By Hamutal Gouri
War, as Lorraine Schneider, said in a famous poster created in 1966, is not healthy for children and other living things. War takes a terrible toll. It challenges the resilience of communities. It takes life. It leaves parents grieving for their children, wives for their spouses, children for their parents. It leaves deep wounds that never quite heal.
And war creates a huge whole in the national budget, and a host of emergency needs. And so it was indeed heartening to see Jewish communities in North America and around the war giving generously towards emergency needs during the Protective Edge war this passing summer.
Yes, war creates emergency needs that must be met. But it also exacerbates existing problems and needs like income and job insecurity, social marginalization, domestic violence, the exclusion of women in the public sphere, racism and ethnic tensions.
During the war, the Dafna Fund worked with its grantee partners to identify needs emerging from the state of war. And they, who have their eyes and ears and hearts in the field told us these stories:
Stories of single mothers in Be’er-Sheva who were left with no income to buy food and pay bills, because they were unable to go to work; who were unable to cook for their kids, in fear that the Red Alert siren will go off while they had a hot pot on the stove.
They told us stories of business owners in the Negev who needed help in keeping their businesses afloat.
They told us that at these times of war and conflict we must tell the stories of Jewish-Arab partnership and collaboration.
They told us they were bullied, and harassed, and verbally and physically abused because they were Arabs.
And women around the country said that we must all work together to bring back the faces and voices and perspectives of women back to TV screens, and newspaper covers, and radio shows. Because at times of war, they disappear.
And we read sadly about the rise in domestic violence in war time. About the loss of sense of personal security, about the wounds caused by violence that open and bleed again.
We didn’t wait for the war to be over because we knew that these problems will not go away when it does. In fact, some of them may actually get worse. But as the ceasefire draws to an end, and as we have learned all too well in our region; the day after might also be the day before the next violent conflict.
On the day before, the day after, and indeed, on any day; It is time to heal the wounds, build broken bridges, help families and businesses get back on their feet. It is also time to tend to the prevailing challenges that threaten to tear the delicate fabric of our society.
Poverty. Social exclusion and lack of personal security. Violence. Social and economic disparities. Gender inequality and the exclusion of women as full-fledged partners in decision making. Social tensions and racism. All of these, too, are not healthy for children and other living things.
Hamutal Gouri is Executive Director at the Dafna Fund – Women Collaborating for Change.
Established in 2003, The Dafna Fund is Israel’s first, and hitherto only, feminist fund. Founded by the Israeli scholar, activist and philanthropist Prof. Dafna Izraeli, the Dafna Fund promotes gender equality in partnership with funders, scholars and activists.