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Vivian Silver
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, believed to Have been Kidnapped in Gaza by Hamas Has been Declared Dead-Her Kibbutz Be'eri Overun by Terrorists

by Rhonda Spivak, Nov 12, 2023


I was shocked when I first learned that that former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, age 74, was cited by former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler as being held captive by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. And  I know that our whole community grieves the loss of Silver, who in fact has been murdered by Hamas on Oct 7.


When I first heard of Silver being missing, I immediately recognized the name, since I remember interviewing her while I was in Israel about around 2010-2011 for an article that I later wrote for the Vancouver Jewish Independent. The nightmarish reality of Hamas’s brutal assault on Israel is driven home when you recognize the name of a victim.


JTA reported that according to Silver's son her remains were identified via her DNA.


Silver went to Garden City Collegiate, studying psychology and English literature at the University of Manitoba.


Silver,a grandmother of four, made aliyah in 1974, moved to  Kibbutz Be'eri near the Gaza border with her late husband and raised her two sons there, and has lived there for the last 33 years.


When I interviewed Silver, she spoke to me at the time about about how she was one of the founders of Ventures for Peace, an organization established in 2009 that bought together Palestinian and Israeli women entrepreneurs and artists who work together as equal partners to create products for sale internationally.

When I spoke to Silver, she was co-executive director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED) a position she had held since 1998, and told me she wanted to find a way for Israeli and Palestinian women to work cooperatively.

Silver said at the time, "Through this project not only do Israeli and Palestinian women cooperatively design and market products, but the women can hear each other's perspectives and learn about each other's lives."

Silver defined herself to me in my interview with her as a long time Zionist, a member of the Left and a peace activist. She told me she  favored  a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians,  and  pointed out that that Ventures for Peace was a way of "building peace on the ground," by promoting "sustainable cross-border economic activity" and peaceful relations between the two sides to the conflict. 


But the Hamas butchers who flooded Kibbutz Be'eri (which has suffered a terrible massacres with 112 dead bodies found in this kibbutz alone at the time of this writing), were certainly not interested in peaceful relations.

According to an article in the Globe & Mail of October 9, the last time Silver was heard from was about Saturday morning local time Oct 7, texting about gunfire that was outside her home. According  to theGlobe article, " Ms. Silver was hiding in her sheltered room, corresponding through a messaging app, and describing in harrowing detail as militants entered her home."


Although the Globe referred to the Hamas operatives who burst into Silver’s home as "militants," I will not refer to them as "militants." I will call them terrorists.( Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia, by the way)


Yonathan Zeigen, Silver’s youngest son who lives in Tel Aviv with his family, was speaking to his mother, but on hearing the violence intensifying, outside his mother's window told the Globe, "... So we decided it’s better not to speak, so they don’t know she’s there.” 


“We wrote messages up to the point she told me they were inside the house. And that was it,” Zeigen indicated to the Globe.


Silver was apparently hiding behind the door of the closet.


I have been re-reading what Silver explained to me about Ventures for Peace in my interview of her and the products that Jewish and Palestinian women were producing. Silver told me, "For example, a Palestinian soap maker and an Israeli ceramic artist have partnered together to produce soaps cradled in ceramic dishes. An Israeli jewelry maker and a Palestinian olive wood artisan have come together to make jewelry in olive wood boxes. A Palestinian embroiderer and an Israeli designer have produced an organic cotton yoga bag. Another team has weaved a special line of baskets made from organic materials from date palms. The idea is that weaving baskets is also weaving peace between people. 


"We believe that producing a product collaboratively builds confidence and mutual understanding between the women," Silver emphasized.


Silver told me at the time plans were made to launch Ventures for Peace during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

"Despite the violence that engulfed us, we met to try to get this venture off the ground. The Canadian government gave us $100,000 to support the project and I met with Jon Allen, Canada's ambassador to Israel, who is also originally from Winnipeg, to arrange for Canada's support of this project," Silver told me.


Yonathan Zeigan, Silver’s son, told the Globe that he gathered his mother was in Gaza, but there was a possibility she would be found dead in her home by the IDF who had not yet checked her home.


He told the Middle East Eye, "We have turned to her Bedouin colleagues and contacts in the Negev, but no one knows if she was in fact kidnapped to Gaza.”


According to an article by CBC, as of last week Zeigan still believed his mother had been taken hostage. Her house had been found burned to the ground, and he said there was "no evidence there of a struggle or bullets," which had caused the family to believe she had been taken hostage.


Silver wrote in a blog post in 2018 after retiring in 2014 the following reflection, "I had to acknowledge that after 40 years of peace activism, the left, of which I was a proud member, had not succeeded in achieving its goal of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”


In recent years, Silver was involved in volunteering to meet Gaza residents who were cancer patients at the border crossing, and then driving them to Jerusalem where they were to receive treatment. She also became heavily involved in Women Wage Peace, a grassroots organization to unite women from diverse communities in Israel to press politicians for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.


In 2021 Silver told Forbes, that up until 2009, there were no bomb shelters in her kibbutz,  "In 2009, the [Israeli] government only built shelters for communities that were four kilometers from the border. The community I live in is four and a half kilometers from the border, so we didn't have shelters then," Silver explained to Forbes. 


Tragically, Silver’s kibbutz bomb shelter in her home wasn't enough protection from Hamas on Oct 7.


My heart goes out to the family and friends of Vivian Silver. May her memory forever be a blessing.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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