JERUSALEM — Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli activist who devoted her life to seeking peace with the Palestinians, was confirmed killed in Hamas’s 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.”
“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.’”
The news stunned organizations she had helped.
“We never stopped hoping that she was kidnapped, that she’s alive, that she’s with other people, that she would come back to us,” Yael Braudo-Bahat, a co-director of Women Wage Peace whom Silver mentored, said in an interview.
Susan Lax, a longtime friend who met Silver about five decades ago at a kibbutz, said she had been immediately drawn to her.
“She was my role model for women’s rights, for feminism, and for never ever giving up on peace,” Lax said.
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.”
Material from The New York Times was used in this report.