HER STORY #44 - ANONYMOUS
Haifa - Jerusalem
I'm 22, and I'm studying nursing in Jerusalem.
I'm from Haifa, but I decided to study nursing in Jerusalem because I wanted to be more independent and to be closer to political issues, because in Haifa it feels like you’re living in a bubble. I really wanted to feel alive, so that’s the main reason why I moved to Jerusalem – to try and see the other side and see how I could deal with it.
I’ve lived here for two years.
I love cats so much. I have three cats, two here in Jerusalem and one in Haifa.
I don’t know why I like animals, but I do, and I love cats. I like to take care of cats in the streets. The two cats that I have in Jerusalem were cats that I found in the streets. They were almost dying. I love being able to see them grow up.
I feel like we have a connection or something like that. I feel that I really can understand them, and they can understand me too. They come to me. I don’t know how to explain it. I just love them. I’ve never met a cat who got mad at me or didn’t like me.
I just love them.
The main reason [that I chose to study nursing] is that every time I go to a doctor or to the hospital, I don’t feel like the doctor and the nurses treat you as a human. I feel that nowadays everyone treats everyone like a problem, and I just want to change that reality.
I had to choose between medicine and nursing, but in the end, when you think about it, nurses spend more time with the patient, whereas the doctor just sees the patient quickly. I also really believe that I can be with people, and that I can help them with their physical and mental health.
I have been to hospitals, and the nurses weren’t there, and the doctor wasn’t there, and I felt helpless. I feel it all the time. Humanity is dying. I see it, but I can help change that.
For me it’s very important to work with the majority of people, and since most people go to hospitals, if I can help there, then maybe I can change some things like this [humanity dying].
I would like to specialize in neuroscience or psychiatry, because I don’t like how people [with psychological problems] are treated differently [by medical professionals]. I just hate it, and people need more support. They are people too. We need to support them and not to put them down.
I sit and talk with people who have these issues and illnesses, and I see that they are being looked at in a different way. I don’t like that. They are being looked at as if they are a unique and a bad group. I feel like changing this.
At the same time, I would also like to learn about how the brain functions. It’s very interesting to see how it works, how it functions, so for me it’s either nursing or neuroscience. I still don’t know. I still have two years to decide.
As part of my studies, we go to hospitals where you learn how to deal with patients. It’s part of the studying, but I still haven’t been to a psychiatric hospital yet [as part of the studies]. I did, however, volunteer in Hadassah [Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem] once, and I really liked it, but I would like to try and work with people who have neurological problems.
The Real World
I think that we should all live the way we do in Haifa, where it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim. It’s like that in Haifa, and I know what it feels like, but in a place like Jerusalem it’s not like this, and I want to feel that more – to feel what the real world is like. That is why I moved to Jerusalem.
I just want to learn more, to understand people and to understand why all of this is happening.
During my first year I received a scholarship [for the studies] based on Arab-Jewish dialogue, and where I also met with others. This dialogue allowed me to hear the other side, why they think the way they think. [In those meetings] we always tried to talk politics and to hear both sides, and I wanted to hear why they do what they do and why they think the way they think—and ultimatelyI was able to understand more.
First of all, I really don’t believe in terror, but you can understand why people would do. If you go to where the Arabs live and see their lives, you’ll see that they wake up in the morning and have security checks that they have to go through to leave the area. It’s an occupation and it’s really bad. They don’t have their freedom. They try to do things, but someone is holding them back [forcefully], making them unable to do what they want, and it’s really frustrating.
But if I go to the Muslim areas I’m also not welcome, because they look at your appearance and judge you, for example if you don’t wear a hijab and your family is Muslim. For me it’s sad.
Once I tried to go to the mosque, Al Aqsa, and there was a Jewish bodyguard standing outside. I tried to enter, but he told me that I wasn’t allowed to enter. I asked him why and told him that I’m a Muslim. This [Al Aqsa] is something important to me and my family, and this is one of my dreams, and he said, “I don’t think you’re a Muslim. A Muslim doesn’t look like this,” and he asked for my ID. I showed him where on the ID it said that I’m a Muslim. And I told him that my grandfather’s name is Muhammad. “Isn’t it enough for you?” I asked him.
He asked me to read the Fatiha from the Muslim book, to prove that I’m a Muslim, so I read it slowly, in a sarcastic way. Then he said: “You’re allowed to go in, even though I don’t believe that you’re a Muslim.”
I was with two other friends who weren’t Muslims. They were really interested in seeing what the Al Aqsa mosque looked like, but they weren’t allowed to go in. The guards were Jews, not Muslims, and they’re telling me that I can’t go into a mosque, a place that I believe in?
You Don’t Look Like an Arab
[Moving to Jerusalem] actually made me a strong person, because it made me appreciate the place I come from.
I’m really happy living in Jerusalem. Everyone asks me why I like to live here, since it’s so extreme, but it makes me appreciate being a Palestinian in this country more and more.
