women In Black, Haifa group.

Vered Madar, 44, active for 11 years in Women In Black as part of the Jerusalem group, holds a sign reading ‘stop the occupation’ in Hebrew.

Vered Madar: As far as I remember, I have always had a passion to change the world. Women In Black is one way for me. For years I saw them standing in Haifa and felt alienated. Most of them are older than me, and also I was very busy with Mizrahi activism. At some point I felt comfortable enough to join as a guest. After a while, I felt more at home and decided to stay. When my son, Roi, was born, I started seeing things through his eyes. During one of the vigils, a woman was waving the Israeli flag at us. Roi asked if she is angry at us, and I told him that I think both of us are trying to do the best we can for this place. The right wing has appropriated what people call “love for Israel,” and the Zionist narrative portrays power over the Palestinian people as essential. It is not.

Judy Blanc: I am very proud of my grandson, Natan (conscious objector Natan Blanc). I’m amazed at how many people see him as an independent, honest young man. Even people who do not agree with him politically are appreciative of his deeds. Young people nowadays are more individualistic. Only critical thinking about society and collectivity can help us bring peace.

Judy Blanc, 85, co-founder of Women In Black, Jerusalem group.

Judy Blanc, 85, co-founder of Women In Black, Jerusalem group, holds a sign that reads ‘stop the occupation’ in Arabic.

Ruti Geler, 62, active for 20 years in Women In Black

Varda Sivan, 62, active for 20 years in Women In Black, Haifa group, wears a shirt with the slogan “War is not my language” in Hebrew and Arabic.

Noami Morag & Ruth Elraz

Noami Morag (R), 66, 25 years in Women In Black, Ruth Elraz (L), 81, co-founder of Women In Black, Jerusalem group.

Yaffa Berlovitz Bloch: This persistence and continuity gives me the feeling that this is not “special.” This is our life. The occupation still exists, nothing changes. This sign, which screams “stop the occupation,” – we will continue to carry it even if nobody listens.

Edna Glukman:  I have been participating in activism for 60 years, and I don’t think we have achieved much. On the other hand we did, we have made some progress. I wouldn’t change a thing – if I was young I would to it all over again.

Yaffa Berlovitz Bloch, 76, active for 19 years in Women In Black.

Yaffa Berlovitz Bloch, 76, active for 19 years in Women In Black, Tel Aviv group, holds a sign reading ‘stop the occupation’ in Hebrew.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. lev kamenev

      It really is the least they could do. And how many legions do they have, these Women in Black?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Israel’s version of the White Rose. These women are the beautiful part of the face of Israel. Too bad it’s a small part.

      Reply to Comment
      • lev kamenev

        Of course, unlike the White Rose movement, there is little chance of the members of Women in Black being arrested, tortured and beheaded. Not because Israel (or any efficient state) is more tolerant than Germany was but because there’s no need to arrest them. They aren’t standing in the way of bulldozers (look what happened when someone tried that) or revealing any information to the Israeli public (Anat Kamm?) or in anyway interfering with the smooth running of the state. As such, the government may smile benignly ipon these women, and ignore them completely, as the population does.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          Wrong, Kommissar.

          The White Rose was no threat to Germany. White Rose were a handful of university students who handed out leaflets. That’s all they did and yes, the were arrested, tortured and beheaded.

          The State of Israel is immeasurably more tolerant than Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and every country in today’s Middle East.

          Reply to Comment
          • Peter was a self-hating Jew

            …tolerant unless you’re part of the indigenous population in the West Bank, Joel.

            Reply to Comment
    3. “women are accustomed to doing hard work for long periods of time without seeking immediate results”

      And without that, there would be nothing else.

      Reply to Comment
      • margaret cone

        That quote is priceless

        Reply to Comment
    4. Amal

      Thank you, God bless!

