Behind the Story

On May 24, 2000, the last Israeli soldiers left Lebanon hoping they would never return. Two of these soldiers were officers from a commando unit who fought alongside my son. Once they closed the gate and entered Israel, they telephoned me. They said, "We are calling from the border. We wanted to call you first to thank you for bring us home and second for teaching us and our country something about how democracy can work." These men were young, very well trained, and willing to continue serving their country as long as they were asked to. They also expressed that they learned from their experience that military operations are innately limited. This phone call was the most significant one I received. It is the one I hold most dear. It was one of many I received that day. The president, Israeli parliament members, media representatives, and friends inside and outside of Israel telephoned to express their astonishment. A common response was amazement that they lived to see the day that a war was ended in this way. The movement started because I believed we needed to explore other means to end a conflict that was costing our country too many of our gifted young men. This call that meant so much to me was from these soldiers who expressed their understanding that there is another way to live.

(Click Here for a Hebrew Version of the text below) (Word document)

Our understanding that without the media there is no protest and no possibility to transfer the message to the public sank in only during the late stages of our demonstration for better or for worse.

In the beginning of our protest we had the need to express the frustration feelings and disagreement in regards to the on going war in our area. Our protest burst out like a stream of water that couldn't stay grounded anymore. We wanted to get our message out but had not necessarily focused on media exposure. Not only was the media not our target, but also we removed ourselves sometimes from public publicity altogether.

As residences of the north and the families of the soldiers we were the one who carried on their backs the result of the government policy in the North.
Our protest grew out of a result of an authentic need to make others hear about the deterioration of the situation.
As we stated then - "Let's shout before, than cry after".

The night of the helicopters disaster

The night that drove me to take action was the night that is known as the night of the helicopters disaster .

  As many papers wrote later - "On the night that history made Rachel Ben-Dor into a leader who would make history, there was a great crash and the sky filled with fire and smoke . It was Feb. 4, 1997 .
Two Israeli Army helicopters on their way to the fighting in the south Lebanese "security zone" crashed in northern Israel . Seventy-three soldiers were killed - the worst military accident in the country's history"

Watching the roiling skies that night, I wondered whether Orr my son was in the crash. I wouldn't find out until the following day that he was alright. That night, though, I was thinking about ...
How my husband, Ram, had spent many days in reserve duty as a combat medic in Lebanon , and, like everyone who'd been to the front, had had many brushes with death. Now Orr would no doubt be going up there, if he wasn't there already .

The helicopter disaster was too traumatic to suppress. it was almost like a sign "from the sky" that things had gone too far and the situation had gotten out of control. It was hard to ignore this symbolic event and felt I had to do anything in my power to create a change to this devastating chaos.

"In 1997, two Israeli Army helicopters collided on the way to Lebanon , killing 73 soldiers as they crashed in the front yard of the school that Rachel Ben Dor's children attended. At the time, Ms. Ben Dor's oldest son was a soldier in Lebanon , and several of his former classmates, recent graduates like him, died" (New York Times, June 3 2000 ).

The day after the crash I had many conversations with my friends. We got together for long hours to share our frustration. At the end of the day we had poured our concerns and thoughts into a letter for four members of Parliament known as the Forum Kohav Yair. We were aware that the Forum of Parliament members was also gathered together to review the situation.

For us this letter was mainly a letting out of all of our negative feelings that had built up and we passed on to their hands our thoughts and feelings for which we demanded a change from them. Turning to them, the Forum, and not to the media came out from our Kibbutz life style, which is believing that we demand for a change by going directly to those responsible. By doing this we are asking the people who are directly responsible for the situation to take responsibility and help find a solution to the problem.

We never thought of sending the letter to the media, we didn't think that way, the obvious thing for us to do was to send it directly to the people who had the ability to make a change. We did not understand in the beginning that you needed a driving power to get the ball rolling in order to bring as much attention as possible to your cause. The media is a driving force, and this was a lesson we learned after we started meeting with members of Parliament/Forum. We realized that only when we got more famous by the media it would be to the members of Parliaments advantage to to contact us. Although some of the Parliament members responded immediately without pressure from the media because they realized their power to change the situation before we were aware of it.

In the beginning of our activities, a connection started between the Parliament and us members who responded to our letter on their own. One of the members to our surprise even asked to come all the way from Jerusalem and meet with us in our houses in the North.

The big media exposure

  As regular citizens we did not have any experience dealing with the media. In the beginning we even had some reservations of the media publicity. Only while moving forward with our protest did we learn "in the school of life" our first media lesson.

Our determination to cry out our inner truth and beliefs wasn't necessary accompanied by the awareness of the powerful effect that the words we raised/ the message we wanted to send. The lack of our attention to the media was part of our misreading what we had to say in this matter is an outstanding phenomenon. Therefore the attention we were getting from politicians and the media was a surprise to us. We did not realize how important the media thought we were to the cause.

