By Sydney McAuliffe, Class of ’18

On Thursday, August 3rd, I interviewed Tania Hary for my research project: the role of women in the Israeli Palestinian peace process. Tania is the Executive Director at Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Not only did Tania give me a warm welcome to Israel, as I had just arrived the day earlier on Wednesday, but she also provided a perfect opening and start to my research in Israel as she was eager and willing to speak with me extensively about her work. Tania explained that much of her work advocating for Gazans is grounded in the human right to freedom of movement. Tania, who spent much of early life and education in the US, was able to also speak to US involvement in the region noting that since President Obama has left office, the situation in the region has worsened. In addition to providing insight into a human rights perspective to the peace movement, Tania offered valuable commentary on the role of women in the human rights field and the larger peace movement in Israel. She admitted falling victim to underestimating her own capabilities when asked to speak on panels despite her years of experience and finds it crucial to encourage other women to speak up and believe in their knowledge and skill-set. 

On Monday, August 7th, I interviewed Anat Ben Nun the Director of External Relations at Peace Now. Peace Now is the largest and longest-standing peace movement in Israel and is dedicated to fighting the occupation through mobilizing the Israeli public and advocating for a two-state solution. Also, Peace Now also has an active settlement watch initiative, which provides reliable and accurate information regarding the expansion activities of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

My interview with Anat was very informative as she spoke about the mission of Peace Now and the organization’s commitment to serving as a movement to inspire both younger and older generations to advocate for peace. She interestingly noted the importance and emergence of human rights groups in their work towards advocating for peace. I immediately thought back to my interview with Tania Hary at Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and noted the significance of the avenue in which Tania approaches peace work.

Anat also provided thoughtful responses to my questions about gender in explaining that while she does not see many differences in the way she and her male colleagues approach day-to-day work at the office, she noted gender tends to play a more significant role in larger strategic decision-making issues within the organization; she later explained a personal account to highlight her point.

Anat also expressed her critique of the all-women peace organization, Women Wage Peace. She mainly criticized Women Wage Peace’s decision not to take a definitive political stance regarding the conflict and their broad based approach rooted in recruiting female activists. I have studied the work of Women Wage Peace and have met with volunteers of the organization – so it was important and valuable for me to hear this critique as it keeps my mind open to both the opportunities and shortcomings of the various organizations within the peace movement.

On Monday, August 7th, I had the privilege and great opportunity to meet and interview internationally renowned musician and peace advocate, Achinoam Nini. Achinoam Nini has traveled the world touring and performing her music at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, Olympia in Paris, Rome’s Colosseum, The Barbican in London and much more.

21 years ago, her life and her musical career changed drastically when, after a serious of political and personal events unfolded, she realized she had a responsibility to use her fame and talent as a musician to speak out against the Israeli occupation and advocate for peace in the region. Achinoam is the most accomplished Israeli musician who has taken such a public and profound stance on advocating for peace. For this, she says she has lost support from some Israelis. Some of Achinoam’s songs include, “There Must Be Another Way,” “Ave Maria,” and “Beautiful That Way.”

During my time with Achinoam, she spoke extensively about the critical role women play in the peace process. She explained that her motherly instincts make her and other women courageous and determined to work towards creating a safer world for all children. Achinoam told me about the powerful experience of performing at the Eurovision Song Contest. Achinoman agreed to perform at Eurovision under the condition that she could perform her song with Palestinian musician, Mira Awad. Together they performed Achinoam’s song “There Must Be Another Way.” Achinoam spoke about how empowering the experience was for both her and Mira, together they showed the world the power and impact women can have when collaborating and working together.