AJEEC-NISPED is heartbroken and in mourning over the death of our longtime partner and co-founder of the organization, our beloved Vivian Silver, who was murdered in the Hamas terror attack on the Black Saturday of October 7.
Vivian Silver, one of the founders of AJEEC-NISPED, dedicated her life to social action, to the advancement of women, and to pursuing peace.
She was an activist and did everything in her power in the Knesset and through various social organizations to promote peace and Arab-Jewish partnership. In addition to AJEEC, she also founded the “Women Wage Peace” movement, she was a leading administrator in “B’tselem”, and volunteered in the organization “On the Way to Healing,” through which she accompanied cancer patients from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Israel. Vivian worked as co-CEO of AJEEC-NISPED for many years, together with her longtime partner Dr. Amal Elsana-Alh’jooj, and even after completing her work in that role, she continued to guide the organization and its activities and was an active board member of the organization until her last day.
AJEEC-NISPED commits to continuing on Vivian’s path, and commemorating her memory through acting for equal and just Arab-Jewish partnership in every place that we operate, with the goal to spread light just as she did in her life.
May her memory be a blessing.
My acquaintance with our dear Vivian began more than two decades ago. Over the course of the past ten years, our relationship deepened as we worked together closely in order to build a better world for all of us. Over those years, I learned from close-up that Vivian is a warrior and a true partner, a strong advocate for peace not only in her words, but in her many actions.
Her endless humanity, her absolute and uncompromising belief in human rights for all, alongside her sense of commitment to mission, which was not compromised but rather strengthened over the years–these are just a few of the traits of our dear Vivian. Everywhere she went, she brought with her a smile, goodness, and hope. Vivian is a symbol of peace, humanity, and love of the other. Her absence will be greatly felt, and I already miss her.
“My friend Vivian believed with her whole heart in the idea of promoting peace. Since we founded AJEEC-NISPED, together with Dr. Yehuda Paz, you could always see the human qualities in her. She had an ability to form deep friendships and left a mark on everyone she met, from her friends in the kibbutz to Palestinians and Bedouins. Within AJEEC-NISPED, Vivian flourished together with Amal Elsana, who she brought on as co-CEO in order to show that we do not only speak about a shared society, but we achieve that dream together in every level of our organization. She had a rare sense of humor, resilience, and bravery to persist in her vision. She knew how to bring people together towards the vision that she lived, and she will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are now with her sons, Chen and Yonatan, her grandchildren, and everyone whose heart she touched.
I managed to correspond with Vivian on that Saturday. I have known Vivian for close to 15 years, since I began my community work. We connected over values that we shared. Her part in the founding of AJEEC, together with Amal, was very important, and through their work the organization achieved the success it has today. We prayed that Vivian would return to her family, to her friends, and to her work. When we thought that she was kidnapped, we believed until the last moment that she would continue to believe in Arab-Jewish partnership despite that atrocious act, and that she would be thinking about what she would do when she returned. We prayed until the last moment. This is a painful and very difficult day. Vivian will always be a symbol of pride, within AJEEC and outside of it.
“In 2009, when I was still a young student at Ben Gurion University, Vivian (who was then the co-CEO of AJEEC) called me, and in a thick Canadian accent offered me a job in the organization. When we met, within five minutes of talking to her, I knew that Vivian was the person with whom I wanted to promote Arab-Jewish partnership, and AJEEC was the right place to be. Our work today is more important than ever–advancing Arab-Jewish partnership, a vision for a shared society, prevention of incitement and insistence on reducing the gaps in Arab society–all of this was Vivian’s vision and the path she laid out for us. The worry for her safety never left us–and unfortunately, her story has ended with an incredible heartbreak for all her friends and partners in her vision.”
I already feel your absence… I am beginning to understand that I will no longer have you to share new ideas with, to share, to share joys and sorrows with, pain and anger, and to live life together with you.
For 25 years we walked side by side, 12 of those when we managed AJEEC together, as we also managed our personal lives together: we raised our children, we celebrated our families’ life cycle events, and we also shared our families’ struggles with one another.