Probably our innocence and authenticity was the reason that attracted the Parliament members, the public and the media to us which helped spread our message. They saw in us a child that was going to reveal to the world "the king is naked". We had no agenda other than our cause, maybe we were somewhat naive. For us we were spreading the simple truth that was right outside our window.

Our first gathering with an audience was in the Kibbutz Center . This came as a result of one of the Parliament members of the Forum who asked to meet with Ronit and I Who wrote the letter.

Later on we would realize that this gathering was the one that led to the media boom, although for this gathering nothing was sent to the media in advance. The media found out about the meeting from the Parliament member who asked to meet with us. We didn't approach the media at this time because we were not thinking of publicity and we did not see that what we were doing will interest anyone.

After all this was a forgotten war which was going on for many years already and it wasn't news. We were looking to express our frustration of the situation asking for a solutions.

The only publicity for this gathering by us was a handwritten flyer I wrote and hung on bulleting boards of the Kibbutzim. The flyer invited the public to a lecture about our situation in Lebanon by this Parliament member who was originally coming to visit with us. We asked him to explain the problem of this war to the audiences, as we saw it.

Although the original intention of the Parliament member's was just to meet with us for discussion.

This phenomenon would repeat itself when other political and media figures would ask to meet with us because they thought we started the will of change. We would be surprised about the media attention we got over and over again.

As a result to the way we saw ourselves I always tried to invite more people to these meetings. The gatherings in the Kibbutz began to create interest and echo our thoughts among the local newspapers in the north, which are published for the citizens of the Lebanon Israeli border.

After the meeting the PR people of the Parliament member notified the National Media about us and the details of the meeting. They gave the 1 st TV channel our contact information.

At the same time the story of our gathering in the Kibbutz was published in local newspapers in the north and the Kibbutz local papers. A public debate started around us in these papers. The comments pushed and encouraged me to write letters and articles to these papers. The conservative public within the Kibbutzim responded furiously [[ADD QUOTE FROM LETTER TO EDITOR]] to the ideas we raised [[Questioning whether staying in Lebanon enhanced our security]] and our issues of the war in Lebanon . Unlike them, the editors and correspondents were very interested and supportive of the message we suggested and decided to "pick up the gauntlet."

In fact, they were already publishing antiwar editorials. One day after my friend shared with me an article in the Kibbutz newspaper. The correspondent wrote about how the mothers in the state of Israel accept submissively the fact that at a certain age our children became soldiers and their lives are then dedicated to every political and military cause with no question asked. I was very moved to read exactly what I felt.

I called the correspondent in order to let him know how much I identified with the observation and message. And again, I received the same weird request like the one of the parliament member to come all the way from the south the meet with me for an interview. And again, I was surprised of his willingness to take the time and make the effort. And again, I invited more people to be there when he arrived.

I asked my friends Ronit and Yafa to join me in my house. Ronit invited her friend, Miri Sela... and here we are Four Mothers of soldiers raising question. We were asked to describe the way we see the situation in general, and the Lebanese problem particularly, in view of the fact we live in the north. The article appeared on Passover Eve, under the title "Four Mothers" (a line from a well-known Passover song).

We decided to adopt this as our name (See chapter 6) . But we did not imagine that our detractors would use it as an opportunity to bypass the problem and focus on our being women and mothers. Several times we tried to say that fathers and many worthy citizens joined our protest, but we received publicity, mainly as a new phenomenon.

Some time after the meeting at Kibbutz Gadot, Israeli television approached me with a request to interview us for a Friday magazine as a follow-up to a feature they had broadcast a week earlier with a mother who had lost her son and was prepared to sacrifice her younger son too for the sake of her motherland. Our story would give balance, presenting the mothers who [lit. the motherhood that] demanded answers and were no longer ready to follow their leaders blindly. Together with the feature about us, the channel would broadcast a feature recruited from one of the war correspondents on the importance of the prolonged stay [holdover] in Lebanon through interviews with soldiers who enthusiastically supported continuing the war.

Even while the feature about us was in preparation, rumors began to appear, starting the communications snowball rolling. The news that we existed led to a growing flood of phone calls from all the radio and television networks, to the point that we were forced to disconnect the phones and organize ourselves for the new reality.

First we had to contend with the concepts of exclusivity, prime-time broadcasting, and the like in order to choose in what communication media to appear. The day before the broadcast, the leading daily newspapers published reports about us on their front pages. (See the report from Yediot Acharonot on the web site.) These reports not only prepared the background for the television feature but also began to create what would become a tight connection between us and the newspaper reporters based in the north, who became members of our households.

The day the television crew arrived, I put on a program of meetings and activities that would show the movement's goals and teachings and would play well for a broadcast. We had a demonstration at Tzomet Machanayim, our local crossroads, that brought together people from all over the region and established the movement's identity. (See announcement in the documents section of the web site.)

1 (see website for more information about the crash and beginning of the movement - in the article "The Cry Which Became a Movement"),

2 See website under documents

3 Putting respected experts in our "front line" of publicity will become a pattern and tactic of our protest. 

by Rachel Ben Dor

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