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Recap of V-Day Visit to Israel and Palestine

01/10/2003

V-Day delegates -- Including Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler -- were hosted by a diverse range of Israeli and Palestinian women's groups, aide workers, artists, intellectuals, parliament members, and NGOs.

January 10, 2003

From Thursday, December 19 through Saturday, December 21, 2002, V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, traveled to Israel and Palestine to listen intensively to Israeli and Palestinian women as they discussed their urgent need for women's security, equality, justice and peace. Like previous V-Day visits, including those in Afghanistan, Kenya, Rome, the Philippines, Brussels and Kosovo among other countries, a series of meetings were held with a diverse group of Israeli and Palestinian women politicians, grassroots leaders, artists, doctors, intellectuals and teenagers amidst a variety of locations and activities.

V-Day Delegation
The V-Day delegation was comprised of several prominent U.S. women artists, activists, and philanthropists including V-Day Founder/Playwright Eve Ensler, V-Counsel member/Activist/Actress Jane Fonda, V-Day Special Representative Hibaaq Osman, Actress Kathleen Chalfant, Winds of Change Foundation President Shamaya Gilo, and NOW Vice President Olga Vives.

V-Day's Special Representative Hibaaq Osman convened the meetings for V-Day. The itinerary for the delegation was developed by local hosts Bat Shalom and its Executive Director Terry Greenblatt, the Jerusalem Center for Women and its Director Amneh Badran, V-Day's representative in Israel Rivka Hon, and Women Refuse member Daphna Golan-Agnon, in close consultation with V-Day.

A diverse itinerary of meetings, activities, and events
The V-Day delegation met with: Israeli and Palestinian women's groups including Bat Shalom and the Jerusalem Center For Women; Doctors, nurses and patients at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem including Israeli survivors of suicide bombings and wounded Israeli soldiers; A visit to a Ramallah rehabilitation center where the delegates met victims of the Israeli incursions as well as a woman who had tragically lost two sons, age 11 and 15, within 40 days of each other; Israeli and Palestinian artists, writers and poets; A ceremony at Hadassah hospital auditorium in Mount Scopus, held in honor of Ensler as an activist against violence; Young Israeli teenagers living in refugee shelters; Female members of Knesset (Israeli Parliament); Heads of NGO's working in the region; The Board of the Jerusalem Center for Women; Palestinian poets in Ramallah; A visit to a refugee camp and checkpoints in Ramallah; Lunch with prominent Palestinians including doctors, professors, academics, lawyers, the board of the JCW, heads of Palestinian NGO's, gallery owners, actresses, and dancers; and a special evening at the Peace Tent at Neve Shalom/What a Salam which included music and readings by Israeli and Palestinian women, introduced by Jane Fonda, of dialogues they had written about peace (one piece written by Palestinian architect Suad Amiry, entitled, "My Mother In Law and Sharon", movingly told of the incursion and the strong effect that the curfew has had on families) as well as a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" by Ensler; among others.

Overall, the visit featured frank discussions, shared dialogue and experiences amongst the women and even some surprises. While at lunch during a tour of Ramallah on Saturday, Ensler, at one of her host's request, gave an impromptu reading of the play, which has become a unifier of women around the world. (Since 1996, the play has been translated into over 25 languages and performed in over 45 countries and inspired the V-Day movement with its poignant telling of women's experiences around the world including war-torn Bosnia.)

Initial outcomes
As they were leaving Palestine Sunday morning, the delegates praised the women and men they met with and expressed admiration for their work.

On the visit, V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler stated, "We came to Israel and Palestine to listen. We saw the amazing, critical, but often invisible work of Israeli and Palestinian women who have dedicated years of their lives toward peace. What we heard most everywhere we went - from political leaders, from women in refugee camps, from the wounded, from artists and academics on both sides - was that the occupation is destroying both Israelis and Palestinians and that any efforts to end violence against women and girls in Israel and Palestine will ultimately work toward ending the occupation and seeking a just peace in the Middle East."

