Women in white call for peace and return of hostages

Vigils took place in UK cities, as well as in New York


Women in White in London hold a peace vigil, calling for the end to the war in Gaza and for the hostages to be freed (Photo: Aviel Lewis)

Dozens of women dressed in white have gathered in UK cities this week to call for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and for the safe return of all the hostages.

Vigils took place by the Peace Tree in Tavistock Square in London, as well as in Oxford and Cambridge. A similar event was held in New York.

Participants, many of them mothers, stood in silence, their white attire symbolising peace and hope, as they came together to highlight the human cost of the ongoing conflict.

“We heard about a call in Israel for women to come together next to the Knesset, without signs, banners, or flags, and without any organisational affiliation,” said Jenny Kananov Shayo, one of the event organisers.

“Women were asked to come dressed in white and call for an end to the war and the return of the hostages. We found this initiative inspiring and decided to hold similar events in the UK to show solidarity and support.”

The demonstrations coincided with the 38th anniversary of the Peace Tree's planting in London by The League of Jewish Women in 1986 to commemorate the International Year of Peace, adding a further layer of significance to the timing and location of the event.

“It was wonderful and moving to see women from around the world coming together to call for an end to the war, peace and hope,” said Jenny. “Too many people will never see their loved ones again because of this war, and too many mothers are losing sleep, praying for the safe return of their children. It’s time to end this war and put more effort and intention into bringing hope for peace back.”

“We know that women's voices are often overlooked in times of war and conflict. We hope these events will help spread our voices so that more people join this call for humanity and peace.”

Israeli-born Londoner Sharone Lifshitz attended the event on Tuesday and called it "a way of expressing our exasperation about the length of time that has passed, the fact that the war is still going on and the hostages are still not back”.

Sharone's mother Yocheved Lifshitz, 86, was released in October, but her father, Oded, 83, remains a hostage in Gaza.

"It's becoming so hard to even understand what is happening. Where is the ball and in whose court? And somehow, simply standing there dressed in white and asking to stop the war and bring back the hostages seemed like a way of raising awareness, of reminding everybody of what is important at this moment."

Sharone has participated in numerous demonstrations, both in London and Israel, to call for the release of the hostages and the end of the war. "The thought that they are there, and we are here, my father but all the other hostages too, the knowledge that they are dying there, they are diminishing by the moment, they are enduring unbearable pain and suffering - it's very hard to understand that not everything is being done to bring about their release."

On October 7, Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel, slaughtering 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage into Gaza. 116 remain in captivity as well as a further four who were kidnapped before October 7.

Hostage negotiations were due to resume this week in Doha and Cairo.

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