The son of a Jewish humanitarian who was killed in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel says he was moved by Canadians’ support for his mother during the weeks when Hamas was believed to be holding her hostage in the Gaza Strip.
On Monday, the family of peace activist Vivian Silver, 74, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, confirmed that remains found at the kibbutz where Silver lived were hers.
Yonatan Zeigen said Canadians took his mother’s personality “seriously” and felt supported by the country’s people and government. A funeral for Silver will be held in Israel on Thursday, he said.
“I think people, most of us, want their deaths to have meaning like our lives, we want to live meaningful lives and we want to die meaningful deaths,” he said in an interview with The National’s Adrienne Arsenault.
“And I hope that at least his death is part of some new movement, some change in our reality.”
Zeigen said that while his mother was considered to have been kidnapped, there was no concrete information other than that her phone was geolocated in Gaza. Until it was confirmed that she had been killed in the initial attack, friends and family of hers “truly believed” that she was alive.
He also said he was finally able to go home to Kibbutz Be’eri, a few kilometers from the Israel-Gaza border, earlier this month. She rescued some small sculptures, but “it was all ashes there.”
“I’m not sure when they were able to extract the remains from the house, if they did it in the first few days before anyone else arrived or if we missed it, I really don’t know.”
He moved to Israel in 1973.
The silver arrived in Israel in 1973, shortly after the Yom Kippur War. The war, which was sparked by a surprise attack on Israel by a coalition of Arab armies, began on October 6, just one day before the Hamas-led attack 50 years later.
He moved to Kibbutz Be’eri, just a few kilometers from the Israel-Gaza border, because he said he wanted to be part of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Silver had been active in a variety of humanitarian groups. He was a founding member of a movement called Women work for peacewhich advocates for the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and for the participation of women in the peace process.
She was also co-executive director of the Negev Institute for Peace and Development Strategies, which describes itself as an Arab-Jewish organization dedicated to social change, and a former board member of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.
Silver also volunteered with Road to Recovery and took Palestinians to Israeli hospitals.
Winnipeg meeting in progress
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg executive director Gustavo Zentner said the organization is working with several community organizations and the family to plan a gathering to remember Silver in Winnipeg. He said there are no details available yet on where or when it will be held, as the organization wants to give friends and family who can travel to Winnipeg the time to do so.
“We also want to be mindful of the need to put together a program that includes people who have worked with Vivian, people whose lives have been positively impacted by Vivian’s work both in Israel and also here in Winnipeg.”
Zeigen said his mother’s funeral will provide closure, albeit incomplete.
“I think in the bigger picture… I think there won’t be closure until we have peace in the region.”