“I’ve been an activist for over 30 years and Gun Free Kitchen Tables is the first project that has achieved such an amazing scope of results—because it is a joint collaborative effort. I couldn’t do it on my own, I just couldn’t. My partners are crucial to the work. Peacemaking work, social change work and feminist work isn’t about stars and talents and geniuses. It’s about collaboration and solidarity and joint creativity, feeding each other’s creativity.”
Rela is an innovative writer, activist and independent scholar, and part of a feminist movement determined to demilitarize the Israeli state and Israeli society.
Along with Attorney Smadar Ben Natan, Rela is a co-founder of Gun Free Kitchen Tables, a campaign housed by the Isha L’Isha Feminist Center and born out of her research into the proliferation of small arms among private security companies in Israel.
The Gun Free Kitchen Tables campaign aims to increase gun control and reduce the proliferation of firearms throughout Israel and the occupied territories. More specifically, the campaign targets the practice of private security guards bringing their firearms home with them at the end of the day—a practice that has resulted in gun violence and murders in Israeli homes. Gun Free Kitchen Tables uses a variety of advocacy techniques in their activism, including consciousness-raising, meetings with various levels of government decision-makers, and targeted legal action.
At least eighteen women and fifteen men were shot in Israel between 2002 and 2013 with the arms of intimate partners or family members working as security guards (also called ‘private police’). Many of the victims came from immigrant communities, which are marginalized and lack adequate access to violence-prevention services.
The program has begun to save lives: for the first time in recent history, over two years have passed since a security guard’s off duty gun has been used to kill someone. Rela notes that thanks to the campaign, thousands of Israeli homes became gun-free. When the campaign was lobbying the government to take action to stop security guards bringing guns home, they brought a gun violence survivor to testify. The woman had miraculously survived after being shot at six times by her security guard partner.
Working in the field of demilitarization can be challenging, painstakingly slow work. Rela says that a big part of the work is dismantling notions of heroism and individual bravery, all too often associated with guns and military responses. Demilitarizing the world will take not just individual action, but an enormous commitment to collective action.
Rela finds hope and inspiration in her colleagues and the countless women and men around the world who commit themselves to feminist, social justice, peacemaking and demilitarization work.
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