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Raise Children to Life, not to War

16. Februar 2024

Lesezeit: 10 Minute(n)

On October 4th, three days before the war broke out, I sang “Prayer of the Mothers” in a joint event of the Israeli Women Wage Peace and the Palestinian “Women of the Sun”, two peace organizations led by women from two enemy nations. Seven years had passed since the miraculous “March of Hope”, uniting Palestinian and Israeli women in a call for peace. It was for that march and this group of mothers that I wrote “Prayer of the Mothers” back in 2016, followed by a video clip made by my friend Astar Elkayam, telling the story of this movement and inspiring women and men around the world. The event on October 4th was one of many in which I would join to sing, to march and witness the perseverance and dedication of these courageous women. In a post on October 6th I wrote: “This story will be told for generations to come, the story of the Palestinian and Israeli mothers and grandmothers who woke up from the illusion that they were powerless and decided to act together to create a new reality …”
Text: Yael Deckelbaum; A German version of the article can be found here.

On October 7th, I arrived in Germany to give a concert. The poster at the entrance to the venue said: “Saturday, 7/10 , 7 pm, Yael Deckelbaum – ‘War is not a Woman’s Game’”. Ironically it was that very morning that I woke up to the news of the massacre. With every passing day I would hear that more people I know and love have disappeared, are dead, horrifying stories of rape, decapitated babies. My friend Michal Halev flew to Israel to try to find her son who was at the Nova festival. It took almost a week, while losing her mind, before she got the news, the worst of the worst of news that they had discovered his body, she had lost her only son. Mothers I know had Hamas call them from their abducted daughters’ phones, and I will not repeat the things they said.

Social media has told the story well enough, and still I feel it is important to make it clear that the people of Israel have been and are still going through the biggest collective trauma since the establishment of the State of Israel. I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. The pain, the horror, and the fear that I felt in my bones made me sense something I have not yet recognized: I am a particle in a fabric, an entity that is the Jewish people, and I know that because that body was so deeply hurt, that even me – in my distant individuality – couldn’t stop crying for weeks. I don’t understand what connects me to that fabric beyond being born into it, to my relationships, geography, history, and the stories I was brought up on, but it is deeper than all of the above, and I can’t put it into words.

“The voice of those who carry life is silenced.”

As a “citizen of the world”, a flower girl, who would never raise the Israeli flag (nor any flag) in pride, who has always advocated for a two state solution, it took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that I now belong to one side of a war, I didn’t choose it, I didn’t personally create these circumstances, they apply to me, and if anything: I belong to the group of people who tried to make a change. In the years prior to these events I have written songs like “Prayer Of The Mothers”, “Women Of The World Unite”, “What About The Women”, “War Is Not A Woman’s Game”, “Knit The Net” and more. I was deeply inspired by the story of the women of Liberia, who put an end to a 13 year civil war. I had faith that their story could be the story of the women of Israel and Palestine, the story of the women of the world, so I created a whole album dedicated to inspiring women to unite and stop all wars together.

Marsch der Hoffnung im Oktober 2016 / March of Hope in October 2016

Foto: Yair Golov

 

Since October 7th I find myself in freeze mode. Terrified by what is happening, it is as real as it could get now. No longer a story in my head, but real people personally close to my heart, being terrorized to an extent of cruelty beyond imagination. Peace activist Vivian Silver – from “Women Wage Peace”, was presumed kidnapped for a month before they IDd her body. In this freeze mode I observed as the situation deteriorated, claiming more and more innocent lives, now on the Palestinian side, and I have no idea what to do or say. My voice was silenced, my songs for peace, embarrassed. I thought about gathering the women, marching together into the battlefield and singing this war out of existence, singing everyone into an awakening.

But women have been raped. My bones were on fire. International women organizations were silent about it, people around the world celebrated this attack, aligning themselves with savagery. Unimaginable footage of a woman’s violated body dragged down the streets of Gaza, spat on by men and women, in a celebration, shook me to the core. It pushed a button inside me, turning off my power completely, turning off my access to the light, to hope in humanity. Hell broke loose and my entire view of the world was shattered into little pieces. How can I make peace with people who do such things, who celebrate such acts? What about the women I asked myself? 

Marsch der Hoffnung im Oktober 2016, in der Mitte Yael Deckelbaum / March of Hope in October 2016, Yael Deckelbaum in the centre

Foto: Gil Shani

 

Now I see with my own two eyes, in live streaming, what happens to women in times of war. First, we get raped. Invasion into a woman’s body marks the stabbing of the spear into the womb of a nation. Everyone who is sensitive can feel this invasion in their body, even if it has not happened to you personally. This shakes up every parent who has a daughter, enough to drive you out of your mind. (I am not a mother, and yet it drove me completely out of mine.) Second: We have our sons and husbands sent away on the battlefields. At this point most of us encourage that and feel thankful for having an army of brave soldiers to watch over us and keep our children safe from harm. When they return there will be a whole generation of traumatized men, families will be destroyed, war will continue to echo away from the public eye, each woman in her home will need to live with it, work with it. Third: We stick closely to our tribe, protect, support, and stand behind the lines of our army. Some of us choose to be warriors like the men, most of us hold the fort, tend to the children, the injured, make sandwiches, send food, heal, and avoid saying anything that will weaken the united front that is now attacking the enemy tribe. Fourth: Our true voice is silenced. The voice of those who carry life, does not apply in times of war. It is not time for mercy and tenderness.

