HER STORY #14 - avigail
My parents are "olim chadashim" [new immigrants]. My father is from Galicia and my mom from Transylvania. They both went to Romania, where they met each other, and from there they moved to Israel in 1986, the year I was born. They left because of communism, and because my father became unemployed.
They arrived in Israel right before the famous wave of Russian immigrants, so they came in a time, when a lot of help was given to new immigrants. One of the things that Misrad Haklikteh [Ministry of Absorption] helped them with was housing and they were sent to an absorption center in Gilo, next to Jerusalem, where they were permitted to live for a couple of years.
You will find a lot of left-wing people living in Gilo, because it's cheaper than the center of Jerusalem. It's a big neighborhood. But yes, it's a settlement.
So I was born there and immediately experienced the First Intifada in 1987 and the Guld War in 1991. A lot of fear. It was a dangerous place to live in. And then came the suicide bombings in the 90's. Three times I was in a place right next to a suicide bombing. Once I didn't go to school, and the bus that I was supposed to have taken was bombed. That's how it is here. It's very near but also very far away. You don't know, if it's really dangerous or not.
Around 2000 during the time of the Second Intifada Gilo was the center of the Intifada. I would hear, how they shot at Gilo from Beit Jala and threw mortar bombs. Then walls were built along with sand bags, and there were tanks everywhere. We couldn't go out so much, and in the night before falling asleep I heard booms all the time but mainly from "Zahal" [IDF].
I went to a school in Katamon [in Jerusalem] that was perceived as a "smolani" [left-wing] school. My parents were left-wing; they voted Meretz, so I grew up in the left and went to demonstrations from an early age, such as for Rabin, after he was assassinated. They taught me a lot about history and other things.
I am not Jewish according to the Jewish Halakha [collection of Jewish religious laws] nor according to the laws of the State of Israel.
A couple of years ago I became a part of "Midreshet Adam" [Adam Institute, a non-profit organization]. I took part in a program with them for a year and a half, which included Israeli/Jewish and Palestinian (from the West Bank) women and men. For a year and a half we learnt about civic society, and for the first time I got to know Palestinians my age. We had a lot of discussions and tough ones as well. There I was asked: "If you are not Jewish, then what are you? Israeli?" It made me think. There is too much to be critical about here in Israel, so I don't consider myself Israeli. I think I'm "ivri" [Hebrew], as I love the Hebrew culture and its language. The Hebrew language makes me feel at home.
That's what I call myself. I don't categorize myself in terms of land or religion but in terms of the language.
When I studied literature and gender, I became very interested in deterritorialization - that is where I learnt about the importance of language.
I then began to teach in a Jewish school in Yafo, where 80% of the children were Palestinians. They all learnt Hebrew, but many of them knew Arabic very poorly, because they were forced to learn Hebrew and not to speak Arabic. There is no development in the Arabic language.
There are almost no books for the Arab population. It's killing Arab education. They have a language of their own, but it's not being treated with care. It's a political thing, and it weakens them. Politics is a lot about language.
Feminism / Tofeset
I studied literature and gender at Tel Aviv University as well as education and teaching at Seminar HaKibutzim [Kibbutzim College]. But the MIdreshet Adam program was what made me develop the idea for Tofeshet. Tofeshet is a community that I created online for feminist and activist mothers, who wish to be able to teach their children values such as peace and multiculturalism.
It was really a selfish thing, as I had been looking for such an organization myself.
I don't want my children to go to kindergartens and schools in Israel. It's very difficult to do activism and to give them a peace education, so I created Tofeshet to make it possible for mothers still to be active. It was created to make women understand that they can influence their children in terms of ideology. It's perfectly fine to talk to them about politics (such as the occupation and violence) from an early age but of course in a way that doesn't hurt them; for example, through stories. There are a lot of women,who say: "Let the kids be free, and let them do, what they want," but it's okay to teach them principles and values.
On Tofeshet you can download colouring pages for children on topics such as feminism, peace. There is a drawing for when "mom fixes the car," and with "superhero dads dancing with their daughters." Some of the drawings I drew myself, others were drawn by other artists.
Currently I am trying to develop a new project for Tofeshet, where mothers will be able to create their own stories for their children on subjects such as mothers with depression. If a mother wishes to talk to her child or children about a specific topic but cannot find a book about it to explain it to them, she can write the story herself. In Tofeshet there is also a place with links to recommended books.
The trigger for the development of Tofeshet was really "Tzuk Eitan" ["Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza] last summer. It's one of the moments that influenced me the most and saddened me the most.
When "Tzuk Eitan" started I set up a small peace demonstration for children. There was some media coverage but not too much.
The second peace demonstration that I went to was held by Coalition of Women for Peace, and there I also made sure that a small part of the demonstration was for children.
Then I went to a third demonstration, and only after about twenty minutes the demonstration got interrupted by "Hatzel" ["The Shadow," artist name for Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi, known for important role in extreme right-wing] and the "Ariot" ["Lions," Eliasi's entourage]. They brought fire torches, and one of "Hatzel'"s followers went right up to my daughter with the fire torch in his hand. The police did nothing.
Right after they came, there was a rocket-alert, so everyone ran for shelter including the police. When the police fled, I heard one of the police officers tell the "Ariot" something in the like of: "Now they are yours." My daughters and I ran home. I heard however from other activists that they had run to a café, and Hatzel and his crew ran after them. No one in the café helped them, and they kept chasing them.
The moment I saw this, everything changed. I understood that a lot of people want people like me hurt, and I am scared for my children.
Then the government became even more right-wing, and they began talking about left-wing extremism, although this doesn't exist in Israel. That is the moment that talk about how to kill left-wingers came about. A lot of times, when a left-wing person in Ha'aretz writes an article, many comments will be about killing the writer. There are lists of left-wing people with their full names, addresses, the names of their children etc.
My fear of the Palestinians and war is a lot smaller than the fear of what happens here at the moment. Today I'm so much more scared of things being done to me, if I am wearing a T-shirt with something written in Arabic.
I can't leave Israel. My English isn't good enough, and from my parents' experience, I know what it is like to be immigrants in a new country. It reduces your level of living, and my profession and the one of my partner isn't "impressive" enough, but if it wasn't so, I would leave.
Interview conducted on October 25, 2015