Renowned Canadian-born Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver is confirmed killed in Hamas attack

Israel Palestinians (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Israel Palestinians (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli activist who devoted her life to seeking peace with the Palestinians, was confirmed killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel.

For 38 days, Silver, who had moved to Israel in the 1970s and made her home in Kibbutz Be’eri, was believed to be among the nearly 240 hostages held in the Gaza Strip. But identification of some of the most badly burned remains has gone slowly, and her family was notified of her death on Monday.

Silver was a dominant figure in several groups that promoted peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a prominent Israeli human rights group. She also volunteered with a group that drove Gaza cancer patients to Israeli hospitals for medical care.

“On the one hand, she was small and fragile. Very sensitive,” her son Yonatan Zeigen told Israel Radio on Tuesday. “On the other hand, she was a force of nature. She had a giant spirit. She was very assertive. She had very strong core beliefs about the world and life.”

Zeigen said he texted with his mother during the attack. The exchanges started out lighthearted, with Silver maintaining her sense of humor, he said. Suddenly, he said, there was a dramatic downturn when she understood the end had come, and militants stormed her house.

“Her heart would have been broken” by the events of Oct. 7 and its aftermath, Zeigen said. “She worked all her life, you know, to steer us off this course. And in the end, it blew up in her face.”

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas attacks on Israel while more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed so far in the Israeli war in Gaza, now in its 39th day.

“We went through three horrific wars in the space of six years,” Silver said in a 2017 interview with The Associated Press. “At the end of the third one, I said: 'No more. We each have to do whatever we can to stop the next war. And it’s possible. We must reach a diplomatic agreement.'”

Zeigen said he has now taken on his mother's baton.

“I feel like I’m in a relay race,” he said. “She has passed something on to me now. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I think we can’t turn the clock back now. We have to create something new now, something in the direction of what she worked for.”