HER STORY #32 - Rachel
Kfar Saba / Moshav
I was born in Herzliya, and when I was a baby we moved to Kfar Saba. I've lived here ever since, but next year we are moving to Tzur Moshe, a moshav [Israeli village], which is a big deal. I'm looking forward to it.
My mother-in-law lives there. She has an olive plantation, and has lived there for 20 years. She is a very special woman. She is a widow and lives there alone, tending to the olive trees all by herself. Most people wouldn't do what she does.
We decided to move there, not to help her, as [Rachel and her husband] are two very busy people. We're moving there to give our children the quality of life that a moshav can offer.
I'll miss Kfar Saba a lot, because I come from a big family. My mother lives here, my sister lives close-by, and my brothers as well. Because of my relationship with them, our decision to move took many years. But sometimes it's difficult in Kfar Saba because we have five children. It's very loud and intense, and we are looking forward to silence from the moshav environment.
I don't think it will be calmer [in the moshav], because of all the work, but it will be a more secure environment, and lately we have been wanting to feel more secure.
In town there is a closer proximity to terror attacks. My children know that I work with Arab women and Palestinians all the time, so of course I teach my children that we don't need to fear Arabs. We need to get over the fears, because the number of terrorists is small. But one can't ignore the everyday news, including the stabbings that mostly take place in towns. The moshav will hopefully be a more hermetic, quiet, and secure place - not only in the safety aspect but in many other ways too.
A Little Bit of Peace
Since Tzuk Eitan [Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict], my husband and I had many thoughts about living in Israel, and we experienced a lot of despair. Even though people like to make fun of the culture here, we actually really like it. However, since Tzuk Eitan, things have changed.
It wasn't the first war that my husband was a part of; he has been in many. This time he was in the Oref [Home Front Command], which meant that he didn't fight; however, the Oref is where the civilians are, and where the missiles [from Gaza] landed.
There was a lot of exhaustion, a lack of trust in the leadership, as well as a disconnection to those we voted for. Tzuk Eitan was a failure in terms of the interests of the Palestinians and the Jews in Israel. It didn't do anything; it only created more death and despair. When there were alarms, we had to wake up the children, and it's at these times that you ask yourself, "Why do I need to do all this?" It was during this period that I began thinking about leaving the country to do a PhD elsewhere.
My brother is a professor at MIT, and he told me to come to Boston. He is very Zionist, so he wasn't referring to the security status in Israel, but that financially it was better to do a doctorate in Boston than in Israel. We were contemplating moving. For one year, we were trying to find a way to do it. In the end we decided that we wanted to live and stay here, and we didn't want to abandon the situation. In all of this we thought, "How can we change things to create a little bit of peace and a change of life?" That's on of the main reasons why we decided to move to a moshav and not to leave Israel.
My husband and I have been together since the age of 18 and a half. We studied together in high school, but it was only at the beginning of our army service that we began dating.
Josh was in Sayeret Golani [Golani Brigade], and he was a sniper, which meant that he was on the front a lot, where there was a lot of fighting.
Ten years ago, when we had our second child, Josh went [to the reserves]. At this time, the Second Lebanon War was happening. He was always getting "Tzav 8" ["Order 8," a call-up for reservists], and he was always the first to receive it. He wasn't sent to Lebanon, but to Jenin, to replace the sadir [soldier in active service] that would have to go to Lebanon.
I stayed at home with two children for one full month. It was difficult and horrible - not to take care of two children, but to know that he was there. I didn't know why he was there. It was a fight that didn't have a clear and rightful reason. When he came home I told him, "Listen, it was too much of a concern, and it's not something I can do anymore." He didn't give up on going to the reserves, but he agreed to be on the Oref. He was also a therapist in the army, so they wanted to keep him in the Oref to take care of the civilian population there. However, this change occurred after many years of him going to the reserves.
I remember in 2002-2003, when we were students, and Josh was a Katzin Bitachin [security office] at a court house in Kfar Saba. There was a shooting attack nearby. He heard the shooting, he ran to the place, and shot the terrorist. It was a traumatic experience, because the girl, Noa Orbach, that the terrorist killed was next to him, and there were other teenagers who were hurt.
The next day, in the morning, the army sent him a Tzav 8. His name was also in the newspaper. We had to remove our names from our door and mailbox, because he now was someone that had killed a terrorist - and the terror organizations wanted revenge. So he was sent to the reserves in Nablus, because the army thought that it was the most secure place for him, as the terrorists wouldn't think to come and look for someone in Nablus.