We are, we danced, we ran, we travelled, we demonstrated on the streets, we wrote plans, we spoke on local and global stages, we fought, we argued, and we became wise together. The mind refuses to accept that you are not here, and that you never will be again. I still want them to say that they made a mistake identifying you…
All month I imagined you returning with a light that would illuminate every dark place soaked with blood and hatred. I felt that at the moment you would be released from captivity, the war would end, and the sounds of fighter jets and rockets would fall silent.
I saw you as I always saw and experienced you, and I also heard you say, “There’s no time, we need to run.” I didn’t like our fundraising trips to the United States because I always had to run after you… You were always running, as if you knew that you had to manage to fit everything in before you passed.
I was angry about your calls at 10PM because perhaps we forgot to speak about something during our ten daily hours together. I would answer and say: “Is this a matter for intensive care, or can it wait until tomorrow?” You would catch yourself and burst out laughing. “It can wait until tomorrow.”
That morning, that wicked morning that took you… It didn’t understand what you were to this world.
What you did for the children of Gaza, so that they would have a future of a normal life, without wars and occupation.
Who you are and what you did to open the world’s eyes to show them the injustice, to urge them to act for equality between Arabs and Jews in this land.
I acknowledge that I made your life difficult, that I argued with you on everything and challenged you and didn’t give you a moment of rest. I acknowledge that that was possible because I saw that you were strong, unafraid to open your eyes and see injustice, and to take responsibility.
And you said, “The moment you open your eyes, it is difficult to close them again.”
I learned what persistence is from you, and how to push. I learned from you that God is found in the small things, and the little details are not less important than the big ideas.
Now I understand your urgency, why you always ran, Vivian… Only now do I understand.
You wanted to make significant change in people’s lives.
You wanted to ensure that the message of peace and justice would echo in every corner of this land.
You wanted to leave the world better than you found it.
Rest now, dear friend, because your voice will continue to take shape, and your work will continue to permeate, and your vision will continue to illuminate for us the way forward.
I promise and commit to carry you in my heart and in my actions forever.
Rest in peace, dear one.
There are women who dream, who know where they want to go and how the future should and can look. And there are women of here and now, of work and descent to the smallest detail. Vivian succeeded in being both of these figures, fully. Full of vision and the belief that it can be achieved, and at the same time a woman of action and actualization, step by step. She was a soft woman, a good listener, a strict boss (first of all with herself), and always held space with empathy for every person and every detail. It was a great honor to work with Vivian, to learn from her, to succeed in holding to her high professional standards (let alone the feeling of achievement if I merited a compliment…), and slowly to turn into her longtime and friend. The path that Vivian laid out, the path to peace and equality, she will continue to lead us on.
Every time that I met Vivian, I learned more personal and professional life lessons, more fascinating messages. Sometimes even in the few minutes before she would enter an administrative meeting, she would leave me a tip and some advice. Lessons in humility, on love of the other, protecting the values of patience and tolerance, bravery and courage, to continue to act nonstop in the most complicated and difficult moments, on honest and true partnership, protecting our principles and ideals, conducting respectful conversations, and listening to every pain even if it is not “my” pain.
The last time I saw Vivian I was wearing heels. She took me aside and said to me, “Hanadi, you will need to run fast, you have many more years of action and challenging days. Take off the shoes and run freely, protect your back because the world will challenge you greatly.”
In the last month, since the war broke out and since she went missing, I finally understood the meaning, and I reminded myself what Vivian said to me. I needed to run fast in working with the Shared Emergency Center for Negev Bedouins, and to remember Vivian’s words every morning: to get up with a smile and not to cease in acting. This is her legacy that I commit to continue.
Unfortunately, I did not get to know Vivian well. We only met a few times, but I heard a lot about her, about what a fabulous CEO, founder, and lover of peace she was. Despite the fact that I didn’t know her well, her humility was obvious from just one glance at her. May her memory be a blessing.