Photo provided Vivian Silver disappeared on October 7, during the surprise Hamas attack in Israel .
Relatives of Canadian-Israeli Vivian Silver have still not received any sign of life from her, 12 days after her disappearance. His children ask the Jewish state to save the hostages, and call for diplomacy to end the conflict.
“Bringing the hostages home [should be] the primary mission of the Israeli government, which has miserably failed to protect them,” repeats the eldest, Chen Zeigen, to Devoir. Like their mother, a staunch activist for peace between Israel and Palestine, they believe “the right way to do it is through diplomacy and negotiation,” Yonatan adds. “We will not get our dead babies back with more dead babies in Gaza. »
A student in Connecticut, Chen joined Yonatan on Monday in Tel Aviv. The two brothers still have no “concrete information” on their mother’s situation since her disappearance on October 7, and believe she is being held hostage in Gaza. “Maybe we just want to remain hopeful,” Yonatan says, but “we know that many of the missing people lived in neighboring houses, and there is no indication that his remains or those of other neighbors have been found ”.
Photo: Photo provided Vivian Silver surrounded by her two sons, Yonatan and Chen
The two brothers say they met the Israeli authorities for the first time six days after their mother's disappearance and deplore a lack of clarity in the government's speech. “Right now, the Israeli government is not very direct about its strategy and intentions,” other than that they are going to “wipe out Hamas.” “We would like to hear him promise that everything is being done to bring the hostages back alive.”
Chen and Yonatan also claim to have been “in contact” with Canadian government officials. “They sent the message that they’re taking this seriously, and they’re doing what they can.” However, they say they do not have more details on the actions taken. “You can’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. […] We were just told that they were involved. »
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Vivian Silver's final messages to loved ones shed light on what happened on the morning of October 7, when Hamas fighters entered her home on Kibbutz Be'eri, less than 10 km away from the Gaza Strip.
“I woke up to the sound of alarms,” Yonatan said. Accustomed to it, the social worker did not immediately realize the seriousness of the situation. “We started writing to each other. But in Israel, you can't imagine that people won't come to your aid. You can't imagine that the army won't take control of the situation. So we remained quite calm […] Then, everything happened very quickly. We understood that the army was not coming, that no one was going to save them, and that it was time to say goodbye. It was horrible. »
“She was in her shelter, which is supposed to protect her from rockets, not invaders,” Chen says. “She thought maybe there was a chance they wouldn’t check inside the closet. »
Yonatan recalls a “terrible dilemma” he had with his mother. By message, he suggested that she hide in the bathroom, where the door could be locked better. “She said, 'Yeah, but then they're going to shoot me out the window.' In this situation, you have to determine in a few minutes where you have the best chance of staying alive,” he says. And, from a distance, “you can’t do anything except tell him that you love him…” adds his brother.
Originally from Winnipeg, Vivian Silver moved to Israel 50 years ago, after the Yom Kippur War. There, she “dedicated her life to promoting women’s rights and human rights and speaking out about what she saw as social injustice in Israel,” says Chen.
“At that time, she did not imagine such a big conflict between Zionism and justice,” Yonatan insists. Rather than leaving the Jewish state, she preferred to stay to “work things out.” She has since become a leading figure in peace movements between Israel and Palestine, and a “ardent defender” of Gazans, the Negev Institute for Peace and Development Strategies said after her death.
Ariella Giniger met Vivian almost a decade ago, within the peace movement Women Wage Peace, which Ms. Silver co-founded after the 2014 Gaza war. “She was like, ‘I can’t stop [getting involved]. because I have to do something, I have to keep hope,” says her friend, who refuses to speak in the past tense, as she hopes that her “soul mate” will return. Again on October 4, the two women walked together in Jerusalem for peace.
Photo: Photo provided Ariella Giniger and Vivian Silver during a peace march in Jerusalem , October 4
Ms Giniger describes the woman, aged 74, as loyal and discreet, who would not have really liked to receive so much media attention. “A very loyal friend, a very devoted mother and grandmother,” her sons add. “She was both fragile and gentle, but also very intense. »
If she were among them, her sons have no doubt that Vivian would have wanted the “destruction in Gaza […] to stop.” Ariella Giniger too. “If we don’t talk, nothing will change,” she said. […] Those who fought should be punished in some way, I suppose, but all these innocent people, who suffer from both sides… It doesn't lead to anything. And I'm sure that's how Vivian feels.”
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.