HER STORY #54 - shirly

Image credit: Shirly Naveh

Image credit: Shirly Naveh

Art

I have four children, a dog, a cat, and a boyfriend. We make films. I’m a video editor, and I have a company that edits many different kinds of films.

Basically what I like to do is art, not only photography. I also like to draw although I don’t do that too often. I used to write a lot, but today I write less.

Today I mostly work with art through cinema, and I am searching for my place there. I still don’t know exactly who I am. I still don’t have that form of security within art and in terms of being an artist.

For example, I always liked to sing, but I would never sing, only at home, by myself, but then this year I filmed a concert of someone who happened to be a voice teacher. We made a business agreement based on me producing videos for her, and she would teach me and my daughter voice development.

Yesterday I was driving. I put on music and I sang the whole way.  You see, singing is an art that is very simple. You don’t need anything. It just comes out. Of course you can learn how to develop your singing, but it’s something that just comes out directly from your soul, whereas a film takes a lot of time to make. First, you need to write, then to film, then edit, and so on and so forth – it’s a long process, from when you get the idea to when you get the end result. For example, I have worked on my documentary film for almost three years now, and it’s not coming out soon.

It bothers me because the amount of time that it takes often invites a lot of external questions and opinions. I guess that all artists deal with these questions –whether he/she is good enough and how to know if you are or not.

And then there is also the technical aspect in addition to bringing your inner world into it. It all feels complicated inside of me.

I’ve been filming for 16 years, and I have always dealt with these kinds of thoughts, although they vary. When I was a girl, these thoughts had more to do with how I was writing, and whether I was good enough at that.

I have a fear of not succeeding with my creations and not reaching the people that I want – that I will remain in mediocrity.

Express

Image credit: Merav Shabi Ben Elisha

Image credit: Merav Shabi Ben Elisha

I have a conflict within myself – I have the need to be visible, but at the same time this makes me feel insecure. I want to be seen, but it also embarrasses me.

I don’t dare to be myself 100%. I think this exists with most people but perhaps at different levels. When you grow up, you learn that there are certain things that you can’t express, such as your sexuality, your excitement, tears, etc.

Today I’m on this sort of journey, where I’m trying to allow myself to express myself as I am, but it’s also difficult.

For example, you can sing a song to your child while walking on the street, but when someone passes you, you stop, because it’s embarrassing. That's a little sad.

We live in a culture, where people are very distant from their hearts. There is a lot of cynicism and people speak far away from themselves. People won’t come out and say, “I’m sad,” or “I’m confused.” They prefer to talk about things like money and politics and not about their own feelings.

Intimacy gives me security. I feel a lot better when I speak to someone one-on-one, rather than in a group, unless it’s with a group of people with whom I feel very comfortable, but that is rare.

In a group I feel that I don’t have space and that I’m not seen – that I’m weird and unusual. People have frequently told me that I’m weird, and I grew up with this image of myself.

Women

I am currently working on a film about women and womanhood.

It had to be about women, because women, I feel, lead the change more. Life is more important to them than anything else, more than honor or revenge or conquest. They are so much connected to life in their hearts and bodies, because they are the ones who bring the children to the world. They give life.  

Women lead in the space that is fed up with war. It’s because women have been oppressed for thousands of years. Today they are waking up. I feel this strongly around me.

We [women] can see injustice in many areas that men don’t perceive, because they are more comfortable and have more control over life. Perhaps for them [men] it’s less uncomfortable to relate to sexual harassment, because they don’t see it so clearly.

"From my movie [about women]" Image credit: Shirly Naveh

"From my movie [about women]" Image credit: Shirly Naveh

We [women] want to change things, so we are very much in movement today, and because I saw this movement around me and within me, I said to myself, “Okay, something is happening. Let’s look at it.”

See Myself

I’m currently in a self-development phase.

It started with the film I began about women and womanhood.  I didn’t really see myself in the film, as it’s very difficult for me to see myself in it.

In documentary films, there is a genre where the director takes part in it, filming him/herself. I really dislike those genres, but now everyone I consult with about my documentary says that I have to be there: “It’s your story. Womanhood is your story, and it would also be moving if the film was based on you.”

But it’s difficult for me to reveal myself in that way. I do think that good art is to bring your inner world outside but not in a way where you show yourself directly. I can show myself through the women that I interview. That was my original intention as well, because for every woman that I interviewed I found myself in some part of her story.

