H. Patricia Hynes
Recorder and Gazette, LA Progressive

Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, Malta’s permanent representative to the United Nation, spearheaded the November 2023 resolution for a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, given that 70% of those killed in Gaza were children and women. “…Men want to end the war, women want to make peace,” she said. There is a difference.”

Her action leading to the 6-day ceasefire recalled two women whose work for peace in the United States culminated in Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.  Prior to the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” with classes for women on sanitation in food preparation and drinking water in a time of high infant and child mortality. After the war, she organized “Mothers Friendship Day,” bringing together mothers from both sides of the Civil War to support their reconciliation. 

Julia Ward Howe, a passionate anti-war activist and promoter of world peace, inspired the first public “Mother’s Day for Peace” rally held in New York City on June 2, 1872. Her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation passionately heralded action to stop future wars: “… Arise, all women who have hearts … From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm!”‘…

This recent Mother’s Day in Palestine, Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem University wrote“ I remember my own mother who fought for peace” in the spirit of “Julia Ward Howe’s call for mothers on Mother’s day to end wars and stop sacrificing people on the altar of men’s racism, greed and egos.”

The current obliteration of Gaza is a record-breaking war on mothers and their children.

  • An average of two Gazan mothers die every hour of the war leaving their families devastated and their children with diminished protection.
  • After four months of Israel’s carpet bombing, more Gazan children were killed than the number of children killed in the last four years of wars around the world combined. 
  • With starvation imposed on Gaza by Israel’s blockades of food aid –“unprecedented in modern history” – mothers and adult women are the ones who eat last and least. 
  • Many mothers are too malnourished to produce milk for their newborns; but no powdered milk in the markets and next to no clean water with which to mix it are available.
  • Each day about 180 women give birth in hellish conditions, with most of Gaza’s 36 hospitals lying in rubble and their existing medical supplies nearing exhaustion.  Two American trauma surgeons who have volunteered for surgical missions in crisis situations all over the world, stated recently that they have never seen cruelty like Israel’s massacre in Gaza.
  • Some mothers have resorted to washing clothes and bathing their children in the sea, polluted with sewage, risking their lives under Israeli strafing.
  • As of late February 2024, The U.N. estimated that some 700,000 women and girls in Gaza experience menstrual cycles but don’t have adequate access to basic hygiene products like pads, toilet paper, running water and toilets because of the war. These conditions put them at risk of reproductive and urinary tract infections.

Shahd Sataria, a human rights defender with the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development in the West Bank, visited Gaza every summer as a child until her family could no longer get a permit in 2004. “In Gaza, you got to visit the sea,” she recalled. “We are big families. We would gather at my grandma’s house, and sleep on old mattresses on the floor… those were great nights.”

She remembers the plants, the deep blue sea, nights full of stories, and a lot of singing. In the morning, the women of the family would gather around her grandmother, chatting.  Sataria couldn’t see her grandmother before she died, denied a permit to visit Gaza.

“Women have lost their chance to have education, to be in decision-making, and to be empowered.” Despite the horror of death, destruction and starvation, Sataria speaks of hope. “I believe that people in Gaza are resilient.  If the war would end today or tomorrow, I believe that they will rise up.” 

This Mother’s Day my deepest desire for the surviving women of this genocidal war, is that they live to see their beloved Palestine become a ‘member state of the UN with the resources to re-build, as Jewish women survivors of the Holocaust did the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. No other people “have been kept stateless for so many decades” as Palestinians. But the world must be with them not just in words but in deeds.

Half a year of unfathomable suffering.

Half a year of irreparable trauma.

Half a year of irreplaceable loss.

Every positive change in human behavior is always preceded by an expansion of consciousness, and Gaza is expanding western consciousness like nothing ever before.”