HER STORY #28 - nitzan
I became interested in working with women and gender-related issues for a variety of reasons.
I always wanted to become a journalist or a diplomat. I knew that I wanted to work in the public sphere, because I'm very concerned with what goes on in the world. I feel connected to it. So, at university, I studied Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations.
During my studies, my interest in women's issues became even more intense. I was living in French Hill in Jerusalem at the time, which is an area where many women suffer from sexual harassment in the streets. Young men from the neighboring village, Isawiya, would come out in the evening and harass women when they passed by. There were so many sexual harassment incidents.
The village is also close to the university.
Stones were thrown at cars. Students would park on the road around the university, and the men from this village would frequently vandalize and ruin the cars.
My friends were harassed. So was I. I would hear one story after another. And because of who I am, I can't not do something.
I was scared. I wouldn't go out at night. I was scared that someone would say or do something. It wasn't good at all. I became scared of the Arabic language. Even when I hear the language today, I feel a combination of two things: fear of sexual harassment and terrorist attacks.
The incidents activated me. On Facebook, I would collect women's stories about these experiences, and eventually a Facebook group grew out of it—a group that I took a major part in and became an admin. Even men joined. Local, as well as national, politicians tried to get involved with the group. I was fine with the involvement of local politicians, but not the involvement of politicians on a national level, since I didn't want them to use the group to promote specific political goals.
It has always been difficult for me to take part in a fight that's not my own. I care about many subjects, like what goes on in South Tel Aviv, but I won't get too involved because I don't live there, so it concerns me less. This follows me in everything that I do. If I don't feel a connection to a specific subject, I won't get too involved.
Young Women Politicians
What is important for me right now is to get into politics, but fear has frequently stopped me. This has made me think: "Why am I scared? What stops me? I want it, but why don't I go ahead?"
It made me realize that I felt as if I didn't have enough knowledge. What do I think about the conflict? What do I think about the economy? How should I behave like a politician? Should I lie? But should I have to behave like this, when I'm not a liar? What is political culture?
So I researched the courses that I had already taken during my studies and selected all of the courses that I believed were relevant to me in my situation. I chose courses that I believed had taught me a lot. I set up a class schedule with those and added other courses regarding subjects that I felt I was missing.
Becoming a politician demands a lot of studying, while being professional at the same time. But I see an advantage in the fact that there are many young women out there, like myself, who are still simultaneously both ideological and successful in what they do. There are so many talented women in the army and in hi-tech, so why not use these skills in the political realm?
We need to get rid of this paradigm telling us that one can only became a politician when one is older.
A while ago I initiated a study program for women called "Young Women Politicians" and it has just begun this semester. The first time that I thought up this idea was two years ago. I wanted it to take place every semester and last for four months each semester. It's very interesting and very important. I'm really excited about it.
The participants are so thirsty for knowledge, and they wish to do so many good things and to create a lasting influence. They don't want to settle for mediocrity.
There is a feeling of carelessness and apathy there. It frustrates me. Caring does exist, but the majority people of people are careless.
I know that you can't be aware of everything at all times. But still, I look at the areas where Israel is strong, and I ask myself, why don't we succeed in solving the difficult problems? In this case, I'm only talking about the Israeli side, not the Palestinian side.
I joined Women Wage Peace, becuse I believe that we don't have the dispensation to not do anything about it. I won't force people to do something, but I say that we live in a place where people get killed in the street, whether it's a stabbing or shooting. There is a lack of security. I also think about the more tense places around Gaza, such as Sderot, and also in the north. There is no security there, and that's a basic need. It's everyone's right to live in security and to live comfortably. But, we're very far from this.
I think it's a matter of education. My parents have always been very concerned about what goes on here. They're both educators, and my mother is still a teacher today. They both always wanted to do good, especially in terms of the area where they lived.
When I was a child, my father would frequently send letters to members of parliament. I even wrote a letter to the Minister of Education when I was a child, and she invited me to the Knesset. This was a very meaningful meeting for me because it taught me to use my voice.
There is one situation in particular that I remember. Next to my school there was a bus station with a bench. My father noticed that the station didn't have a roof, so if it rained, children would have to wait in the rain. My father complained about it, and then they built a roof. I learned that you have to ask, you should not not try. It's possible to make a change - I saw it happen. If a situation is bad, you need to try and change it. A bus station with a roof is better than a bus station without.
While politicians need to look at situations from a macro perspective to see what needs to be done in a particular situation, they also need to have an interest in wanting to do good.
