Interviewee's hand

Interviewee's hand

“Dirty Russian”

I came here at the age of two from Uzbekistan. My parents decided to move because they wanted to come to the “Jewish country”. In Uzbekistan they had felt a lot of racism towards Jews from non-Jews, and they came to Israel to avoid persecution.

I don’t remember anything from Uzbekistan, and I also don’t remember the journey to Israel. I don’t remember Aliyah [the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel]. My first memories began only at the age of four—this was my time in kindergarten.

I spoke Hebrew, but already at the age of four I knew I was different because a lot of kids would call me “dirty Russian” or other mean names. They laughed at me. Already at the age of four, kids can be so cruel to “others” who come from different countries.

The children always made fun of my parents because at that time my parents didn’t have good jobs. My mom cleaned restaurants, and my dad was a waiter. They didn’t have good jobs because it was the beginning of their time in Israel.

Today I feel Israeli. I know I wasn’t born here, but I feel Israeli. Today I won’t stand by idly if I hear someone call someone else a “dirty Russian”. I will defend this person, because we all live in Israel. We are all Israeli. It doesn’t matter if your family comes from Uzbekistan or Morocco. We live in the same country. 


The thing that scared me the most was the Intifada in 2000. There were explosions everywhere, on buses, in malls, in restaurants, etc. Perhaps it was a little similar to the situation today, but still, today is not like the Intifada when there were so many suicide bombings. My parents went from home to work, and I went from home to school, and we never knew if we’d return.

I remember one suicide bombing in particular that took place in a small mall in Petach Tikvah, about five minutes from my home. My friends and I were walking around the city center and we heard the boom, but we didn’t know what it was. We thought it was a big car accident, perhaps involving a truck. As a child, you don’t first think that it could be an explosion. Today I’m more aware, and if I heard an explosion today, I’d assume it was a suicide bombing.

The boom was so intense that it disconnected all the phones in the area. At least that’s what they explained to us. Apparently that’s what happens when there are big explosions.

My mom was so scared and worried about me. She was hysterically crying. She really thought that something had happened to me since my phone was not working and she couldn’t reach me. When she finally reached me, she was still crying, and she kept asking me if I was okay.


I feel scared on a daily basis.

I don’t go to Jerusalem, because I’m scared. I have family there, a lot actually, and I can’t go because I’m scared that somebody will throw stones at my car, or that there might be a shooting.

My boyfriend and I wanted to go on a trip to Jerusalem because we have never been there together, but we actually cancelled because we were both scared of going. If we had gone, the trip would have been very tense. Being afraid of going to Jerusalem disturbs me. And I’m scared that there will be another war.

I’m always scared of the wars.

The last war was the scariest. I went to work by bus, and I was constantly very scared because the siren would almost always sound when I was on the bus. When it happened, the drivers would tell all the passengers to get off the bus and find a place to hide.

Once, I remember being near Azrieli [Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv], and we hid next to the building. I remember that I saw the rocket, but I tried not to look, because I felt as if it was coming towards us. This is actually how I’ve felt every time I’ve had to find cover outside when hearing the siren.

We didn’t have a shelter at home, so if there was a siren when I was home, I went to the stairwell. The building was very old, and I was worried about what would happen if a rocket hit my building.

I remember how I cried every day because it was very difficult for me to hear about the soldiers’ families—how so many of them left their pregnant wives and their children behind. I don’t know what happened in Gaza, but I know that our soldiers warned all of the people there. Maybe it’s not helpful, but I know our soldiers were against the murderers, not against the people. I remember how I cried every day when hearing about all of the dead people in the news, and I thought, “Why should we live in this situation? Why can’t we find a solution? Will we live like this for the rest of our lives? It’s not a life.”

I went to Prague in August 2014, in the summer of the last war. My friends and I were walking around next to a church in the center, and suddenly a very specific sound came from the church that was completely identical to the siren we have in Israel. My friends and I all jumped. I didn’t know what it was and I thought that I was going crazy. I thought I was hearing the same siren in Prague. Then someone explained to me that every Sunday the churches make this specific noise.

While in Prague, my heart was in Israel thinking of my family. I felt bad. My country was at war and I went to Prague to have fun. I was constantly connected to the news, and I was in contact with my family all the time. I think this is a trip that I’ll never forget because I went there for a wedding – something happy – but I couldn’t disconnect. The others on the trip felt the same way. We were all connected to the news. I felt guilty for having left because people were dying and my family was still there. I was in such a beautiful country, but people were suffering back home.

I was very stressed then, more than now, because even though there is an Intifada now, it is mostly happening in Jerusalem. I think something is trying to be said through these attacks, a deeper meaning, and that is why it is happening in Jerusalem.

So I’m afraid of going to Jerusalem now, but when we had the rockets during the last war, I was afraid of living here altogether.

I really want to live in a country where I don’t have to think about fear. If I want to go on vacation in the summer, I don’t want to have a think about whether or not there will be a war.

Sometimes I think about the families of those that died. I also think about the other side. Why do they kill themselves? Don’t they want a brighter future? Do they think about how their mother feels? If I was going to kill myself or had these intentions, I would first think about my mother, or both my parents. What they do [suicide bombing], won’t help in the end. It’s the same on our side. If we bomb Gaza, it won’t help. What they do, and what we do, doesn’t help. 


