This past June in Tel Aviv, the American Jewish Peace Archive interviewed J Street Israel Director Yael Patir. Patir recounted the influence of American Jews on the Israeli peace movement and offered counsel for American activists.
Patir was born in Tel Aviv to a liberal Zionist family. Three of her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Her grandmother often shared with her the lesson that one’s lot in life is “all a matter of luck, not anything else.” The close relationship Patir had with her grandmother helped inspire her staunch commitment to fight against injustice for those who suffer through no fault of their own.
Although her parents were not activists, they were sympathetic to the peace movement. At age fifteen, Patir tagged along with her older brother to the November 4, 1995 peace demonstration at which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. At a time when the Israeli electorate was bitterly divided, she recalls: “We took with us a big Israeli flag, because we wanted to make a statement that we were as patriotic and Israeli-loving as anybody else despite… [supporting] this peace process.” The experience of Rabin’s assassination was indelibly inscribed in her memory. Read more.
Though many Jews over 50 may remember the excitement of the massive Israeli anti-war mobilizations organized by Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in the late 1970s and 80s in Israel, I was surprised to learn about this history. I first learned about Shalom Achshav protests and the extent of their power in Israeli society and politics — calling for an end to the occupation, Israeli accountability in the first Lebanon War, and for their government to seek peace with neighboring nations — through interviews for the American Jewish Peace Archive conducted with Shalom Achshav founder Yuli Tamir and longtime leader Janet Aviad.
Yuli Tamir, one of the founders of Shalom Achshav and a former member of Knesset and Minister of Education, recalled the movement’s initial seeds. She and a group of friends, young veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War had lost many of their peers in a war in which over 2600 Israelis and over 10,000 Egyptian and allies were killed. They “felt deserted” by the old guard political leaders for not averting the war. Fueled by their anger and grief, they began to organize, and, in April of 1978, sent a letter to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Read more