But the topic of womanhood is huge, and I'm still not sure how to bring it.

To this date I have filmed approximately 20 interviews, in addition to filming many women’s workshops and women’s circles that I participated in, such as women groups in nature. I have a lot of material.

Actually, I feel quite alone with all these thoughts and doubts. I don’t have a work partner that I could go collaborate with and discuss these thoughts. I meet and talk with all these women. They give me their feedback, but everyone says their thing and moves on. I feel very alone with this project.

South

I was born in Omer, a village next to Beersheba. I grew up there.

My mom died when I was 7 ½ years old. I have a sister who is six years older than me. Most of my life I grew up with my dad because my sister went to the army when I was 12, and after the army she left home.

I don’t miss the south. I do miss nature. I grew up in a house with a huge garden, a really wild and beautiful garden, and I’m very connected to nature. That is what I miss from there [Omer] perhaps.

I also really like Tel Aviv because it’s very social here. It’s very easy to get to know people, and there is a lot to do. Everything is very accessible, and I like that things always happen here. There is so much art and culture.

Exemption

I didn’t go to the army, because I didn’t want to. I tried to get out of it in different ways, and I somehow just got an exemption from the army.

There are different ways of getting out of the army service, such as health reasons. I tried different things. For example, I told them that I had anemia. I also went to the army’s psychologist, who is able to give exemptions to people for psychological reasons. In the end they [army] just let me go. I don’t know exactly how it worked for me, but it just did.

My father was very against it. He really wanted me to do it. My father is a very interesting person, because on one hand he is completely against going with the mainstream. On the other hand, he wanted me to go to the army because that’s just what you do. So he is very contradictory. He isn’t such a normative person, but he wanted us to be normative, as in going to the army, going to university, and making money.

Birth

My first birth is probably what I consider my most meaningful life experience.

During my first pregnancy I was quite alone, as I didn’t have a mom and my sister wasn't around, and since I couldn’t really consult other women, I began thinking about the birth towards the end of my pregnancy – how it would be to give birth.

I felt that I really couldn’t give birth at the hospital with all these people looking at me during such an intimate experience. Plus, hospitals make me nervous. I realized that I wanted to have a home birth, and I contacted a doula who met with me a couple of times before the birth.

She had suggested to do a preparation course for the birth, but I told her that I didn’t want to. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t feel the need for it. Somehow I felt that birth is a very natural thing. Women have always done it, everywhere, without knowing what it was and without learning about it. It’s something that the body does alone.

The day I gave birth I began getting labor pains. At the time I didn’t know if it was labor pains or not, but I could feel that something was happening. So I called the doula and told her that this was it. She said, “Ok, wait a little bit and then call again.”

The labor pains became stronger, so I called again and said, “I think this is it.” Then I had another contraction, and she asked me if this was a contraction, to which she added that she didn’t think that I was giving birth, as I was taking it relatively easy. She told me, “Have a glass of wine and go to bed.” Two hours later the baby was there.

My boyfriend and I were there, the two of us, alone. We didn’t know anything. We both were a little bit afraid, but also had a lot of trust in what was happening. Each time one of us got scared, the other one would be relaxed and comforting. He [boyfriend] asked me whether or not he should call an ambulance, but I said that I didn’t want one. He helped me and was very supportive. Sometimes he held me or caressed me, and sometimes he made me laugh. At some point I felt the need to go to the bedroom, and within ten minutes I gave birth.

The body really tells you what to do. I got contractions, and then at some point the head came out. The two of us didn’t know what to do. I said, “Maybe you should pull it out.” We also didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. He [boyfriend] didn’t want to pull her out. Then I had another contraction, and she just came out. He put her on my chest. The doula then called from downstairs and said that she was here. She heard the baby cry over the phone and she had been in shock.

"The birth happened at night, and this picture also reminds me of how the birth is perceived by the baby - that it's dark and that it sees the light on the edge. The moon also symbolizes womanhood." Image credit: Shirly Naveh

"The birth happened at night, and this picture also reminds me of how the birth is perceived by the baby - that it's dark and that it sees the light on the edge. The moon also symbolizes womanhood." Image credit: Shirly Naveh

It felt like I had all the energy of the world inside of me when I was pushing the baby out. It was a very powerful experience, and Amots [boyfriend] also told me afterwards that it was the first time that he had seen me this free and beautiful in that way.