My dream is to have peace and to find something mutual between both sides. I really want for both sides to feel good. I don’t have a solution, but I just don’t want both sides to fight anymore. We have had this for so many years. I want my children to be able to live in a peaceful country. I feel very bad about this situation, because we are dying and they are dying.

I really want to have a brighter future in Israel. I love this country, and I really want both sides to live peacefully. Again, I don’t have the answer for how to achieve this, but my dream would be to live in a calm place together.

I don’t think they should go. I don’t think we should go. If they want to come to Petach Tikvah, they should come. If I want to go to Hebron, I should be able to go. Like in Europe. We shouldn’t be afraid to go anywhere. I want to feel free. I want to live in Israel, the way that people live in Europe.

I think I’m optimistic, because without optimism, you won’t get what you want. It wouldn’t help for me to be disappointed and sad. 

Saving Lives

I wanted to learn medicine. I really wanted to save lives and to be a doctor. Unfortunately I didn’t get a high enough score on the Psychometric Entrance Test [higher education admission exam taken in Israel], so I wanted to at least do something related to medicine, and therefore I chose biology. Perhaps it doesn’t help to save lives, but its close, and you still learn about how the mind and body works.

I volunteered at Magen David Adom [Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service] for six years, from the age of 14 to 20. I worked with a lot of people—with Israelis, and Arabs, young and old people.

I think I’m okay today with having studied biology, but sometimes I feel that I still miss “Mada” [acronym for “Magen David Adom”]. I don’t think I will ever get to study medicine, but maybe I will go back to volunteering. Being a volunteer was the best time of my life because I saw so many different cases.

In Israel, you often hear people say that you “grow” in the army. In my volunteering experience, I grew a lot because of what I saw and because of the people that I met. We were many people together. We were Arabs, Druze, religious, non-religious, gays, lesbians, and Jews all working with each other. We took courses together, we worked together, and it was amazing. The main paramedic was Muslim, and he was really the best.

Here, in Mada, you will meet people who care about lives. They care about saving lives, and it is volunteer work. They don’t care about what you are: Jewish, Muslim, or anything else. They are the most non-racist people I have ever met. They will save Christian, Muslim, and Jewish lives. Everybody is human to them.

For me it was the best place. I felt equal to everyone. I didn’t feel Russian or anything else different. And I felt that I was good at what I was doing, and I really felt like I was helping people and saving lives. That’s how volunteering felt for me. It was amazing. You really need to experience Mada to understand. I didn’t care about whether I was making money for it or not. I just wanted to come and volunteer.

I will go back to this. It’s a very good organization.

I remember one case in particular. There was a religious woman, a mother of fourteen children. She went into labor in the middle of the road. She was on her way to Ma’aney HaYeshuah [medical center in Bnei Brak], a hospital for religious women, and she lived in Petach Tikvah. But she couldn’t make it, and went into labor in the middle of the road.

I’m not a doctor, but I cut the umbilical cord of the baby and I held him while using a tube to give him oxygen through his nose. He didn’t cry, so we were scared that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. From there we took them to the hospital in an ambulance. This was the first time in an ambulance for me, so the paramedic briefed me on what to do on the way there.

I was just 16 years old, and I saw the whole birth, and it wasn’t disgusting. It was amazing. I was a 16-year-old girl holding this baby, and I helped this woman give birth. I know that some men faint when they see their wives in labor. I was calm. For me, it was incredible.

Once, a young woman cut her arms and she didn’t want to go to the hospital, so a paramedic and I ended up sitting on the pavement with her, and we talked with her about all the good things in life, and we laughed with her. She was 26 years old, I was 17, and the paramedic was 60, and the three of us sat there together, just talking about life. We eventually took her to the beach, just to keep her calm, and after the beach, she agreed to go to the hospital.

She was very hysterical in the beginning. A person needs to know that somebody cares, and she felt that nobody cared, not even her parents.

It’s so easy to be alone, and people eventually want others to care. If somebody feels that nobody cares, he’s lost. But the paramedic and I cared about her. I didn’t know her, but we didn’t want her to die. She was a nice lady. She studied communications at the University of Beer Sheva. She was pretty, and nice to talk to, but she felt that nobody cared about her. A little bit of caring can go a long way.

Ask Me

A lot of times people tell me, “You didn’t serve in the army,” and I feel like telling them to shut up. Even my friends were very hard on me because of this. But I did a lot more than some people who did serve in the army. I volunteered for six years. Almost every day I went to Mada from 6:00-9:00 p.m. I received honors recognition from the Lions organization. So, when people say that I didn’t go to the army, I say, “Okay, I didn’t go, but ask me about what else I’ve done in my life.” Just listen and ask me questions.

My life started when I was 14 years old and went to volunteer for six years. After that I volunteered at a laboratory for year. I didn’t sit in a chair not doing anything for anyone. I did things. The only reason why I didn’t go to the army was because my parents were afraid to send me.

People in Israel think that your life only starts when you go to the army, but nobody asks what you did before. Maybe I did something very important. 

Interview conducted on February 26, 2016 by Sarah Arnd Linder