They were also eager to report on the initial outcomes from the meetings:

  • As a result of the meetings, V-Day will work to support initiatives towards ending violence against women and girls already taking place on the ground.
  • A larger gathering ? convened by V-Day - was envisioned to bring together Israeli and Palestinian women, international decision makers and prominent women from abroad, NGO's and intellectuals, artists and politicians, workers and young people to make a plan for peace, with a strong political and cultural component.
  • The local groups have expressed their interest in supporting the V-Day benefit scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv early March 2003 at the Habima Theater with actresses, singers, politicians and activists as well as the first V-Day events in Ramallah and in East Jerusalem in 2003. An international women's festival of political theatre in East Jerusalem is also in the works. (V-Day events take place around the world each February and March as benefits performances of "The Vagina Monologues" and often feature local celebrities, politicians and women's groups to raise awareness about the issues of violence against women and girls and to raise support and funds to end this violence.)
  • Upon their return to the U.S., the V-Day delegation will work to amplify the women's voices in the international community and media (already select interviews are being scheduled with international media) and to bring back specific actions or recommendations to policy makers in the U.S. and grassroots women's organizations to develop real security for women and girls and to bring about a just peace.

About V-Day
V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a palpable energy, a fierce catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual slavery. V-Day provides funding to create and nurture innovative programs to stop the violence.

Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. V-Day itself stages large-scale benefits and promotes innovative gatherings and programs (The Afghan Women's Summit, The Stop Rape Contest, Indian Country Project, and more) to change social attitudes towards violence against women. In 2002, more than 800 V-Day benefit events were presented by local volunteer activists around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

The V-Day movement is growing at a rapid pace throughout the world. V-Day, a non-profit corporation, distributes funds to grassroots, national, and international organizations and programs that work to stop violence against women and girls. In its first year of incorporation, V-Day was named one of Worth Magazine's "100 Best Charities." In its first five years, the V-Day movement has raised over $14 million, with $7 million raised in 2002 alone.

About Bat Shalom
Bat Shalom is the Israeli national feminist grassroots organization of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli women working for a genuine peace, a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, respect for human rights, and an equal voice for Jewish and Arab women within our society. The women of Bat Shalom envision a peace rooted in the needs, rights, and histories of both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples, a peace that will preserve the sanctity of life, dignity and freedom in our region. As we acknowledge that respect for and realization of minority and women's rights reflect and measure a society's commitment to justice and equality, we also recognize that democracy in Israel will only be achieved with the full implementation of equal rights for all citizens living in Israel. http://www.batshalom.org

About Jerusalem Center for Women
The Jerusalem Center for Women, established in 1994, is a non-governmental women's center that provides women with venues for training in democracy, human rights, advocacy and life skills in order to advance women's status and role in the decision-making process, as well as to protect human rights and democratic principles and build a just peace. The Jerusalem Center for Women envisions Palestinian Women empowered and involved in the process of nation and state building as well as in all the aspects of Palestinian civil society development. Our Goals are to empower women in community and political activism, protect and advance Palestinian women's rights and status, involve women in realizing a regional peace based on justice and establishing local and international networks supporting JCW in achieving its goals. http://www.j-c-w.org

Since 1994, Bat Shalom and the Jerusalem Center for Women partner Israeli and Palestinian women committed to advancing joint peace and anti-occupation work under the umbrella of The Jerusalem Link. We continue to challenge both of our societies by introducing joint positions, strategies and values into the public discourse, and by modeling a partnership rooted in a foundation of political principles, transparency and growing trust.

About Women Refuse
We refuse to raise children for war. We refuse to deny the pain, suffering and injustice in the continuation of the occupation. We call on all mothers who don?t want their children to serve in the territories, all the women who want to end the occupation and want peace with mutual recognition and respect to join us. Email: womenrefuse@hotmail.com

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CONTACT: Susan Celia Swan +1 212 445-3288 press@vday.org