The son of a Jewish humanitarian who was killed in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel says he was moved by the support for his mother from Canadians during the weeks when it was believed she was being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza strip.
On Monday, the family of peace activist Vivian Silver, 74, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, confirmed that remains found on the kibbutz where Silver lived were her.
Yonatan Zeigen said Canadians took his mother’s “persona to heart” and felt supported by the country’s people and government. A funeral for Silver will be held Thursday in Israel, he said.
“People I think, most of us, want their deaths to have meaning like our lives, we want to live meaningful lives and we want to die meaningful deaths,” he said in an interview with The National’s Adrienne Arsenault.
“And I hope that at least her death will be a part of some new movement, some change in our reality.”
Zeigen said while his mother was considered kidnapped, there wasn’t any other concrete information other than that her phone was geo-located in Gaza. Up until it was confirmed she was killed in the initial attack, friends and family “really believed” she was alive.
He also said he was eventually able to go to her home on Kibbutz Be’eri, just kilometres away from the Israel-Gaza border, at the beginning of the month. He salvaged a few small sculptures, but “everything was ashes there.”
“I’m not sure when they were able to extract remains from the house, if they did it in the first few days before anybody else came in or did we miss it, I don’t really know.”
Moved to Israel in 1973
Silver came to Israel in 1973 shortly after the Yom Kippur War. The war, which was sparked by a surprise attack on Israel by a coalition of Arab militaries, began on Oct. 6, just one day earlier than the Hamas-led assault 50 years later.
She moved to Kibbutz Be’eri, just kilometres away from the Israel-Gaza border, because she said she wanted to be a part of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Silver had been an active member in a variety of humanitarian groups. She was a founding member of a movement called Women Wage Peace, which advocates for an end to Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for women to be involved in the peace process.
She was also the co-CEO of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, which describes itself as an Arab-Jewish organization dedicated to social change and a former board member for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
Silver also volunteered with Road to Recovery and drove Palestinians to Israeli hospitals.
Winnipeg gathering in the works
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg CEO Gustavo Zentner said the organization is working with several community organizations and the family on planning a gathering to remember Silver in Winnipeg. He said no details of where or when it will be held are available yet as the organization wants to give friends and family who may be traveling to Winnipeg the time to do so.
“We also want to be mindful of putting together a program that would include people that have worked with Vivian, people whose lives have been positively impacted by Vivian’s work both in Israel and also here in Winnipeg.”
Zeigen said his mother’s funeral will bring some closure, though incomplete.
“I think in the bigger picture … I think there won’t be closure until we have peace in the region.”