I’ve met a lot of Jewish people, who say, “Oh, you’re really an Arab? You don’t look like an Arab,” and I respond, “yes,” and they proceed to ask, “So you’re probably a Christian and not a Muslim.” To which I respond, “No, I’m a Muslim.”
When you start talking to people, you see the power in speech, that you can change their thinking just by talking to them. People in Jerusalem only see terror when they see Arabs, and the Arabs see the Jews as enemies as well. And then I’m someone who comes from another place, from Haifa, and I say, No, I don’t hate you. I judge you as a human, as a person. I want to hear everyone. I want to hear their opinions. They [people in Jerusalem] are not used to it. They just think that I’m an Arab, and nothing more. They don’t think about it twice. The moment you change people’s stereotypes, you feel better with yourself and that’s one of my goals.
I’ve gotten used to it. My first year [in Jerusalem] I would get really hurt when someone talked to me like that, in a very superficial way, but after some time I got used to it. You just have to go with the flow and then after that you can talk about your beliefs.
I Love Jerusalem
I still have two years left in Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I never guessed that I would live here, so I don’t think about the long term, but right now I love Jerusalem – because it’s shitty, bad, and hard, and I love it for that.
I have had two difficult, yet amazing years, and I hope to have another two great years—just to learn— and then I don’t know what will happen afterwards.
Jerusalem has good things too, and there are some places where I like to hang out. I have my house, my friends, my cats, and my people, and I like it here because it’s so different than Haifa.
In Haifa everyone knows everyone. You don’t have your individuality there. In Jerusalem you can choose who you want to go out with, and if you go out, you won’t end up talking about superficial stuff. In Haifa it’s the opposite, and I’m sick of it.
It’s not just the gossip. I also mean that nothing is new in Haifa. If you decide to go out with a friend just to hear about what’s going on, you’re probably going to see other people that you know, and they will be at the same place, and then you don’t focus on the person that you initially went out with. And all the conversations are about the same things and they’re superficial. They just talk about nothing – not about pain, not about what is going on in life, just things like, “She did this, she did that.”
When I come to Haifa [nowadays] I just go to my friends’ houses, because I don’t like meeting 100 people when we’re out. I also just spend time with my family, because when you live in Jerusalem you appreciate your family more, as they are the ones who will stand next to you in the end.
My family makes me feel secure. If I’m stressed or just don’t feel well, they have the ability to make me feel secure.
With time our relationship [to parents] has gotten better. When I was really young in Haifa, I didn’t spend a lot of time with them, and I was always the girl who would disagree with her parents, but with time they started to understand me more, and if I have an idea on my mind, I will share it with them. I always like to share ideas with them and show them other perspectives that don’t go with the norm.
In the beginning it wasn’t easy for my parents, because I don’t walk on the path that everyone walks on. My belief is to not judge people, and I also don’t talk about people. I just live my life, and here [in Haifa] it’s not like this. You can’t do that because then your aunt will see you. [In Haifa] nobody is living their lives.
At first it was really hard for them [parents] to accept it, but when they saw that I wasn’t changing, and that I remained the same person and that I have different beliefs, they just started to support me, and for me that was really important, because I don’t care what other people say. As long as my family is okay with me that’s what matters.
Even with small things, I would tell them that I felt like doing a particular thing, and if they said, “no,” I would talk to them and tell them that there was nothing wrong with what I wanted to do, until they said “yes.”
I’m not the kind of person who says, “I will do this, whether you like it or not.”
We don’t all think the same, and we need to accept that, because we can’t change people. It’s not easy.
I’m finding it really hard to deal with death in general, but I try to deal with it.
In nursing you get close to a lot of people who die, and I’m really afraid of how I might react to that. I’m afraid of it. But if you’re afraid of something that means that you’re living. You should be afraid sometimes, because if you’re not afraid of anything in life, then you can’t learn how to deal with fear in life.
So I’m trying to deal with it [death]. Maybe [I’m scared of it] because I don’t know what will come after– because you don’t know what will happen after death.
It’s normal to die, and I can’t be selfish. When someone’s life ends, it’s a present, exactly as when you begin your life. You have to learn from it and that’s how human life works.
I never experienced death before. I never experienced it in my family or among my friends. I never felt that experience, so I don’t know how it feels. Therefore, perhaps I’m afraid of it because I’ve never lived through it.
I don’t believe in myself – my appearance and my inner self – so much. Sometimes I hesitate.
When you hear people say how great you are, it makes you feel good because sometimes you forget who you are.
It’s better today, but it’s [low self-esteem] still there. I’m trying to work on myself and to believe in myself, because not everyone around you will encourage you. Some people will try to bring you down, and sometimes it works, but then you remember who you are, and you grow.
I should love myself and accept myself more.
When I was young, my self-esteem issues were much stronger than they are now. Today it’s a lot better than when I was young. The older I get, the more I love myself and accept myself. The more experiences I have, the more I understand myself, but it’s [low self-esteem] still there.