After so many years of wars and Tzav 8, it is frustrating to have a leadership that you don't believe in. It's a very difficult situation - for a soldier to go out and fight, when he doesn't believe in the leadership and how the country is being run.
He is still in the reserves, but since he will be 39 years old soon, he is in his last years of his obligation. I always tell him I'm hoping that our children won't be fighters [in the army].
In fifth grade I dressed up as a clown for Purim. My mother's family is "Haredi" [Orthodox Jews] from Bnei Brak. We would rarely visit my grandparents, but when we did, we would go there by bus. On that day, when we were about to cross the street to the bus station [in Kfar Saba], a car bomb exploded in the bus station. I clearly remember seeing this. It blew up the whole station before we got there. I remember how we went back upstairs to our home for a little bit, and then just left for Bnei Brak anyway—because that was the reality.
I think my generation grew up in a very intense way because of all the suicide bombings and the terrorist attacks in the 90s. There were so many traumatic terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but also in Kfar Saba.
What Am I Fighting For?
I've become used to the fact that I live in a country that is being led in a way that individuals are not a part of. And it's not even so much related to being right or left-wing. It's just very sad.
At the moment we have right-wing leadership, and they have their direction, but it's not like they have a vision. And this made me realize, "What am I collaborating with, and what am I not collaborating?" So if I go and fight, what am I fighting for?
All the recent wars have not been about defending the country. Maybe they began like that. Of course all the missiles hitting the towns around Gaza were awful. As a mother, I can't imagine what it must be like. But it's not like Tzuk Eitan did anything that created real silence. It's just a matter of time before it will happen again. It's very frustrating, all of this death and lack of security - when they don't try to really solve the problem in the first place.
When my husband was growing up, he began seeing things differently and he noticed a lot of intensive brainwashing, but not necessarily in a bad way. If you want someone to be a good soldier, you have to brainwash him so that he'll do things in war.
But it's difficult to grow out of this, so I understand his wish to continue in the reserves.
I also served in the army. I always try to find ways to give back to the country. There is the conflict that you live in, and your lack of faith in the leadership and how they lead the country, but on the other hand you don't want to give up and say, "I don't care at all."
That's not the way we grew up, and it's not the way we think. So I don't tell Josh to leave the reserves. I just need him to be in a protected place. But it feels like he gave so many years, and risked his life in so many wars, so it's okay for him to give back to his country in a different way, though now professionally. We don't expect the country to give us something in return but we do expect the leaders to lead the country towards peace.
Ten years ago when I was pregnant with my third child, I became independent and started a consulting firm. We decided to raise our children in a different way than others do in Israel. The children were at home until the age of five - a form of home-schooling. Motherhood is an important thing for me and something that I prioritize. It was important for me to be a mother and to be so in a significant way. I wanted to be the main character in their early childhood —the one they see, hear, and play with most of the time. That was the way I wanted to raise my children.
So with my third child, I realized that I couldn't remain an employee for someone else. Because of the intensity of being a mother, I wanted to be able to control the intensity and the development of my career. I believe that when you have children, you are above all responsible for them and their well-being. Sometimes it reduces your own well-being, but that's what you need to give, and besides, you receive so much from having children and being with them. I do feel the intensity, but I chose to be independent, so that I could be very precise in my choices of what to do.
I became a life coach, with an expertise in adolescents and giving guidance to parents, and this quickly took me to the issue of gender. In the first year, I began developing programs for youth that deal with gender, especially and mostly for young girls. I began working with many kinds of authorities in Kfar Saba, Herzliya and other nearby cities. My career developed in two ways. I have my personal clinic, where I work often with youth, parents, and women. Almost no men ask for my help as a life coach. I think there's something in what I do that transmits something to women instead of men.
I enjoy working with women. I connect to women's language, feelings and behaviors ,and my work is very gender-sensitive and feminist. It's one of the most important things for me.
That's how I started working with Parlament Ne'arot [Young Women Parliament] five years ago. A year ago, the American Embassy gave a grant to the Women's Parliament, so I began working as a freelancer for them. I'm their coordinator for the different Jewish towns that they work in, such as Lod, Ofakim, Bat Yam, Kfar Saba, and Herzliya. I work with another coordinator from the Arab community, and together we are responsible for the syllabus and the yearly program. It's very interesting work. Our goal is to create as many collaborations as possible between Arab and Jewish girls.
