HER STORY #43 - ANONYMOUS
Criminology / Education
I'm 32 years old. I live with a woman, as a couple. I am a physical education teacher. I have two degrees, and I grew up in Rishon LeZion with my parents and three brothers. Two of them are older than me, and one of them is younger than me.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in criminology and a Master’s degree in education.
I have always liked criminology. I remember myself as a young women watching TV programs about different criminal cases, and I also did a major in criminology. I knew that it was what I wanted to do, in terms of studies.
Afterwards I went to volunteer with the police, and I realized that it wasn’t really what I wanted. It was a system that I couldn’t see myself going into, for many reasons, and perhaps it also happened at the wrong time, in the wrong place. During that time I was a student as well, and I was working as a manager at different Castro [Israeli clothing store] branches.
After that I quit the job at Castro and I finished my degree, and then I became independent in a law firm for a short period, and at the same time I found a position at the municipality dealing with at-risk youths who were on the streets. I worked within that field for three years.
Afterwards I moved on to different positions in the municipality, and I began wondering whether I should choose education or social work as a field to work in. I was unsure of which field to choose. The work that I was doing had to deal with crime and youths-at-risk, but I realized that what would fit my personality and my energy better was education. And so now I’ve begun working at a school, and I’ve understood that it really suits me.
I want to raise my children here, mostly because of the education here. If not Rishon [Rishon LeZion], then I guess I would choose a quiet place in the north [north of Israel], but Rishon is the perfect place for me. I think it has to do with the ways in which the city invests in education, and in terms of cultural activities, there is a lot to do here.
In terms of location, if I compare the town to the rest of Gush Dan [“Dan Enclave,” referring to Tel Aviv and Central Districts of Israel], the parking possibilities, living, education etc. are much better here, and it’s close to many things. Additionally, it’s where I grew up, and my family lives here.
I think that when I have children, it will be easier for them to be here. I think that it’s a good thing—and the right thing.
For me the army service is very meaningful. When you go to the army, you get to know yourself better. You have to deal with things on your own. You don’t have your parents’ help, which in itself is helpful.
I think that the army changed me a lot. I did get values at home, but the army gave me more tools as well, especially the sense of responsibility. It teaches you about moral values, and in the army everyone comes from different backgrounds with different educations. For example, someone from Rishon wouldn’t have received the same education as someone from Yeruham [town in Southern district of Israel] or as the education of someone from an Arab village. The army brings everyone together, and everyone is equal there.
I was a commander in a commander’s course and then a sergeant in the same course. I initially wanted to become a pilot, but I failed in the second or third test for it, so I just decided to go with the flow. It was okay for me to be a commander—it also really fit me.
If the country calls me, I will go and serve. If they don’t need me, and I don’t have anything to do other than just passing time, which a lot of people do, when they go to army reserves, then it’s pointless. I do understand how army reserves can help break people’s routine, which is okay as well. The last time I served in the reserves it really felt like a pause from my life. I also did it for one month, in a new battalion and with a friend.
Going to army reserves is important for me, because the army is changing. The last time I went, I was in [Mahal program, for volunteers who serve in the army], and there were many young girls, and it was important for me to tell them how important and meaningful the army is. I want to get in touch with the younger generation in the army. It’s very important to me. I want to listen to them and to hear how they feel. And since girls are also the ones who feel less at ease in the army, it’s important for me to encourage them. I see it as a contribution [to the country].
I also perceive national service [as an alternative to army service] as a contribution to the country. I think everyone should do some kind of service. You have rights and responsibilities.
Even if you are Palestinian, you can do national service in a school or in a hospital. It doesn’t have to be the army, just as long as you contribute to society. We have this duty of going to the army, but I have many cousins that do national service, as most of them are religious. Perhaps only one or two of them have served in the army. But it [contributing to society] is amazing to me.
I think that in most situations, I succeed in influencing people or perhaps at least stirring an interest in people. For example, if I speak to another person, I will make him/her think about it, and he/she might even research the things that we talked about. That concerns political conversations too, but especially in the conversations I have with the youth population, such as why smoking is not good.
I think can influence, and I always try to influence others, but only for good and positive things.
I use it mostly at work, but also in my personal life. If I speak with friends and they have questions, I am always the person they approach and listen to.
I’m also always with youths, so if they have questions, I’m the responsible adult for them. It comes from this work, but I think it’s something that I was born with, and only now I understand. Today I understand that I can work with it [influencing people], and I enjoy it as well.
I would really like to work at the municipality in Rishon. To be a member of a political party doesn’t interest me right now, although politics on all levels is where you will find power to do things.
The school I work in has 600 students, but in politics you really have the chance to change things, to change laws, and if something doesn’t please you, you have the opportunity to make a change.
