Monday, March 17, 2008

Women in Black - Courage & Steadfastedness

The Personal is the Political
Dafna is active in Women in Black in Jerusalem. If Dafna is in the country, then rain or shine, she and her sisters take up their position in Hagar (Paris) Square denouncing the occupation and violence. I must admit that if there is any serious security tension in Jerusalem towards the end of the week, I become fraught with concern over the possibility that the vigil may be attacked. The criminal attack at the Merkaz Ha’rav Yeshiva occurred on Thursday at 8 PM. The country, the media and many ordinary citizens were seething with anger, most of it blatantly racist. If you are planning to go to the streets to continue the weekly protest, you are worried about Israelis who might be looking for revenge. There are settler crazies out there plotting away, though they really prefer taking out their frustrations on Palestinians. But there are any number of Jerusalemites, who can become unhinged. It was clear early Thursday evening that the vigil would be tense.
The vigil does enjoy a modicum of police protection, but it is very lay back. Their goal is more to protect the peace than anything else. Still, better than nothing. There were indeed 3-4 passers by that felt the need to scream and curse. Pretty ugly, but this is par for the course, when it looks like you can assume that the verbal attack will not get physical. But on Friday, March 7, 2007, the women were accosted by an extraordinarily viscous brute. The hooligan, who seems to have been an American, was brandishing the front page of a newspaper brandishing the photographs of the eight Merkaz HaRav victims right in the faces of the women and screaming Hamas Whores, Hamas Whores. He was of course working himself into a frenzy and screaming (in English). A policemen did gently move him away from direct physical contact with the women, but then the thug took up a position in the middle of the street and continued his harangue, explicitly demanding that the Hamas Whores submit to his crazed sexual demands. The police did not see this as a reason to interfere.
He was still uncomfortably close to the vigil when it began to break-up. The women had previously decided to have a very small party at the end of the vigil for one of the participants who was marking her 99th birthday. The thug had by this time gathered around him a few local fanatics. These grouped into a small gang of hooligans which accosted three groups of women on their way from the vigil, pushing and shoving and banging on the car of one woman. The police were gone by then. During the week, a delegation of women met with the police and requested a firmer hand against any form of harassment, which can easily set the stage for really violent attacks. Things were generally quiet this last Friday.
So if you want to know the meaning of courage and steadfastedness in the face of mounting chauvinist tension, come then, in body or spirit, to their vigil and stand with the Women in Black who are standing in Paris Square for peace, against hatred and racism. then, in body or spirit, to their vigil and stand with the Women in Black who are standing in Paris Square for peace, against