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Hundreds of Jews and Arabs joined relatives of Israeli-Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver Thursday to pay tribute to an "extraordinary woman" and "beacon of hope" who was murdered by Hamas militants on October 7.
They gathered at Gezer kibbutz in central Israel where the 74-year-old had lived in the 1970s. When the Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel last month, Silver was living in Beeri kibbutz near the Gaza border.
She had been missing since the attack that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and her death was confirmed by the authorities only this week.
"She was an exceptional woman," her close friend Emilie Moatti, a former lawmaker for the Israeli Labour party, told AFP.
She said it was painful there had been no funeral for her friend, as "there is nothing left to bury".
Beeri kibbutz is located less than five kilometres (three miles) from the Gaza border and before the war it had a population of 1,200.
But at least 85 of them were killed during the October 7 attacks and another 30 or so taken hostage by the Islamist militants, or reported missing.
Vivian Silver was named as one of the missing. Israel's consul general in Toronto confirmed her death on Monday.
A feminist activist advocating for peace with the Palestinians, Silver had set up aid programmes for Gaza residents and helped them travel to Israel for medical treatment.
- Peace group symbol -
She won numerous prizes for her peace work, and in 2014 helped found Women Wage Peace, a grassroots Israeli peace movement which now counts more than 45,000 members.
A tearful Ghadir Hani, an Arab-Israeli from the northern port town of Acre who had worked with Silver in WWP, on Thursday recalled the last time she spoke to her friend as the deadly Hamas attack unfolded.
"You told me everything was all right, but that you could hear noises. And then there was no reply to my messages," said Hani, wearing a black veil.
Around her neck was an azure blue scarf -- one of the peace group's symbols.
"You said that only light can repel darkness. How I wish you were here to bring light and hope as you always did," she said.
Gathered on the grass of the kibbutz to remember Silver were Orthodox Jews, Bedouin, women in veils and many wearing the distinctive blue WWP scarf.
"Vivian was a symbol of peace, a bearer of hope," said the group's co-founder Marie-Lyne Smadja.
"We must win this war and then we must change the paradigms and ask ourselves some questions. But first Hamas must be crushed and the hostages freed," she said.
The idea for Women Wage Peace was born during another Gaza conflict, the Israel-Hamas war of July and August 2014.
"The only way to live in security here is to make peace," Silver's son Yonatan Zeigen said on Thursday, quoting his mother.
"We, the living, will continue to shine and persevere and strive to bring about the tomorrow that you always spoke of," he told mourners.
"Now you are gone, I am in love once again with words such as peace, gender equality and brotherhood," he added.
Arab-Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi described the Hamas attacks of October 7 as "horrors".
He told AFP he had come to the ceremony to pay tribute to an "extraordinary woman... who also thought about the well-being of the people of Gaza".