In silence, women make call for peace

Silent vigil held by Women in Black to call attention to victims of war.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Appalled by the violence engulfing the Middle East, a group of Princeton-area women held a silent vigil Wednesday to call attention to victims of war.
   Jean Ross of Markham Road and her sister-in-law, Randy Ross of West Trenton, sought a way to reflect on the horrific events and express solidarity with women suffering in the Middle East.
   "Watching the events of the past few days, I felt such overwhelming anguish," Jean Ross said. "I wanted to be able to do something."
   About half a dozen women responded to Jean Ross’ e-mail asking for them to stand silently, dressed in black, at the sidewalk in front of Princeton University’s FitzRandolph Gate near Nassau Hall. The group takes no position on the political issues of the Middle East conflict, Jean Ross said, and opposes violence on all sides.
   Women in Black, an international peace movement, is characterized by women opposed to war and violence standing in public plazas or locales holding a silent vigil in protest of violent conflict and human rights abuses.
   The movement is based on the efforts of mothers and wives in Argentina and Chile who would hold vigils or dance in public squares to call attention to their missing family members, apparently taken into custody by government officials.
   The silent vigil, held by Palestinian and Israeli women, was a mainstay in Israel until the recent outbreak of fighting forced the women to remain at home, Jean Ross said.
   Similar vigils have been held in New York and other American cities as well as cities in England, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan and the former Yugoslavia.
   One passerby, a woman from Italy, said Women in Black rituals are a weekly event in Rome and she lauded the women for bringing the movement to Princeton.
   The women are silent as words cannot express the tragedies brought on by wars and hatred, Jean Ross said. Wearing black, a traditional symbol of mourning, is a way to mourn all the victims of war, she said.
   The vigils, for women only, will run from 5:15 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday for as long as necessary, Jean Ross said.
   She hopes other women in the community will join the vigils and "reflect about themselves and about women and their loved ones who have been victims of war."
   Keeping the vigils for women only is a way to reflect the unique experience of women in war and violent conflicts, she said. Women tend to constitute the majority population in refugee camps and are victims of rapes and ethnic cleansing in wars, according to the Women in Black Web site.
   Yumiko Mishima of Hillsborough, who serves on the Princeton YWCA board of trustees, participated in the vigil.
   Given the recent trend of young women suicide bombers in Israel and the West Bank, it’s important to show that many more women in the region are seeking a peaceful resolution, Ms. Mishima said.