I Say Palestinian
In school, when people ask me how I define myself, I say I’m Palestinian and they accept it. That’s not something that I take for granted. It’s not something that’s normal.
Outside of school, usually people don’t accept my answer, when I say that I’m Palestinian, especially in Jerusalem. They say: “There is no such thing as Palestine. This is Israel, and you’re Israeli,” but then I start talking about my family, and my family’s history and about how all of my family was here before, and it was called Palestine and I have relatives within my family who were really famous in Palestine.
I can’t hide it, and I’m so proud of it, so you need to accept that.
Life Isn’t Fair
I was born here, and they [Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza] were born there, and they suffer all their lives. Life isn’t fair at all, and for me it’s really sad. I just would like to have the ability to do more for those people, but I can’t control everything.
I just try to see what happens there [in the West Bank and Gaza].
Why do all the kids have to suffer and not be able to build houses, and instead have their houses destroyed? Why do they need to suffer like that? I don’t understand humanity. I really feel empathy for them, and I wish that I could do more than just talk. I’m trying my best.
For example, I show my Jewish friends [what happens there] because most of the time they don’t see this side. And if I only tell them about it, they tell me, “No, no, you’re just making a big deal of it,” so when they see actual videos [of what happens in the West Bank and Gaza], then they can’t say it’s just a lie. I tell them, “Look, see what happened to them,” and then they can’t argue about it.
I’ll either show them stuff [videos, articles] or I will sometimes post on Facebook. If you talk to people in a nice way and try to show them the other side, then maybe they will accept it and say, “thank you for showing this to me.” For me it’s really important to show them what is going on in this world.
I see a difference in the treatment of them [Jews] and someone like me [Arab], in the things that I receive from the country.
For example I wanted to rent a house in Jerusalem, and I had a really hard time because I’m an Arab, even though I’m not a “typical Arab” and I don’t wear a hijab. The moment that I showed them my ID, they were shocked and asked me if I was an Arab.
I don’t feel it that much, but I can understand Arabic and Hebrew, and I see how people treat girls with hijabs, or even a random person who looks like an Arab. I see people getting bullied, although they didn’t do anything wrong.
For me it’s really sad. I’m just against it.
One day I was on the bus in Jerusalem and there was a girl wearing a hijab, and at this time there was this whole drama between Jews and Arabs. This girl wasn’t saying anything, but a Haredi [Orthodox Jewish] guy, on his way to get off the bus, spit in her face and told her that he wished she would die.
For me that felt like watching death. You believe that all the people in the world are good, and then you suddenly see all the hate – that’s how I felt in that moment. That’s when I realized that there is a lot of hate.
There was another experience that really changed things [for me]. I was on the train, standing next to people who were speaking in Hebrew about Arabs, and how they should all die. They didn’t know that I was an Arab, and before I went out of the train I told them, “Just so you know, I’m an Arab and look at me and look at yourselves. We are all the same.”
I told them something about how they should be ashamed of themselves and of how they were talking. They immediately said that this did not have to do with all the Arabs, and “we didn’t mean it.” When they realized that I was an Arab, they apologized, but I heard the whole conversation. It was a conversation with a lot of people and they all agreed about killing Arabs.
This has nothing to do with Arabs and Jews. It has to do with humanity, and we are losing it.
Some of my friends asked me why I spoke to them, and told me that I should have shut up, because that wouldn’t help anything. But I didn’t do anything wrong, and I just wanted to show that there is a different way. And it’s not humane to talk about people like that.
Living here is neither fair nor good, and this is my country, but I just need to believe and be strong, and if I believe in myself and in the people who are connected to me, then we can make a change.
A lot of my friends don’t want to live here, and they leave Israel. They can’t handle it anymore because life here is hard. There are also some jobs that you can’t get if you’re an Arab, such as jobs in the airport. You can’t fulfill yourself 100%, when you live here. There are always obstacles, and people don’t want you to succeed, even though you need to succeed. But I won’t give up. I’m here.
Once I thought about moving, but I immediately understood that this is the easiest way. I can leave and be really happy, but this is my country, where my family is, where everything for me is, and I really feel connected to the land.
I’m here for a reason, so why should I go out? This is my country and I won’t give up on it. I don’t want to move. I need to fight, but with love, and maybe I’m just a super optimistic person, but I choose to live that way, to have power in my life. If I hadn’t looked at it positively I would have given up a long time ago.
We Are Here Too
Most people around me don’t think like me. If I tell a person how I believe, they will say that I’m living in a dream, because I believe that we still can change, and that everything can be good if we’re good to each other.
Some people don’t agree with me, and they say, “No, you need to fight and to kill,” and I don’t believe in that. It doesn’t speak to me.
To some people, I live in a dream, but it’s my way of living, because that way I can survive. Life isn’t fair and although there are so much bad in people, we are here too, and we can focus on making things better in the world.