Some 3,000 women gathered at the Knesset Rose Garden in Jerusalem on Wednesday to press for peace and protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
The event was organized by Women Wage Peace, a new group that was launched last summer in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. The organization includes both Jews and Arabs, religious and secular women.
"Israel is stuck in a barren dialogue with itself that there is no choice and no partner," declared Irit Keynan, a professor at the academic college of Or Yehuda and head of the graduate program for education, as well as head of the Institute for Civic Responsibility. "Politicians who are uninterested in peace hold onto weak excuses and raise the ghosts of the Jewish people's traumatic fears."
Meanwhile, she said, "politicians who are interested in peace are afraid to say so out loud, and compete with each other for the toughest stance."
As a result, she said, a twisted situation has arisen in which patriotism is identified with warlike discourse, while the word peace has become derogatory. It has reached the point where people have advised the movement to change its name, she noted.
"Without a diplomatic agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, without ending the conflict, the Zionist vision is doomed to failure," she added, "and with it all, the wonderful achievement we made here during 67 years of Israel's existence."
Former MK Yael Dayan also addressed demonstrators, as did Yael Admi of the Parents Circle Family Forum, and other Arab and Jewish public figures.
Michal Keidar, the widow of Dolev Keidar, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge, sent a message from the United States.
"I tried not to care about what is happening in this country. I really tried," she wrote. "I thought the only privilege given me on July 21 was apathy about the economic situation, after years of getting irritated and hurting about the racism, the wars and the lack of hope spreading here," she stated, referring to the date her husband was killed.
"I lost the only man I loved in the madness of this country," said Keidar. "And then came the elections, and I realized that I didn't even have this privilege."
She noted that she realized that she did care that there shouldn't be more people killed, that there should be hope in the country.
"Dolev gave his life for this country," she added. "The least I expect of you is to sit and think who has the best chance of giving us hope for a quiet, normal life, and go vote."