Women in Black Establish Silent, Strong Presence in Portland

Article excerpt

Women in Black Establish Silent, Strong Presence in Portland

Sr. Elaine Kelley is the administrative officer of Friends of Sabeel-North America.

Peace activist Robin Bee says she began organizing Women in Black protests in downtown Portland during March of this year "when things started getting really bad in Israel." Not a recognized organization, Women in Black is a loose international peace network started in Israel in 1988 by Israeli women protesting their government's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In 14 years it has evolved into an effort undertaken primarily by women who, dressed in black, stand in silent vigil to protest war, ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses, rape and all forms of violence throughout the world. The United Nations recently recognized Women in Black when it awarded its Millennium Peace Prize to the Leitana Nehan Women's Development Agency of Papua, New Guinea--an organization aimed specifically at getting women involved in Women in Black peace actions.

"I am Jewish, and have been to Israel," Bee explained, recalling her experience in the late 1980s with Volunteers for Israel. "I first noticed how safe I felt there in Israel, and how democratic it seemed," she added. As time passed, however, and Bee began to observe the Palestinian side of the story and directly "started hearing from them about their struggles," she said, she spent more time with Israelis outside of the mainstream and became interested in the Israeli peace movement. The focus of Women in Black's efforts in Portland, according to Bee, is "to give people information not coming across in the mainstream media."

Participants get their information from Web sites--such as Gush Shalom's, which represents the Israeli Peace Bloc--and incorporate it into flyers which they offer to passersby. …