An injured child on stretcher in Gaza

Injured Palestinian children are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment following the Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on January 31, 2024.

(Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

We Mothers Call for Ceasefire

When some would tell us that our identities—Palestinian and Israeli—should make us enemies, we have known that another identity binds us together. We are both mothers, dedicated to keeping our children and all children safe and assured of a future.

This is a letter to all the mothers and caregivers.

There’s that sensation you know, when you hold a warm, little baby, listening to their soft breaths and feel the tiny heartbeat like a butterfly in their chest. Or when you smooth down your child’s hair after they’ve first shuffled out of bed and look into their eyes, wondering what new connections will spark today in that little head.

Like you, we have known joy and delight beyond words in those simple actions of mothering and care. Yet, underneath it all, there is an unspoken terror that comes from also knowing this: every single thing depends on that fragile butterfly beating in their chest and on the bright sparks lighting up in their head. You know this, too. Everything depends on keeping them safe.

This basic truth has drawn us two together, over and again through the years. When some would tell us that our identities—Palestinian and Israeli—should make us enemies, we have known that another identity binds us together. We are both mothers, dedicated to keeping our children and all children safe and assured of a future.

Every child is a whole universe. The life-giving work we do, as mothers and caregivers, to nurture and protect our children is just as immense and powerful, and it binds us together.

Beyond that, we have also understood mothering as a collective calling, open to all, regardless of their own individual identity. All it takes is a willingness to put care and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable at the heart of our actions. In our politics, it’s an approach that can guide us to champion policies that protect and nurture people—and to reject policies that kill and destroy.

That’s why we must not turn away from the horror that has gripped Gaza. Women and families there are suffering through an onslaught of violence launched by the Israeli government—an assault that has already taken more than 26,637 Palestinian lives, nearly 40% children. More Palestinian children were killed in just three weeks than all children who were killed annually in every global conflict since 2019. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called Gaza a “graveyard for children.” Many of the children who survive are now without a mother or father.

You can look at the brutal, ever-climbing numbers. Or you can try to imagine the agony of even one Palestinian mother who can’t possibly know when death might come for her child from the sky.

Even before this war, a ten-year-old child in Gaza would have already lived through four Israeli military campaigns. Their childhood would already have been marked by years of blockade and military occupation, a childhood spent in an open-air prison deprived of adequate food, electricity, clean water and the freedom to move.

Women and families of Israel are mourning for those killed on October 7th and calling out for the return of the hostages, including their kidnapped children, young and grown. The ongoing bombardment by the Israeli government also puts their loved ones in danger and is destroying the prospects for a sustainable peace that could keep all Israelis and Palestinians safe.

You can look at the brutal, ever-climbing numbers. Or you can try to imagine the agony of even one Palestinian mother who can’t possibly know when death might come for her child from the sky.

Every child is a whole universe. The life-giving work we do, as mothers and caregivers, to nurture and protect our children is just as immense and powerful, and it binds us together.

That is why we must stand in defense of all children. We must stand in solidarity with all mothers and caregivers who struggle amidst war and disaster to keep children safe and healthy, in body and spirit. We must stand with all mothers and caregivers whose children today are missing, in horrific peril, or worse, whose children’s lives have been cut viciously, unimaginably short by violence that labeled them as disposable.

One of us—Yifat—leads the organization MADRE, which has partnered with Aisha for years to promote women’s health and safety in Palestine. Aisha, trained as a midwife, has been a lifeline for mothers and pregnant women in the West Bank, who struggle to access prenatal and maternal care through the maze of Israeli military checkpoints that block their movement. Today, as settler violence surges, people are afraid to leave their homes—making women even more vulnerable.

We must honor the mothers, caregivers and women leaders in communities worldwide who struggle to realize a vision of a secure and vibrant future for their children. They know that safety for their children depends on the collective rights, dignity and self-determination of their whole communities. They hold themselves responsible for that vision, even while confronting war, disaster, and violent policies that put their loved ones in danger.

We must stand with all mothers and caregivers whose children today are missing, in horrific peril, or worse, whose children’s lives have been cut viciously, unimaginably short by violence that labeled them as disposable.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has abdicated that responsibility, in its complicity in this catastrophe. In recent weeks and for years, it has armed and enabled Israel’s onslaught, dismissing calls for ceasefire even as the death tolls rose.

But we have also been inspired by the clarity and courage of some U.S. policymakers, who have championed the need for humanity, care and mothering values in our policy. We applaud the ceasefire resolution put forward by members of Congress, including Reps. Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, and others. We were moved by the words of Congresswoman Tlaib, who said, “The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all.”

You know what it means to put your heart into another person. You do it every day. You know what it means to care, to soothe, to nurture, to teach, to seed joy, and to build futures. This is the most vital work of humanity. That humanity is being destroyed by this war.

Together, as mothers and caregivers, we must demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire. We must stop the killing, and we have the power to help. We must unite our voices to demand that the U.S. end its complicity with ongoing and catastrophic violence. We must amplify our call for a permanent ceasefire.

Every child is a whole universe. There is no greater responsibility than their protection.

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