I’m the only one of my friends who watches the Knesset TV channel. Some people prefer to watch football games. I like sports, but I’m more interested in politics. This is my country. If I’m not interested in what happens and which laws are brought forward, why live here? It’s my connection to the country. I think it’s very important.
I didn’t grow up with this [politics] though. In my family we don’t talk about it [politics]. Sometimes at Friday Shabbat dinner, we will talk about the army and the country, but I don’t vote for what my parents vote for, because I have a different understanding of things.
I think that it’s [interest for politics] something that has to do with my love for the country. It’s part of my connection to the country and my interest in influencing it.
When I hear that a 13-year old boy went to stab someone, I don’t curse him, but instead I feel bad for him.
Instead of playing football with his friends, he goes and stabs people, and it’s a result of something. This kid is a result of something continuous. I would never educate any child in my school or neighborhood to do this, even if something had happened to him/her, even if someone he/she knew had gotten killed. You don’t go and kill. It doesn’t get any clearer than this.
It’s not something that I believe in, and it’s not something that will solve the problem, and there is a severe problem here. And there is a bit problem with education that they [Palestinian children] unfortunately receive, some of them – although you won’t see this in mixed cities like in Jaffa, Haifa, or Nazareth. You will only see it in the grey zones.
[During the war in Gaza in 2014), I lived in a different house, and there was a pool, and around six o’clock every evening my nephews would come [and use the pool]. I didn’t have a shelter at home.
I also worked with children during that time, and there would be sirens [warning of missiles] in the morning. The mamad [a reinforced security room required in all new buildings by Israeli law] was in the toilets, so since I didn’t want to stress them [children], I told them we would play a game. I told them that we had to play a game, I would count to ten, and they had to go and hide in the toilets, and we would play there, and it would be a fun day. But then this fun day would extend into a couple of days.
I was working in an after-school care with amazing children—children-at-risk.
When I had my nephews at my house, I didn’t have too many choices. They were in the middle of the pool, so I had to take them out and go inside. It wasn’t a nice situation.
When I was alone [and the siren sounded] I didn’t have a problem, because it was only me, but when there were children, like my nephews, and I’m responsible for them, then it’s sad. It’s sad because things can be done differently. Other ways are possible. It’s too bad that it should get to this. We didn’t cause harm to others. In my opinion, it’s religious extremism that makes people do things like this. It doesn’t live up to the morals that I believe in.
I Wouldn’t Run
As a child, I remember the Gulf War, but it was fun for me, because all of the family was together. I didn’t know what it was. I think I was six or seven. I did hear things, but I was with my parents, and so I wasn’t scared.
When the terror attacks [including suicide bombings] happened in the 90s it was another story, because it happened in the streets. You could go to a café and boom. It was all much more nerve-wracking. Fortunately I’ve never been in a place, where there were terror attacks, but I know that if it had happened to me, I wouldn’t have run. I would try and help and rescue injured people.
Once during my army service in the reserves, we were on the border with Egypt, and we had a couple of cases where we needed to prevent weapons- and drug dealings. Once there was a terror group, or perhaps they were Bedouins (to this date, we still don’t know, what they were). They were trying to run away, but we tried to chase them. We didn’t catch them, but in that moment, I realized that I had courage. I wouldn’t go and hide. Courage isn’t always good, but I had it, so I think that if I would have been in a terror attack, I would help immediately – knowing myself.
I know how I experience it [the conflict], how Israelis on our side experience it, although I don’t view myself as a representative for everyone. It’s nonetheless important for me to know what they [Palestinians] think and how they see the solution [to the conflict], because there is a solution. It begins in education and politics. That is why I have gone into education, and politics.
I don’t know what they do on their side. If I need to demonstrate I will. If I think something is not moral, I’m the first to fight for it. And yes, I am wondering, what they [Palestinians] are doing, because most of the immoral things happen on their side, in my eyes at least, if we look at the terrorist who commits suicide and a child who stabs. It’s not moral.
When I was a commander, and I gave a weapon to a soldier, I told him very clearly when to shoot and when not to shoot. All of these are basic things. You shouldn’t always use your weapon, when you see something [suspicious]. You need permission. From the time that you see something until the time that you can shoot, you may need three or four clearances. You can’t just do something without the approval [in the army], unless it’s something that really can’t wait – for example, if you see a terrorist on the ground with something in his hand – then it’s either him or me. But when there is something in the “grey zone,” you will need a clearance before you can shoot.
If I could, I would meet Palestinians, especially the youth. I do call, however, those who live in East Jerusalem, Arab-Israelis. I know that they want this [Palestinian] identity, but for me the term “Palestinian” isn’t valid. They are former Jordanians. If they want a Palestinian identity, then they should take it then and live under the authority of Israel.
Occupation or no occupation – for me it [calling themselves Palestinians] makes less sense.
