Vivian Silver, the Canadian Israeli humanitarian believed to have been abducted by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 attack, was confirmed dead Monday by Israeli authorities, according to her son.
Silver, a 74-year-old retiree, had for years dedicated herself to the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. She was at home in Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza Strip when militants stormed the community, prompting her to flee to a safe room where she was able to text loved ones until intruders set the house ablaze.
Her sons, Yonatan Zeigen and Chen Zeigen, told multiple outlets that Silver’s remains were identified from the rubble of her home. While the safe room had been incinerated, no body was initially found.
For five weeks, her family and friends thought she was one of around 240 hostages that Israel says Hamas is hiding in the Gaza Strip.
Silver was a well-known activist figure who lobbied for a diplomatic solution to the regional conflict and volunteered to drive Palestinian children from Gaza into Israel for medical treatments. She fought against Israel’s blockade of Gaza and, in the aftermath of the country’s 2014 war with Hamas, she helped start the activist group Women Wage Peace, which posted a tribute to her on its website.
“We will not rest until we achieve the goal to which you dedicated your life’s work,” the group said.
A Palestinian friend, Samah Salaime, wrote that “nothing” prepared her for news of Silver’s death. She recalled, in a piece for +972 Magazine, Silver’s humor and determination to breathe fresh life into the peace movement last November after an election ushered in a new, far-right government.
Salaime recalled Silver saying, “Our camp has lost quite a few times; we’ve taken many hits on the jaw. And I’ve been through plenty in my own life as well. I’ve learned a lot, the hard way, about Arab-Jewish partnership, and I know that when it succeeds, it succeeds because every side understands that the justice it seeks depends heavily on the justice of the other side. Closing the gap comes from collaborative work, and not from struggling against one another.”
Silver’s sons gave repeated interviews to news outlets while they believed her to be a hostage. They shared how she grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, choosing to move to Israel in the 1970s to lobby for peace and help start a kibbutz, a type of collective community traditionally based in agriculture.
Yonatan and Chen Zeigen told The Washington Post they were sure that their mother would have opposed Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza.
More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, according to Palestinian health authorities run by Hamas.
Silver carried a relentlessly optimistic attitude. Yonatan told the Post: “I would tell her, ‘Israel is dead. It’s hopeless,’ and she would say, ‘Peace could come tomorrow.’”
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