When the doula arrived, she said that she saw light in the apartment, not electrical light but another kind of light. She cut the umbilical cord, helped me with cleaning, and then I went and slept on the couch with the baby on my chest. We had been two and suddenly we were three.

Listen To Myself

It was all very painful, of course, and when I had the contractions I took a shower and did all sorts of movements, but the birth itself was very strong.

I did this with all the other children. I would make sure a doula was there on time, but during the births I wanted to be alone with Amots.

I’m good at giving birth.

One has to listen to one’s body and let the pain be – not to go against it. Many times when we feel pain, we get tense, because we don’t want to feel it.

But I just knew, also because I’m very interested in nature. We are animals. When I was a girl I saw my cat give birth. We are animals who know how to give birth.

Also, I think it has to do with the fact that I really listen to myself— the processes that I went through before, and also with the army, I really listen to myself. I don’t let what people say affect my decisions. I’m very sensitive. I can easily be offended or take things personally, but I have an ability to be very loyal to myself, to my place in the world and my inner wisdom.

Vision

I feel that I have information that comes to me, and that I can apply to my life. I’m not like a healer, but I just get visions.

For example, my recent film originated from a vision that I got.

Last year something new began to happen to me, which perhaps has always been there, but I’m perhaps just more aware of it today: I see different signs in the world, of the universe. I talk to the universe, and often when I want something in particular, it will happen. Perhaps not every single thing, but recently it does happen more frequently.

Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that in recent years I’ve met more and more women who are also in these life processes with their womanhood, and I think this womanhood thing shows how many powers women have. I mean, not only can we create life – we also have a lot of intuition and a lot of ancient knowledge, which seems to be resurfacing after being repressed for so many years.

Women are beginning to connect to this power again. For many years they would be killed for being witches, and they would put all their powers aside, as “rationality” was and is the only thing that is appreciated. Everything else is worthless.

Broken

Two years ago, during the war in Gaza, was the peak for everyone I think. Every woman that I spoke to in-person and on Facebook was broken and couldn’t carry the burden [of the conflict] anymore.

It breaks everyone – it doesn’t matter which political opinions you have.

We live in a culture that for thousands of years has focused on power mostly, and I feel that the world really wants a change. It [the world] wants to live a life focused more on love and freedom. There is another way to live, but politicians are very anachronistic in their opinions.

Children

My dad had very right-wing opinions. Usually, as a child, you automatically adopt your parents’ views, which I did to some extent, but in high school my views already began changing.

It happened because, little by little, I began listening to other people, including my sister and her friends, who were quite left-wing.

For many years politics didn’t interest me at all. For a long time, I didn’t have an opinion about them at all—until I had my first child. 

That was when I reached a place that really connected me to life and to everything around me. I couldn’t be disconnected and not care about anything any longer, because my children would be connected to other children, and these children’s parents would say things that would affect their children, who then in turn would affect my children.

It made me feel more responsible.

When I look at one of my children, I realize how important it is for me that things are good for him/her, and it’s so important for me that his/her life is fair. And yet I see so much around me that isn’t.

My daughter was really scared during the last war in 2014, and it broke my heart. Why does a small girl need to experience the fear of the possibility of dying? Why should she be scared? She was very scared of the sirens. So was my boyfriend.

I was not scared. Neither for myself, nor for my children. I felt like I was able to protect them, but it hurt me to see them scared.

Distance

I connect to every human being in the world. It doesn’t matter which country they are from. What matters to me is whether we have a connection of the heart.

In one part of my film [on womanhood], I filmed a group of women at a place called EcoMe, where they tried to form a women council made up of Jewish and Palestinian women – a council for change and to think about solutions and peace.

I met Palestinian women there, and on one hand I felt that they were like me, but on the other hand, there was a gap and a difference. I didn’t feel as comfortable with them as with someone who perhaps is Israeli Jewish. There is a distance of some sort and perhaps also suspiciousness.

They [the women] told me a lot of things about how they live, things that I don’t experience, such as having to stand at checkpoints, and how they experience a lot of violence from Israel. I also feel that Israel, as a state, treats me badly on certain levels, but they experience this more.

"I painted this during my last pregnancy." Image credit: Shirly Naveh

"I painted this during my last pregnancy." Image credit: Shirly Naveh