1325 PeaceWomen
ROBERTO AMORÓS
Design creator
HAGAR ROUBLEV
LAURA ALONSO CANO
Text writer
"I don't want to be the enemy"
ISRAEL, 1954 - 2000

During the first Intifada in 1988, she founded the “Women in Black” movement in her country. As a charismatic leader, since she was young she was involved in various political movements that demanded that Israel abandon completely and unconditionally their occupied territories in 1967.  She was as opposed to Zionist nationalism as to Palestinian nationalism, and she was in favor of creating a secular two-state nation for both Israelis and Palestinians. She later received the Andrei Sarajov Award from the European Parliament and the Millennium Award from the “Women for Peace” movement, founded by the Foundation for the Development of the United Nations for Women (UNIFEM) and the organization International Alert. She also participated in the creation of Bar Shalom, or Daughters of Peace, a space for coordination among Israelis and Palestinians, of which she was the political director from the end of 1999 to August of 2000.

In 1967, Hagat Roublev was only thirteen years old, but she was old enough to know that she wanted to place herself on the side of peace, to look for justice and to reject violence. In June of that year, the government of her country of Israel began to organize a military campaign whose consequence was the occupation of new Palestinian territories that went beyond the original agreement of the Partition Plan of the United Nations in 1948.

Since then, Hagar began on the path that she would travel throughout her life: to rebel against the belligerent government of her country and to join the political movements that called for the unconditional abandonment of the occupied territories. Her support of this cause brought her to work for three years in Paris in the office of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (OLP).

In December of 1987, amidst the atmosphere of extreme hostility, the Palestinian populations of the occupied territories arose the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the political repression of the Israeli government, which gave way to the first Intifada. Hagar Roublev had just returned a few months before from Paris. The unequal fight that broke out brought about new deaths every day, all on the Palestinian side, and Hagar was made aware once more that there was no room in her heart for indifference.

A few days after the uprising, in her small apartment in Jerusalem, Hagar racked her brain for a way of peacefully protesting that would demonstrate her total opposition to the occupation of the territories that at the same time would show her sympathy for the pain of the Palestinian people, who were the supposed enemy. She proposed her idea to her feminist and pacifist comrades, and they decided to take action by heading to the streets.

The first day, there were only eight women that participated, but that did not stop them; dressed in all black, the color that symbolized the loss of the children, parents and brothers, both Israeli and Palestinian,  to the ongoing conflict. They saved their words and remained in silence, aware of the fact that there was no shout louder than the injustice of a people so oppressed and deprived. Only their banners written in English, Arabic and Hebrew revealed their daring declarations: “Stop the occupation,” “I don’t want to be the enemy,” “I refuse to be the enemy,” “Stop the Jewish settlements in Palestine.” In this way, the Women in Black of Israel were born, and with the passing of time, they became a model for many pacifist women throughout the world.

After their first manifestation, Hagar and her fellow Women in Black decided to continue their demonstrations every Friday at two o’clock in the afternoon, when they could take advantage of the most crowded time in the Plaza of Paris in western Jerusalem.

As Hagar recounts, “We began as only eight women, and three months later, on the 8th of March, we were already a group of 100. We were leftist women, of course, but not from the extreme left. Included in our demonstrations were women from the Labor Party, women that were also greatly affected by the first Intifada and that wanted to join us in protest in the streets.”

The months passed and the Women in Black continued demonstrating every Friday on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and many other cities. At one point, they carried out thirty two simultaneous manifestations in Israel. With the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the launching of missiles over Israeli territory, a hysteric nationalism spread over all parts of Israel. As Hagar recounts, “At this time, we stopped our protests for a period of three months, and on Fridays we got together for discussions instead. After these three meetings, I stood up and said, ‘I am tired of talking. I have nothing more to say. We have to demonstrate on the streets, and we don’t have to ask the opinions or the permission of anyone.’ And so fifty women stood up and we went out to the streets to continue our demonstrations, but we were never as numerous as before.”

The struggle for the Women in Black of Israel was never an easy one. As Hagar says, “There was never a demonstration in Jerusalem without people from the Right carrying out a counter-demonstration. There were times when men from the right came armed to the counter-demonstrations. Because of this, many of the women were very scared of the situation, because the demonstrations were always very tense and the men always carried weapons.”

Soon, Hagar was certain that they should begin to build bridges with Palestinian women. Some Palestinian women that were living in Israeli territory joined their manifestations, but this was very difficult because Palestinians were not allowed to cross into Israeli territory and also due to ideological reasons, as they had to look for points of similarity in a sea of mistrust and differences. It didn’t always work, but they were not ready to stop trying to bridge the gap. A few years later, Hagar, along with other fellow feminists, initiated Bat Shalom, or Sisters for Peace, as a space for all women who truly worked for peace to come together based on a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hagar Roublev was charismatic, she was blessed with the gift of leadership, and she added coherence and tenacity to all of her causes; not only against the injustice that suffered the Palestinian people, but also in defense of women’s rights, especially their political and sexual liberty, when faced with the powerful social and religious conventions in her country. She also worked to promote the antinuclear movement in her country.

At the end of 1990, just as the Gulf War was starting, the movement of the Women in Black spread to Italy, Germany, India, Australia, and the United States. The movement played an especially important role with the Women of Black of Belgrade and their peaceful protest of the militarism of Milosevic in 1991. The international organization of the Women in Black for Justice against War is today an international model for non-violent protest. In the words of the Organization, “Our goal is to be the tool which we believe can be used to work for peace and anti-militarism, and to create a new society where we can erase war from our history and from our lives.”

Hagar died unexpectedly in 2000 when she was only forty-six years old. Her peaceful activism created new horizons with which to create a peaceful world, which are often very difficult to reach but will always be possible.