In times of war our compassion and morality narrow down to the ones closest to us and end at the enemy lines. We stay silent, though women and children are now being bombed on the other side, entire families wiped off the face of the planet, in numbers that are beyond comprehension. But what can we do now? It is now each nation to itself, and those who dare speak of a nonviolent solution are weakening their own people, naive or just blind and plain stupid. The logical thing, the sane reaction – as we are being led to believe – is WAR.

So what about the women? Stand back and let the men do what they are “designed” to do, and be what you are “designed” to be. The situation is out of our hands, there are no partners for peace, here we have proof that the cultural, mental, and religious gap is beyond repair. “THEY” have one goal – and that is to wipe us off the face of the earth. So what is the answer? WAR. Are we to continue playing the role of the helpless mother? The confused daughter? Straw women in the matrix – puppets that produce soldiers to be used as pawns?

“A drop of light in a sea of madness.”

The idea that women leadership is what we need to stop this war strips soldiers from their arms, warlords from the essence of their existence, billions of dollars weapon industries, oligarchs from their thrones, political leaders from the top of the pyramid. An entire world that has been spinning this way for thousands of years. The women give birth to children, the children become soldiers, kill, die. The mother remains an empty shell. The daughter of a daughter of a daughter of a mother whose body was occupied so as to serve the agenda of those in power. Far more ancient than the war between Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews, the war between religions, is the occupation of the female body and consciousness. The separation between nations strengthens the separation between a woman and her power. Leaves her depending on the army, worrying for her son, for her family.

And here we are once again – giving our strength to support a war, backing the army, weakened behind it, so that our daughters won’t be raped, so that we will not be occupied by the other side. Here we are again, collaborating with the very system that has been stripping us of our power for thousands of years. A function of reproduction of a nation, with no sovereignty over our bodies, no freedom of choice in what will be the fate of our son in the battle fields.

And how will we get out of this loop? Patriarchy is a live, super powerful and almighty entity, complex and embedded deeply in us all. We still need it, still stand behind it and play along – that is the fact of Israeli women, Palestinian women, Russian women, Ukrainian women, women in India, Asia, South America, and all over the world. It’s a survival mechanism that ensures our continuity. But like many survival mechanisms, it has kept us in a toxic loop, preventing us from the fulfillment of our full human potential. It is an outdated machine, a shell that will slowly but surely shed off the emerging sprouts of a new era, where femininity is restored to her natural healthy place, the giver and keeper of all life on earth. I would like to believe that if women had a real say in what is going on in the world, leaders such as Putin, Netanyahu, Sinwar, Haniyeh, Hitler etc. wouldn’t have the freedom to inflict such crimes on humanity.

Marsch der Hoffnung im Oktober 2016 / March of Hope in October 2016

Foto: Yair Golov

 

I was born a Jewish woman in the State of Israel, and with all complexity involved, I am a part of this tribe. But I am also a part of another tribe, bigger than Israel, bigger than Palestine, the USA and any other nation, and that is the tribe of all women. I am also a part of all of the people who believed in peace and have their hearts broken to pieces. Israeli or Palestinian, it does not make a difference to me. If you wish to find a path to peace, you are my sister, my brother. There is one more thing I wish to say to all the people on social media, the artists who have chosen a side, who are observers and easily ignite hatred and division:

  • If you have chosen a side (any side) in this war,
  • if you have a clear opinion on who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is evil,
  • if you hold hatred in your heart towards all Israelies or all Palestinians,
  • if you are an outsider, an observer, and your heart hurts for Palestinian babies and remains cold towards the Israeli babies (or the other way around),
  • if you give points to who is a real victim by numbers of people being hurt,
  • if you put your ideology above humanity,
  • If you have a strong, confidant opinion about people you have never met personally,
  • if you see the people for their leaders and not for who they are,
  • if you comment “Free Palestine,” “Stand With Israel,” use flag emojis, and even send harmful messages, praying for the suffering or the extermination of one nation or another …

I understand you. It’s nearly impossible to contain this complexity. Especially, if you have been deeply hurt in your life, especially, if you are a side in this war, related to people who have been bombed, abducted, whose lives were taken. I can understand why you would want to position yourself on one side only. It is natural to be caught in a two-dimensional state of mind, but how far does that vision go? Where does it lead? How long will humanity continue marching the same path expecting different results?

For those of you who have a little voice inside of you, saying there must be more, and it must be good, I would like to tell a new (and true) story: On October 4th, three days before the war broke out, Israeli and Palestinian women held a joint event. Speaking of the role of the mother and her basic right to raise her child to life and not to war. There may be another path, a path of nonviolence, one that doesn’t leave any child behind. The world should listen to these women. A drop of light in a sea of madness. Yes. from both sides. The other option, as we can clearly see now, is hell. I believe these women are pointing us all in a good direction. If they – from the depth of their pain and personal sacrifice, dare to meet each other, really see each other. Maybe we can dare to follow.

 

The Israeli-Canadian singer/songwriter and activist Yael Deckelbaum became known as a founding member of the Israeli platinum-selling female folk band Habanot Nechama. She has since released four solo albums. In 2016, her song “Prayer Of The Mothers” went viral and became an international peace anthem. www.yaeldeckelbaum.com

Videolinks:

„Prayer Of The Mothers“: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyFM-pWdqrY

„War Is Not A Woman’s Game“: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnXOu7PD9Cg

„Women Of The World Unite“: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0wFZUmd23c

„The Answer“: www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8qpv1JNG4M

Marsch der Hoffnung im Oktober 2016, in der Mitte Yael Deckelbaum / March of Hope in October 2016, Yael Deckelbaum in the centre

Foto: Yair Golov

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