Anat Saragusti on Women Wage Peace

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Grace Gleason and Anat Saragusti
On September 25, one the first days of the new year, the Israeli women’s grassroots activist movement Women Wage Peace (Nashim Osot Shalom) embarked on an impressive “Journey to Peace,” a multi-day march through the land of Israel-Palestine, which will culminate next week during the holiday of Sukkot. This is not the first ambitious undertaking of Women Wage Peace (WWP), who have an impressive history of disruptive, bold, radically optimistic, and resilient activism. “We,” write the activist collective in their press release about the Journey, “who fasted for 50 days in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, who marched 200 kilometers from Rosh Hanikra in our March of Hope, who rode by train from Nahariya to Sderot, who stood at 140 intersections throughout the country – we are beginning a journey that will echo in Israel and around the world: Peace is possible.”

In June of this year, I had the opportunity to interview, with AJPA Director Aliza Becker, one of the leaders of this movement: renowned journalist, activist, and human rights advocate Anat Saragusti. We met with Saragusti at the central public library in Tel Aviv. She spoke about the dreams, challenges, ideology, and strategy of this singularly powerful activist movement. As the group embarks on their latest venture, and as we stand in the wake of our Jewish season of reflection and commitment to change, we thought that there is no better time than now to share these reflections from one of WWP’s leaders.

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Shana Tova

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Elul, the Jewish month which is about to come to a close, is a time of looking backwards. Our Jewish tradition recognizes the value of taking a pause from our busy, forward-looking lives to turn around and take stock of what has already happened. The spirit of the time we are in and which we are about to enter during the High Holidays is one of reflection — of attempting to come to terms with the past, and, based on that understanding, committing to change our actions in the future. Just as this season encourages us to do, the hundreds of interviews in the American Jewish Peace Archive provide a fertile resource for us to look back at the history of American Jewish peace activism, helping us find direction for the path we might take into the future.

The spirit of forgiveness is also with us in this time; one of the primary activities of the month of Elul is forgiving each other. It is taught in the Mishnah (Yoma 8:9) that atoning on Yom Kippur for wrongs that you did to other people does not elicit any forgiveness from God; only people have the power to forgive each other for these wrongs. The AJPA facilitates the process of forgiveness between generations of activists across the span of 50 years. This understanding is the first step of forgiveness and moving forward together. Through hearing the stories of different generations, we can understand how each has done their best within the context of the time.

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