Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, who was presumed kidnapped by Hamas, has been declared dead by her family.
Silver’s son, Yonatan Zeigen, said the 74-year-old was killed in the terrorist group's initial attacks on southern Israeli communities on October 7.
Zeigen told Canadian media her body was discovered at her home in Kibbutz Be’eri, where she had been living since the 1970s after relocating from Winnipeg.
A leading figure in the Israeli peace movement, Silver was known for helping Palestinians in Gaza receive medical aid and for founding several peace-building organisations between Gaza and Israel.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly described Silver as a “proud Israeli-Canadian and lifelong advocate for peace”.
“I met her son in Tel Aviv, and he described her as kind, generous, and selfless,” Joly wrote on X/Twitter. “Canada mourns her loss with him and her loved ones.”
Vivian Silver, was a proud Israeli-Canadian and lifelong advocate for peace. I met her son in Tel Aviv, and he described her as kind, generous, and selfless. Canada mourns her loss with him and her loved ones.— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) November 14, 2023
Shifra Bronznick, a Jewish social justice activist and lifelong friend of Silver’s told JTA: “Vivian was always persistent in the pursuit of peace and justice,
“She was a lifelong feminist, a committed activist, a fearless leader, an exceptional friend and a loving mother, wife and grandmother.”
“She would be passionately advocating for peace right now,” added Bronznick, referring to Israel’s war against Hamas. “She never gave up on bridge-building. She never gave up on making change. She never gave up on people… She always focused on people, children, what motivated them, what meant something to them.”
Anat Saragusti, an Israeli writer and feminist activist, added: “A woman of infinite, deep, ongoing compassion, humanity and dedication to Arab-Jewish partnership and peace. Yes. Peace.”
John Lyndon, executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace and a friend of Silver’s, said she had wanted Gaza to be “free and at peace”. He added: “Rest in power, Vivian.”
Writing for Time Magazine in October, he said of Silver: “She's kind of like an institution in herself. She's helped to found and catalyse all these different organisations and movements.
38 days after she was believed to be kidnapped into Gaza, Vivian Silver was just identified as one of the people slaughtered by Hamas on the October 7th massacre.— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) November 13, 2023
Vivian is one of Israel's best-known campaigners for peace with the Palestinians.
May her memory be a blessing. pic.twitter.com/uQ2Dpq6iam
“She moved to Israel decades ago and has only created and built things since then around women's rights and feminism, around Arab-Jewish relations inside Israel, and around Israeli-Palestinian relations cross-border.
“When I'm saying she's an encyclopaedia of peace-building and civil society, it's totally true. But it would give someone an impression that she's kind of austere or haughty. She's so much fun. You know the kind of people that are the smartest people in every room they walk into, but they don't need to make everybody know that? She carries her wisdom really lightly and with a lot of humility.”
In 2000, Silver founded the Arab-Jewish Centre for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation, an organisation dedicated to facilitating peace between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
After the last major war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, Silver helped found the peace-building organisation Women Wage Peace to foster community among women from various backgrounds and political perspectives.
In a 2022 interview with The Free Press, Silver said about Israel: “This could be such a haven for both of our peoples here. We have more in common than we have not in common.
“I know what life could be like if we put down our arms.”
Silver is survived by two sons and four grandchildren.