The person who is elected serves the public. Not the other way around. But power blinds this idea, and when some people obtain power, they lose the connection to the public. That's how I look at politics. According to me, you have to be accountable for the citizens at all times. I really believe in this. Power needs to be in the citizens' hands and not in the hands of a monopoly. The citizens need to be in control of their lives.
The goal of Women Wage Peace is to enhance an agreement for the end of the conflict, with a basis saying that the agreement needs to be accepted by both sides. This is good, because it's not unilateral. In the organization, they talk about how women can really achieve peace, and how our voices are not heard enough. No matter how you look at it, women are always concerned about their children. During Operation Protective Edge many women were frustrated with how many of their sons and daughters were being sent to fight. Why should we live in such a reality?
Next month I'm going to a weekend dialogue seminar with Palestinian women. I want to meet them, to learn from them, and to look for solutions. I want to ask them about anti-Semitism, and so many other topics. We are all human beings, and we need to take advantage of opportunities to meet. I'm not scared of it, and I hope that it will add depth to my perspective. Some people don't like to have their minds changed, but I think that I always have something to learn.
I am, in a way, more scared of Arab men because of what happened in the neighborhood where I lived. I would like to change that.
I'm going to the seminar to break some of these fears I have of Palestinians. I want to face my fears and not see "the Palestinian" as something bad and dangerous. I have internalized this fear, and in order to deal with it, I feel that I have to go to a seminar like this. Firstly, I would like to meet Palestinian women face-to-face, and then perhaps later on take part in other activities with them. We don't have so many opportunities to do this - we're very separated. I only have one or two Arab-Israeli friends, that's it. We're all human beings, and we're not so different. And they probably think the same things as I do. I would like to meet them to see who they are - without the stereotypes.
I have two brothers. Both are in combat positions in the army. One of my brothers fought in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. He was a "maglan" [also known as Unit 212, an Israeli Special Forces Unit]. He is safe today, but in those days it was really bad. I couldn't concentrate, and I was stressed all the time.
People got killed—for what? I know it's to protect us. This country was built by heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives - but is every war really necessary? Did we really do everything possible before we sent our children, our siblings, and our friends to fight?
And so we will begin another war in another year? I know that there is another side, the Palestinian side, but do we really do everything that we can to prevent the war? No, we haven't done enough.
I started out as a photographer in Mitzpe Ramon in the army. I would take photos at different events, such as the events held by the Israeli Air Force. I later became an officer and worked in the department that is involved in training and producing guidance material. I also worked in technical intelligence for a while.
During most of my time in the army, I didn't live at home but I would visit once in a while. My last position was in HaKirya [the major IDF based in Tel Aviv], so I rented an apartment in Tel Aviv. That was a very interesting time for me, and also when I experienced true independence.
My service gave me a lot. It taught me how necessary it is to look at everything in life through a positive lens. Nothing is perfect. You need to practice positive thinking in terms of how to address a specific situation. You shouldn't allow yourself to be pulled into trouble, and you should look at everything as an experience. Sometimes things just don't happen the way that one wishes for them to happen. Many times the success is not in the outcome but in the choice to do something. You can always try.
When I was studying at Hebrew University, I ran for office to become the head of the Student Union of the Political Science department. I didn't win the election, but at least I tried, and it was an experience.
If I were a politician today, the first thing that I would tackle would be the conflict. I would look at the possibilities, and I would ask myself: What possibilities are there? Where will Israel be in 10, 20 or 50 years? What will be of Jerusalem? What will be of East Jerusalem, the settlements, the North, and Gaza? Will we have another war?
Many people say that the current situation is the best, because any move can make it worse. I won't accept that - the status quo. I hear this a lot: "Don't change things, because it will be bad." People aren't ambitious. I am always trying. You can always make something better.
Sometimes I get really angry, and I admit that I've grown a thick skin. I'm very sensitive, but what can you do - at some point you begin developing some form of immunity. It doesn't mean that things have stopped hurting me. I just overcome them quicker than in the past. That's all. I'm still very sensitive.
There is a story about a competition between frogs. They had to climb to the top of a mountain. Twenty frogs attended the competition, and when the competition started, all the frogs began climbing. At one point it became difficult, and they began discussing the difficulty with each other. They kept trying, and at some point most of them stopped trying—apart from one that continued climbing until he reached the top. You know why? Because that frog was deaf.
People will always have something to say about you, but at the end of the day you need to do what you want to do. So I always try to surround myself with people who are positive, and who support me.