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Letter from Advisory Board Member Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth

Cinema Hotel
1 Zamenhof
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 their duties.

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,”
Sonja Hedgepeth

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