from Advisory Board Member Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth
Tel Aviv, Israel
March 2, 2004
Dear friends, shalom from Israel!
Thank you for honoring me with the Ayne Cantrell Award for 2003-2004.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day (officially on Monday,
March 8), allow me to tell you what a group of women here is doing to
make the world a bit better, in a perhaps small, but significant way.
As you know, thousands of Palestinians cross the border into Israel
every day, either to go to work, attend school, or carry out their daily
schedules. The Israeli soldiers who guard these borders are mostly young
men, ranging from eighteen-year-old recruits to reservists, back for multiple
stints. There is much tension and confusion at these checkpoints, whereby
the soldiers are often pushed to the limit, at times becoming angry, tired,
or even frightened. Not knowing how to deal with the difficult situations
they face, they may sometimes resort to unpleasant means of performing
There is a group of Israeli middle-aged women who simply stand at border
crossings around the area of Jerusalem. They don’t say anything.
They simply stand and observe the soldiers at the checkpoints. Their idea
is, that if these young soldiers know that women who could be their mothers
are watching their actions, they won’t “manhandle” people
crossing the border. And, perhaps the soldiers too, don’t feel like
they have been forgotten by the people of Israel. This “crazy act”
has had some good results, from what I have heard. The personal is political
indeed, and each individual woman and man can decide every day, whether
we make life a bit worse or better for all of us.
I think that Clara Zetkin, the German activist who started the celebration
of International Women’s Day in 1910, would have liked these Israeli
women very much.
Thank you again for honoring me and enjoy your breakfast!
“From somewhere in the Middle East,”
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