But I would love to speak to the youth, especially in East Jerusalem, and to see what their feelings are, why they feel like this, to try and change what they think, in terms of how it’s better here [in Israel]. I don’t think it’s good for a kid to take a knife and stab someone, but it happens, and it’s incitement. A kid won’t just go and do it haphazardly. He needs to be aware and he should have been taught certain things, because our children won’t do it, because they get something else.
And I think that women have power, and that is why it’s important for me to know what they [Palestinian women] say, because if they thought like me, I think that the youth there would be different. Although their society is more patriarchal, and the father may have more power in some ways, the women have a lot of power, especially at home. They spend a lot of time with the children. A woman has a verbal capacity. That’s why there are more female teachers.
I speak to Arab women less often, but sometimes I’ll speak to Arab men when I’m in Jaffa. I think that if you compare the Arabs living in Israel to those living in the West Bank, there is a big difference. They don’t have the same basis, but again, I am ready to speak with everyone. I like to talk – to someone who wants to talk.
I don’t know too much. I just live in a different area. I don’t know, if I’m different [than Palestinian women]. Maybe I have more social possibilities in my country, and they live as a minority in the territories [Palestinian territories/West Bank]. If they became a part of Israel, then perhaps they would have the same possibilities.
But from what I see and know, I think that as women, they don’t have the same possibilities, because it’s a more closed society. It’s more difficult for women. You see it here [in Israel] with honor killings. It happens mostly within the Arab community, although I do believe there is a change.
But we are all the same. We are human beings with values, faith, and the will to live. There is no difference. We all have noses and ears. We just have different values, perhaps, and different cultures, but it’s the same basis.
I Need To Fight
I would want to see things differently. I would want that Hamas didn’t control Gaza, or at least that Hamas would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and maybe then it would be easier to reach peace.
I would also want for our neighbors to recognize Israel. They still call us Zionists. They don’t recognize me as a Jew living in Israel.
It makes me feel like I’m in a place where I need to fight for my home. I need to fight and to understand that this is what I have. I would want for them to recognize me and to understand that this is what there is. When they recognize us, then things can be solved. It will be easier.
We are also the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s something that is unbelievable. If Israel was under a Muslim regime, I think that most people wouldn’t live well here, with everything that happens with ISIS, for example, and in terms of how the Middle East is changing. Look at what happens in Egypt. The students understand that things can be different. It will come here eventually as well. Eventually in Gaza they will understand that Hamas is not really good for them, and maybe then there can be a possibility for change.
Look at when there was the disengagement [withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza in 2005]. Before that there were fantastic relations. I have seen many interviews with Arabs living there [in Gaza] talking about how the economy was much better [before the withdrawal].
I would want cooperation, complete cooperation. You can gain a lot from peace and the absence of wars, especially when there are amazing resources.
If I were a foreigner, it would be amazing if I could go to Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and other countries by going from country to country without problems. But sadly we are surrounded by people, who won’t recognize us. Religion makes everyone see unclear, and it affects the situation.
I think that only if we controlled these territories [the situation would be good]. We see how Hamas is going into Judea and Samaria [Israeli government term for the territory generally referred to as the “West Bank”], and we see what happened with Hamas in Gaza. Abu Mazen [kunya for Mahmoud Abbas] is the one who is mostly speaking. I don’t know how much of an ally he really is.
Maybe it’s about the leaders. Maybe if we change the leaders, and if they recognize Israel fully, then things can work a lot better than they do today. Today there is no recognition of Israel, and this combined with the leaders is why everything is divided.
If It Makes Me Right-Wing
I don’t know what right-wing and left-wing is today. I believe in coexistence.
I can say that personally I believe in Eretz Israel [“Land of Israel”]. I believe that the ’67 borders belong to Israel. As when Britain and France conquered territory, we also conquered territory. If this makes me right-wing, well then I’m right-wing.
The 1967 borders are borders that we didn’t choose in the war or in any of the wars we had. We didn’t choose them, and that’s why I think that there should be Jews there [in the West Bank], as there are Arabs in Jaffa and other places. I believe in a Greater Israel, yes.
When I speak to someone who is left-wing, who doesn’t think that we should be within the 1967 borders, I ask him three questions: First of all, if he heard about Oslo. Secondly, if he heard about the disengagement from Gaza, and thirdly, if he heard about the Six Days War [in 1967] or the peace agreement with Egypt. Back then, Gaza didn’t belong to Israel. It belonged to Egypt, and Begin [Menahem Begin] agreed to the peace agreement in exchange for Gaza as well. It was perhaps the biggest mistake that Begin made out of the many mistakes he made.