      Reply to Comment
    5. rawda makhoul

      Great article but incomplete.I would like to add that The WIB friday vigil of the western Galilee, which is not mentioned above. However, it had been active ten years ago. Women from the palestinian villages and kibbutzim of the area stood in a major crossroad in Akko every friday. These women, including me and my mother Nabiha Morkus of MDWI, had also endured all kinds of verbal and non-verbal harrassments. My mother is still active among women of the area in issues of women and workers rights.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Carlos Kort

      These woman are very brave in my eyes. I wish there were many more like that. This gives a little of hope. Israel is on the wrong path, and most people are afraid to say the truth. If something is wrong it should be wrong for everybody, but if it is right it should be right for everyone. No more apartheid and double standards….Cajosh

      Reply to Comment
    7. tomer

      Why are these women predominately secular, Ashkenazi and elderly?

      Just a bunch of Pre-Oslo Labor diehards who are too stupid to grasp that their ship sunk many moons ago.

      Reply to Comment
      • danni ashe

        Good question, Tomer. Hardly a cross section of concerned Israeli society.
        How many windows have they smashed? Was damage extensive in the business-areas? Does this rebellion look like spreading?

        Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        Tomer,

        This “bunch of diehards who are too stupid” are imma,savta and savta raba to hundreds,if not thousands of children,grandchildren and great-grand children.

        And all of them have a lot to be proud of.

        Not too stupid,if you ask me.

        And how are you doing,besides lezalzel.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Tomer

      The damage that these people caused in the mass murder of approx 1500 Israelis and another few thousand being burned, blinded, or becoming physically or mentally disabled. Plus, all the anguish that they causesd to their families.

      Oslo will NEVER be repeated.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Cheers to your courage women in black, and thank you a million times for standing up against your unfair and inhumane government against Palestinians.
      This is a an ongoing fight for the Palestinians that are suffering the military occupation in all their firms.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Yossi

      Why don’t they protest something real for a change
      Unless they don’t actually care about the Palestinians….hmmm
      Read below …….this is real !!!

      According to a senior official in the PA Ministry of Women’s Affairs, there has been a 100% rise in the number of Palestinian women murdered in the name of “family honor.” The official also complained that PA leader Abbas has not fulfilled his pledge to change PA law, which currently protects the murderers of women who were killed because of so-called “family honor”:

      “Director of Coordination in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Nabila Rizq revealed that the number of women who were murdered in 2013 in Palestine due to ‘family honor’ rose to 27, compared to 13 women murdered in 2012… Rizq said the loophole in the penal code — specifically the extenuating circumstances and circumstances which permit [murder] — gives the criminal an excuse to commit his crime, and she asserted that three years ago a demand was submitted to President Mahmoud Abbas to remove this clause because it exempts the criminal from punishment.”
      [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 3, 2014]

      Reply to Comment
    11. Bilha Sündermann Golan

      חברות נהדרות,אשה בשחור נשארת במחויבות
      למשמרת יום השישי
      13:00 – 14:00
      שנים בחום הקיץ ובחורף הקר הגשום.
      כאלה אתן.בלהה

      Reply to Comment
    12. yehoshua rosin

      my deep appreciation to the wonderful ladies
      who help us not to forget the attrocities of the ocuppation and the urgent need to stop it and make peace.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Naki Leukart

      THANK YOU! You make my HEART rejoice and I wish to congratulate all of you, Ladies, wonderful “Women in Black”, for the marvelous and peaceful action you entered into.
      I do wish young persons will join you! Thank you to be HUMAN. To discover your existence today is a gift for me. Be well, I’ll be with you from Heart.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Mirza Yawar Baig

      They also serve, those who stand and bear witness. These are women of courage who stand for what is right. When the truth must be spoken, silence is culpable.

      Reply to Comment
    15. rafik

      Thanks for your actions and hoop fully successful

      Reply to Comment
    16. Carmen

      Yossi, we all play our part in this story of life, in whatever way we can. You seem to have all the facts. Nothing precludes you from playing your own part in how you see the issues. These are brave, heroic women.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Stephen

      Thank you for everything that you do. I love you.

      Reply to Comment
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