In Kfar Saba we did a lot of work with girls from Tira [neighboring Arab town], and together we set up many conferences, where Arab and Jewish girls from all over the country met.
This year was very challenging because of the national situation. The Jewish girls were sometimes against meeting Arab girls, although this came from their parents mostly, who didn't want them to go to Arab towns. Some parents didn't even want them to go to Jerusalem, the nation's capital. I sensed a lot of fear - which all of our leaders try to implant in us, and you can see its effects.
It is very special work. We couldn't convince all the families, but most of the families and girls cooperated, and we created many connections between the Arab and Jewish girls. We were worried about what might happen, but they had fun and the bond was immediate - the girls put Mizrahi [Middle Eastern] music on and began dancing together. There were a lot of hopeful moments this year.
One of the girls was also accepted to the "Creativity for Peace" summer camp in the U.S. We began seeing real discussions on important topics. We also had a big conference in Kfar Saba about sexual harassment, which was very successful. There was a poetry slam event. It's nice to see how the Arab and Jewish girls talk about the same fears and worries.
This year we will continue to work with the grant from the American Embassy and we hope that it will continue next year, and continue to grow even more. We also want to work with Palestinians from the West Bank and expand our work in that domain.
There have also been many challenges in the Palestinian society. We wanted Christian girls to take part, but their teachers didn't want to because they saw themselves as different from the Muslim girls. But we did manage to involve Druze girls in our work.
When I say the "Arab community," we must remember that there are many nuances and it is not just one mass of people. We need to understand this. Also in the Jewish community, we had girls from Ofakim, and they were very different from the girls from Kfar Saba. When the girls from Ofakim came to Kfar Saba, they told us that they felt inferior to the girls from Kfar Saba, [Ofakim is located in the periphery], and it's all very challenging. It shows how divided Israeli society is, and how it isn't homogenous - there are so many colors, so many groups. It's not just "Jews" and "Arabs." It's secular, religious, Muslims, Christians, Druze, new [Jewish] immigrants, center, periphery, and the list goes on. And we tried to create one stage for them. We haven't managed to show every color, but we try to show as many as possible.
One of the six things that is most difficult for me is knowing that my oldest child will be 12 soon, and in six years he will be facing army recruitment.
It's difficult for me to be positive with Israel's leadership. I'm not only talking about the national situation. I'd like to see a different type of situation. I'm not an expert - if you ask me what the solution is, I wouldn't know. But since the age of 18, and since I have been able to vote, everything here has been hopeless. We were Rabin's generation. I was 18 years old at the time.
As a young girl, I remember how much hope there was in what Rabin did and the crash that has happened since his murder. I pray that in the years to come there will be someone for us to give up, someone that can lead the country in a way that will give optimism and faith.
My children already know that they are growing up with a mother like me - a mother that is very interested and involved in their lives. I know their friends and their fields of interests, and what they like to do. I also have many strong opinions. I don't keep my opinions to myself. I think they know what I think and they need to deal with it.
And it's conflicting, because I want them to give back to the place where they live. They look at me and Josh and see that we chose a life with a lot of meaning. This is also expressed in military service, where you give back to your country, and our children understand this. But they also know that I don't want them to be fighters in the current situation.
I don't think any mother would want her children to be in danger. And at the same time, when you don't believe in your leaders, because they're not doing things for the citizens of Israel in order to protect and to promote peace and security, as well as our health and happiness, then it's difficult to tell a child, "Go and fight their wars."
In addition to this, there is lack of equality in our society. I see the Haredi sector, and how their children go on with their lives, receiving a lot of money from the country, while their children don't go to the army. They expect to take and receive from society, but not to give anything in return.
Something is wrong here. That's also one of the despairing things lately. The government had wanted to recruit the Haredim to the army, and Yair Lapid had been leading this fight. However, the leadership changed soon after and this decision was withdrawn because Lapid resigned from his governmental position. The Haredim went in instead, and they cancelled the decision.
It's very frustrating, but I'd like to be positive and think that something will happen —for the good. If not, I can't continue to live here and teach my children not to serve in the army. This can't happen. I do think that you need to give back to your country and to improve your community, the society that you live in. So I can't motivate not to serve.
