A Speech to Women in Black by Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan
Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan

This is a translation into English (by the author herself) of Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan's speech to the mass rally of Women in Black last Friday.  Nurit is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997.

We thank Nurit for her words and her permission to forward them freely.

—Gila Svirsky

Over the last week we have seen many photographs of dead children.  These children were out to have a god time, unaware of the problems surrounding their existence in this land.  And another child, who took his own life along with theirs, as though he was Samson declaring, let me die with the Philistines.

But neither they nor he were Philistines.  The Philistines are those who - for more than 40 years - have been sending children to their death.  Children in uniform and children without uniform, children with guns and children with Molotov cocktails, children of Israeli commandos, and children of Palestinian guerrilla.  And all this to satisfy the murderous ambitions of the Philistines and their greed for land that is not theirs.

The Philistines are those who leave mothers like myself bereaved, in the useless wars that our children are forced to fight for them.  Wars that are waged supposedly for the love of the country, the love of God, and the good of the nation.  But the truth is that these wars are waged for no other reason than the insanity and megalomania of the so-called leaders and heads of state.  For them children are no more than abstract notions: You kill one of mine, I will kill 300 of yours and the account is settled.

But I, who lost my only daughter, know that the death of any child means the death of the whole world.  "Satan has not yet devised a Vengeance for the death of a young child" said the Jewish poet Bialik, and that is not because Satan has no means to do so, but because after the death of a child there is no more death for there is no more life.  The child takes the war and the future of the war into his little grave to rest with his little bones.

When my little girl was killed, a reporter asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the other side.  I replied without hesitation that I refused it: When representatives of Netanyahu's government came to offer their condolences I took my leave and would not sit with them.  For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people.  For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs.  The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war.  My people are those who seek peace.  My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps.  My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so.  Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues there is more that unites us than that which divides us.

I wish to revive two slogans that were misused by the Israeli right wing and have not been heard since the present government came to power.  The first is that "Brothers are not to be forsaken".  Our brothers and sisters in the refugee camps and under occupation, who are deprived of food and livelihood and of all their human rights, should not be forsaken now.

The other slogan is, "The uprooting of settlements tears the nation apart".  Uprooting of olive groves and vineyards, the demolition of houses and confiscation of land will tear apart our already endangered species of peace-seeking people and will bring it to extinction.  And when this species no longer exists, there will be nothing left to write, nothing left to read, nothing left to say except for the muted story of slain youth.

Today, when there is almost no opposition to the atrocities of the Israeli government, when the Israeli peace camp has evaporated into thin air, a cry must rise, a cry that is as ancient as man and woman, a cry that is beyond all differences of race or religion or language, The cry of motherhood: Save our children.

—Nurit Peled-Elhanan