I was for the agreement. I’m always pro-peace agreements, because peace is not war, but if we look at it [the peace agreement with Egypt], Egypt didn’t want Gaza. It’s a fact, and in terms of the Oslo Peace Treaty, I believe that Rabin made a mistake, as well as Peres. They chose to change certain things, and this changed everything: the places that we could visit [in the West Bank] when I was a kid, we can’t visit anymore, or now they are places that are not recommended for Israelis to visit. We had peace and cooperation back then, but today it’s impossible, so I don’t think it [the Oslo agreement] helped.
Also, during the Oslo agreement was the time when there were the most terror attacks [in the 90s], so what does that say? We come with peace, and it gets worse. Nothing came out of it.
And I think that the basis is Jerusalem. Nobody wants to give up on Jerusalem, and if I go back to the history of Jews and the history of Muslims (and Muhammad), Muhammad did all the things in Mecca. This is the holiest place for them [Muslims]. The Temple for the Jews was in Jerusalem, so if we look at what’s most important for who, they have Mecca, and we have Jerusalem. This is logic.
And when we removed troops from Gaza, we went out unilaterally, without an agreement, and we got nothing out of it. Why should we do the same in Judea and Samaria? Where is the logic in this? I only go for logic, and we went out. We tried this. Let’s learn from mistakes.
I don’t have a solution right now, but first recognize me—for me to be your friend, I don’t need to give you something. I can invite you for coffee and cookies. We can even play Rummikub, and you’ll be my friend. If you don’t want to be my friend, you don’t have to be my friend, but it’s my home, so first recognize that this home is my home. I gave you things in my home.
When you recognize me, and you know me, you might want to stay in my home, even if you think it’s your home. This is the basis of this conflict I think. If they keep holding on to things that happened to them in the past, nothing will change. If there is a possibility of opening the door and listening, I will do it with pleasure.
We have some “good souls” [meant ironically] that make our name bad abroad, but when I go abroad the first thing that I say is that I’m Israeli, and I talk about how Israel loves people, and I talk about how many interesting things there are here, and how many holy places are here as well.
I’ve been to Berlin, where I’ve met people, and they’ve later come and visited me here. They weren’t Jewish, but rather Christians and Muslims, and it was important for me that they came and saw, and I remember how they thanked us for the visit. I told them that my biggest thanks to them, and what I’d want would be for them to go back and to tell people how Israel is, and what Israelis are like.
I have a Spanish partner. Her father is someone who has a high level in the [Spanish] army. He researches terror, so he knows a lot about the situation [in the Middle East, including Israel]. Because of the fact that he has been to all of the neighboring countries (here), he knows the stories from the inside, so he has a positive image of Israel, but most of my partner’s friends [in Spain] think we still have camels, and that the Israelis kill Palestinians.
It’s sad for me because it’s not the truth, and because of that, when I travel, I talk about my narrative, and how we live here, and I tell the truth. It’s annoying, but mostly sad.
I wrote something political on Facebook once, and I mostly got bad comments for it, because most of my friends are left-wing. Some of my friends even unfriended me.
Stand With Israel [non-profit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization based in Los Angeles] posts all sorts of things about Israel on Facebook, and I share them. I like to share interesting and attractive things.
Back in April  I was a member of a delegation sent by the Jewish Agency, where we went to different universities in the U.S. and explained about Israel and the relations between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel. I became exposed to different Jewish cultures and was able to work within this field [relations between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel].
Hillel [largest Jewish campus organization in the world], who does PR for Israel, explained to us that a few times they ran into situations where people who were pro-Palestinian would try to start altercations with them, and they [Hillel] would tell them that they were not trying to discredit their work [of the pro-Palestinians]: “You are, what you are, and we are what we are. We are just trying to get students to do Taglit [Taglit Birthright Israel] and student exchanges mostly.”
I Don’t Have Another Country
I was born here. It’s my home. It’s a place I know.
I’m Jewish and Israeli, I can’t hide from this – that I don’t have another land. I don’t have another country, where they will welcome me with love, especially when you think of Jews’ story of being a minority and being persecuted.
I have a synagogue here that I can attend. I can do anything I want. I can buy things and not think about whether they are kosher or not. Here I can go with a Star of David or not go with one. Here is a place I can feel secure. Perhaps the conflict here does bring a form of insecurity, but I don’t think I’ll find another place to feel secure in this way, where I can jog in the streets in the middle of the night and eat kosher and hang the [Israeli] flag anywhere I want and celebrate Jewish holidays as I want. Although I don’t keep Shabbat, I want to feel the Shabbat.
I am Jewish first of all. I was born Jewish, since my mother is Jewish, so I’m Jewish, even if I don’t want to be it. And because I was born here, I am Israeli as well, but if I had been born somewhere else, I would have been a Jew from there.
I have the opportunity to move to Spain, but I don’t think I’ll do it. These are my roots. This is my history, my home. I don’t see myself anywhere else. I don’t have another country.