The Israeli Women's Peace Movement: Making Change At The Radical Edge

April 30, 2001

For more than a decade, the women's peace movement in Israel has been at the leading edge of peace politics in the region. From Women in Black in the late 1980s to the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace today, women have been consistently active in gendered and feminist peace organizations since the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) in 1988. Just back from six months in Israel, peace activist Marcia Freedman will describe and analyze the current concerns of the women's peace movement against the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as against the background of Israeli society.

Marcia Freedman is the author of Exile in the Promised Land, a memoir of her years in Israel. She immigrated to Israel in 1967, and taught philosophy at Haifa University. One of the founders of the Israeli feminist movement, Freedman served in the Knesset from 1973 to 1977. She was a voice for women's issues in the Knesset, raising concerns that had never been spoken of publicly in Israel before – domestic violence, rape, incest, teenage prostitution. She introduced legislation that led to reform of the country's restrictive abortion law.

Freedman was active in the Israeli peace movement, championing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the civil rights of political dissidents and the human rights of Palestinians under occupation. Following her term in the Knesset, Freedman helped to pioneer a network of services for women, including Israel's first shelter for battered women and rape crisis centers.

Currently president of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Freedman divides her time between Israel and the United States. In Israel she is active with the Jerusalem Women's Center, Kol Ha-Isha, and Bat Shalom and the Jerusalem Link, and Israeli-Palestinian women's peace organization. She is currently launching a new project for Kol Ha-Isha, a community School for Women's Studies and Economic Development.

This event was sponsored by Women's Studies Research Center, Hadassah International Research Institute on Jewish Women, The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public life, The Politics Department, and The Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, of Brandeis University. It was also sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.