By the light of flaming torches, hundreds of women set off Tuesday night on a 200-kilometer march from the north of the country to Jerusalem, where they will assemble outside the prime minister’s and president’s residences during the upcoming Sukkot festival to demand a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Liberian activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Roberta Gbowee will join the March of Hope when it reaches the outskirts of the capital in two weeks’ time.
Some 2,000 people gathered in the dark at the northern coastal area of Rosh Hanikra to take part in the opening event for the march, which was organized by Women Wage Peace, an organization formed after 2014’s war in Gaza that comprises Jewish and Arab women calling for coexistence.
The crowd saw off hundreds of walkers as they headed for the first stage of the trek south to Achziv Beach. From there they will continue on to Jerusalem, where they will be met on October 19 by another group of female peace activists riding bicycles up from the southern port city of Eilat. The cyclists plan to begin their journey on October 18. The week-long festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, begins on the evening of October 17.
In a flyer for the event, WWP declared that “as women, mothers, wives, sisters, and as citizens, we demand our leaders work with courage toward a solution to the bloody ongoing conflict: An agreement that will be respectful, non-violent and accepted by both sides,
“It has happened in many places in the world that have experienced ongoing conflicts. We know it can happen here as well,” the group said.
Over the next two weeks WWP will also meet with women from Jordan at the Island of Peace in Naharayim on the Jordan River. In addition, a group of Palestinian and Jordanian women will march from Jericho in the West Bank and the Allenby border crossing with Jordan to Qaser el Yahud, also in the West Bank.
Solidarity marches are planned at locations across the country, as well as in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the United States and France, according to the flyer.
The campaigners hope to be joined along the route by supporters including public figures and politicians. After the end of the march, outside the prime minister’s official residence, the women will set up a “peace tent.”
— נשים עושות שלום (@WomenWagePeace) October 4, 2016
Negotiation efforts between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
“We will not stop until a political agreement, which will bring us, our children and grandchildren a safe future, is reached,” WWP declares on its website.
Gbowee, the Liberian activist, led the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, which was instrumental in bringing an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. She was awarded the Nobel in 2011.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.