I try to teach my children to be thoughtful, critical children. In general, as a mother, I want to believe that I can accept all of my children's decisions as long as they don't hurt anyone else. If they wouldn't want to go to the army, I would try to make them give back in another way, maybe through national service [an alternative to army service]. I have many friends and family members, who didn't go to the army for many reasons, and I saw many people who managed to give back to the country without going to the army.
As a mother I'd like to hope that I can let them be the people they want to be, in terms of sexual orientation, their choice of partner, their professions, etc. Right now it's easy to say, but I truly believe I would be able to be happy with all of their decisions.
My father was a very strong and very idealistic person. He was very out there with his opinions and was a very impressive man. I looked up to him - also my mother of course, but she is still alive. I know what it's like to grow up as a girl with strong parents, strong in a positive way. It's a very big influence. It took me many years to disconnect from some of these things. My father thought in very specific ways, and as a girl, I wanted to think like him. I hope that my children will have their own thoughts. But I think the process of disconnecting from parents after growing up is a good one.
I grew up with four older brothers, and my sister and I were the youngest. It was very meaningful. We also grew up until the age of five with home schooling (as my children do too).
My father was 20 years older than my mother. He was Yemeni [Yemeni Jew] and an atheist. My mother was Polish from a Haredi family. He had previously been divorced from another marriage.
We grew up with a lot of freedom at home. There were boundaries, but it was about freedom of being what you wanted to be. From age zero, I remember going around the house with a naked upper-body. I played soccer with my brothers, and we played with dolls together. We danced ballet together. We fought together. There wasn't a feeling of me being different, as a girl, among four boys. There weren't different expectations for me.
Many years after this, when I began going to school and being more exposed to the outside world, I began understanding that there was a certain meaning with me being a girl in society, as if being worse than if I were a boy. It irritated me because my father expected the same things for me as for my brothers - I could be whatever I wanted to be. There weren't labels for being a girl, such as wearing pink, being sensitive, etc.
From a very young age, people who knew me saw me as a feminist. Every day I would go around trying to solve societal problems as a feminist. For me there was no such thing as being different just because I was a girl.
During my second degree, my thesis was also about feminism, and that's when I began studying it more in-depth, giving academic labels to what I had experienced personally. The work that I'd done before was in education, and I was part of a group that created a pluralistic school. I was always involved with gender issues, and I was always interested in it because I had an advantage in having grown up in a place that allowed me to do so many things.
In the most defining years of my life, they [parents] raised me in a very equal way. The boys did more work at home, because they were older, but in many families, the girls do more work at home because they are girls. There was a rule at home: "The older you are, the more work you do at home." It was a bubble, so going out [into society] made me understand the gap. It takes time to realize the gap.
I define myself and my children as feminists. I am a feminist. I'm very aware of this, every day. With my children, I'm always in this mode. I don't prevent my daughters and sons from being exposed to the outside world (via social media) from a young age. I decided not to inhibit them from this because it's more important for me to give them the tools to process and be critical of it [the outside world] than controlling the content coming to them.
My daughters wear dresses and other girlish things. All of them (boys and girls) have dolls, and they play soccer together. If they see a Disney film, I'll see it with them, and I give them the tools to see it differently. I don't want to be "anti" and say "In our home, we can't watch this," because then it becomes a bigger issues for them to see it, and they would want to see it even more. So I left them, but they know what my opinion is.
I know what it's like to grow up with a very opinionated parent, so sometimes I see that my children will say things to calm mom down - they say things that I want to hear, such as "pink is not for girls," but I think it's part of the process. It's difficult for me to believe that my sons won't be feminists. My oldest son even began joining the conferences of the Young Women Parliament. Right now, he's the only boy who comes. He's attended three conferences and he's very interested. In fact, he asked to come. He sat and listened to everything and later talked about his opinions.
My concern for my children is first and foremost that they will grow up in a situation of fright, because I grew up like that. I remember all the fears, especially fears about terrorists coming. As a girl, I didn't want to hate, and it was very hard to be a non-hating person because it's very difficult not to hate when you are scared. So when my son reads that a girl was murdered who was only a little bit older than him, I see the fear that won't leave him. It's the reality here, so it's very difficult for me that I chose to let them grow up in a place where the fear will meet them or has already met them, 100%.
It's a big challenge. I don't want their fear to go to a hateful place. I want them to be hopeful and happy.
Interview conducted on September 12, 2016