Israeli activist in the women’s peace movement and a founding member of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women’s organizations.
Gila Svirsky is an American-born Israeli who lives in Jerusalem. She is a co-founder of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women’s peace organizations.
Gila was raised in New Jersey in an Orthodox Jewish community. Her parents were immigrants to the United States—her mother by way of Palestine. She moved to Israel when she was 19, returning to the U.S. briefly to finish college at Brandeis.
According to Svirsky, the Lebanon War of the 1980s was "a turning point of one sort for me, when I came to the realization that there was something horribly awry with the government’s enunciated policy and the facts on the ground. The more I became thoughtful about the conflict between what we were doing and my understanding of the mission of Israel, the more I felt pushed into a position of opposition."
In response to the first intifada in December 1987, Svirsky became a participant in the vigils held by Women in Black, a women’s group that opposes the Israeli occupation. Since then, she has worked tirelessly in the women’s peace movement.
When the second intifada began, she helped initiate the Coalition of Women for Peace in November 2000. The coalition brings together independent Jewish and Palestinian women and Israeli women’s peace organizations.
"Our long-term strategy is to engage in activities in Israel that will not only persuade Israeli public opinion that the only way to end the violence is to arrive at a just political solution," Svirsky says, "but also to demonstrate to foreigners that there is a large constituency of Israelis who do want a just political solution, who believe that the occupation is unjust and must end."
The coalition carries out mass rallies, human rights campaigns, outreach, and advocacy activities, including rallies calling for an end to the occupation that feature thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women carrying banners that read, "We refuse to be enemies." The coalition has also mobilized women in 150 locations on five continents in support of its mass activities.
In addition, the coalition has provided emergency supplies to women and children in refugee camps. It has also provided school supplies to thousands of Palestinian children. Together with Palestinian women, it conducted the International Human Rights March of Women, marching for three weeks in Israel and Palestine and calling for an end to the occupation and creation of a just peace between both peoples.
For more information about the coalition, see www.coalitionofwomen.org/home