International Women's Day March at Qalandiya Checkpoint / by Sophie Schor

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March 7, 2015

Busy week since I've returned. On Wednesday there was a March of over 3,000 women who stood outside the Knesset demanding peace. The event was organized by a new group that formed after the war this summer, Women Wage Peace. The garden across from the parliament was full of Jewish and Palestinian women who gathered to demand peace.

Then this morning I was at Qalandiya checkpoint, the crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah, with many women who were protesting against the occupation for International Women's Day. The nonviolent demonstration was organized by many feminist groups in Israel and Palestine including Women in Black, Mahsom Watch, Women against Violence, Democratic Women and 40 Mothers. I'm doing research for my masters on women peace movements in Israel/Palestine and the week proved to be first-hand research. Women were all ages, but I spoke with some of the founding matriarchs.

So there we stood on one side of the wall while Palestinian women from the West Bank stood on the other side; united by solidarity, divided by concrete. I joined some of the founding feminists in Israel over 60yrs old, Palestinian women from the North, young women from North and South, and internationals. We chanted, we held signs, we banged drums.One scrawny little woman wearing a straw-hat came up to me and handed me a page telling me to vote for the Joint-Arab list. She described to me how she immigrated to Israel from Canada in order that when she was arrested for protesting, they would be forced to honor her rights. She was spunky and radical and in her late 60s. Another woman and her daughter were part of Women in Black and held a big sign that said "Women against occupation." The daughter was my age and said that she has been standing on street corners and junctions with her mom for 10 years with that sign. A Palestinian woman and I began to talk about the event and her group "Women for Democracy" as the tear gas wafted over the wall towards us. We had to stop talking because breathing led to instant coughing.

From the other side of the wall, our Palestinian compatriots were hit with tear gas—not once, not twice, but three times. We only caught whiffs of it as the wind blew it our way, but it was enough to make me still gag hours later. 15 women were reportedly injured and several rushed to the hospital due to over exposure to tear gas. A peaceful, nonviolent protest for women's rights and it was met by teargas.

Here's to the brave women standing on the other side of the wall from me. And here's for the feeling of hope I had being surrounded by these strong, thoughtful, creative women who are fighting for a change. There's another protest tonight in Tel Aviv, it's being called "Israel wants Change" and is promising to fill Rabin square with people demanding a change in government.

Election season is in full swing here. Stay tuned!