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It has been nearly six months since the horrific Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 triggered a catastrophic war in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed; Gazans, including children and pregnant women, are under siege and starving in a human-made famine. Israeli hostages are still being held in Gaza. This week, the New York Times published the account of a former hostage who says she was sexually assaulted while in captivity, initially while chained by the ankle, and in a child’s bedroom decorated in a SpongeBob SquarePants motif.

The divisions that existed before this war have become toxically entrenched. Hostilities have spread around the world, and we are certainly seeing this in Canada.

The other day, in a social media thread about a Vancouver soap store selling watermelon dishcloths to raise money for aid in Gaza, a commenter suggested that the store should also be supporting the return of the hostages. In response, another user posted a yawn emoji. This is where we are.

If hope can be found anywhere at this point, it’s in Israeli-Palestinian groups such as Women Wage Peace (WWP) and Standing Together, which advocate for peace and equality. Since Oct. 7, interest in their work has surged globally and both are now active in Canada: representatives from Standing Together were in Toronto this week for a public event, and earlier this month, Women Wage Peace held its inaugural online gathering for Canadian supporters. Both groups are facing the fight of their lives.

WWP is already well known in Canada as the organization co-founded by Canadian-Israeli activist Vivian Silver, a beloved humanitarian who was murdered on Oct. 7 on the kibbutz where she lived.

“We all loved Vivian … and we continue in her footsteps,” WWP’s Regula Alon told the attendees. “It’s her legacy.”

At the event, a video was screened of Ms. Silver speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem in September, 2021. “We all deserve a better life,” she said in Hebrew.

Women Wage Peace was founded after the 2014 war in Gaza to declare, “with one voice, enough! to the failed paradigm of endless managed conflict,” its website states. The multi-faith WWP signed an agreement with the Palestinian women’s peace group Women of the Sun in 2022. They named it The Mothers’ Call.

We “believe there is another way,” Ms. Alon, who is part of WWP’s foreign relations team, told the interested Canadians.

Standing Together, another group made up of Israeli Jews and Palestinians, believes this too.

“We need a different approach,” Rula Daood, a Palestinian Israeli who lives in Jaffa and serves as the group’s national co-director, told me in an interview just before the Toronto event. “We need different politics. We need to end the occupation, we need to bring freedom and equality to both people. That is the only way we can achieve real prosperity for everybody living in Israel/Palestine. And I do think we have an opportunity right now and we need to seize it.”

The event was sponsored by the New Israel Fund of Canada, which, according to its website, supports a “just and democratic Israel that upholds equality for all its citizens.”

In his introduction Tuesday at the Toronto Reference Library, the fund’s director Ben Murane talked about the visiting group offering “a small candle of hope that Jews and Palestinians can stand together” and “a hopeful antidote to the despair plaguing us.” This amid accelerating division, hate and one-sided demands for exclusivity of victimhood.

Unlike some in the pro-Palestinian space, Standing Together in no way downplays, denies or justifies the atrocities of Oct. 7. But it also says the occupation cannot continue and is strongly opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu. It is calling for an end to the war and the return of the hostages.

“There is a very big difference between being in favour of the people living in Israel and the Israeli government,” says Ms. Daood.

“We need to build a society that understands that the benefit of having real peace and real agreement is for both sides. Having peace does not just benefit the Palestinians. It also benefits the people in Israel. Because then you don’t have to be in a place where you’re scared of your neighbours, where we’re at constant wars.”

Two days after the Oct. 7 attacks, I wrote that your Jewish and Palestinian friends are not doing okay. I can tell you with great certainty that we are doing much, much worse now. In this ceaseless and dark panorama of death, despair and polarization, groups like Women Wage Peace and Standing Together offer a different path, bringing in a bit of light and something that feels impossible now: hope, for peace, in spite of it all.

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