HER STORY #61 - serene
For my final project, which I did with another person called Neriya Saf, we covered lots of potatoes in cast.
The purpose was to cooperate, within a community, in arts together – being two designers who worked together on potatoes covered in cast. That was our final project.
We both come from the field of textile, but we didn’t deal with textile in the final project, because we thought that the essence to focus on was of two people collaborating because of everything happening in our surrounding. Just to work one-on-one with a specific person and to collaborate and to get to learn about another person was the essence of our project. It was about giving up one’s ego, which doesn’t always happen with designers – and from there we started the project.
Because I’m Arab and she is Jewish, we were confronted with all kinds of questions, like: “You will succeed because you are Arab and she’s Jewish,” but that wasn’t the purpose, because the moment that two people work hard together and give their whole hearts, no way that it won’t succeed.
When someone tells me: “Oh, you don’t look Arab,” how am I supposed to react to that?
It’s something that really bothers me as a person, and I know that people don’t always mean it, when they tell you this. They don’t really want to hurt you, but it bothers me.
I never felt much difference in Tel Aviv. I don’t know if it’s the way that I dress or the things that I emit to others, and they are surprised if I say that I’m Arab. It’s hurtful. What am I supposed to look like? Should I be an ugly person with hair in a specific way? Or should I only wear something specific, like a hijab?
Hijab is also something traditional, which is part of Islam. You need to respect it, not to come and say: “This is a terrorist person,” because it’s not like that. I could also look at [Jewish] religious people and say something like: “They know that I’m an Arab and they will kill me, because they only want Jews in the country.”
But it’s not like that. I had a very good religious friend in my studies, who is from Bat Yam, and she was from a religious family, and I would respect it although sometimes I would bring food, which she then couldn’t eat, because she kept kosher, and I would respect it, because that was her religion.
I know what happens outside, with everything happening in terms of Israel and Palestine and what creates the whole conflict, but sometimes there are people who are being blamed because of other people, and it’s not their fault.
It’s like what happens when someone wears a kufiyah and then people automatically look at you as a terrorist, but it’s not like this. A kufiyah is a textile symbol. I love to wear one, but I’m the most sociable person there is. I love Arabs and Jews. I believe in humanity, and I don’t have a problem with anyone. I like to wear it – because of the textile, but you can’t wear it and come to Tel Aviv, for example.
The same thing happens when an [Israeli] soldier died, and all the Arabs will say: “Good that he’s dead.” But he has a mother, who gave birth to him after nine months. He has a family that loves him. It’s not his fault that he was asked to go to the army after he finished in high school. He also didn’t want to go and fight, so why say: “Good that he died?”
What happens is that people get a certain idea stuck in their head because of certain things happening that are sad. Stereotypes is exactly what it is. The moment you see a specific person you automatically have a specific stereotype in your head, and you’re not capable of understanding or of thinking.
The moment you sit with the person is when you can notice that it’s really a different person than what you imagined. The moment you sit with the person you will see that it’s a person who has a lot to give, a person who understands, who also went through difficult experiences in his life. Before that you won’t know what he has been through, what has happened in his past. You can’t judge him and say that he is bad. There might be a reason for why he is behaving like this. There is no person who is born bad. He went through difficult things in life, and then he changes according to what happened in his environment.
Also, the person who lives in Gaza will similarly say that Jews are the ones who killed their children, and that they don’t have houses and lives because of them. It’s the same thing, but it’s not because of that. Every person is responsible for this. The moment you love your children, the moment your child is born, you need to love everyone no matter where he belongs to.
None of us chose our religion. I didn’t chose to be born an Arab. The fact that I was born an Arab is something that I need to deal with, but if it was my choice there is a chance that I wouldn’t have chosen to be Arab, but there is nothing to do about it. I was born here. It’s my religion, and I’m from Nazareth and I’m proud to be a part in this magical city.
I chose who to love and who to hate and what to teach my future children.
A big part of the women in my community get beaten by their husbands. It’s forbidden for them to go out. They can’t talk. They don’t have their freedom. They can’t express what they want. That’s why some of them can’t go and study.
I also know a lot of women who, the moment they turn 18, they need to marry and bring children. That’s it. They don’t have their lives. They don’t have a way to move forward. They can’t work. They can’t get a hold of what they want.
That’s also what makes it more difficult. Not only do you find yourself in this situation [as a woman], but you also need to deal with two languages all the time. It’s not easy at all. People think: “Oh, it’s okay, you hear Hebrew all the time,” but to talk Arabic all the time and then to go and study in Hebrew and part of your essays are in English and your mind all the time needs to think in three languages – some in Arabic, some in English. There are even some words which I don’t even know in Arabic, because I always hear them in Hebrew.
These are some of the hardships that are difficult to deal with, but we deal with it.
I’m a woman, who chose to come and live in Tel Aviv, and not only to marry and to bring children only it’s the time for me to focus on my studies and career.
Part of my community says: You’re 24 years old now. You need to bring children and to get married.
Eventually you have to get married, to have children and a house. We go back to the same point. You can have progressed with a second degree, but nothing works. You need to get to that point and not at the age of 30. 30 is already too old. You need to get to that point at the age of 23-24-25, worst case at the age of 26.
It makes me go into stress, because sometimes I feel like I’m not okay. Suddenly you feel like you don’t belong to your society – the community that I came from at the age of 18, and I chose to come here, to Tel Aviv. Now when I go back there [to Nazareth] I feel like the place is really narrow-minded.
It’s good that my parents are not like that now, because that’s what helps me go forward, because when your parents are like that it also makes it ten times more difficult for you, but no, my parents are the most supportive. My father and mother would of course love to see me as a bride with someone who respects me – all parents want that, and also every girl wants that.
It’s not that I don’t want it – to find a husband – but I also need to succeed for myself, for what Serene wants. I believe that everyone comes to life with a goal and to succeed in something.
All the rights are given to men, and it’s all right for them to kill women because of the honor thing. Sometimes a woman is killed, because she was with her boyfriend or because she didn’t want to get married with him. That’s what happened to someone in Ramla [city in central Israel] as well some time ago. She was killed because she loved a Muslim.
At the end of the day there is God and his role is to judge people in the world. That’s his role, not my role.
Yes, I can`t getting married to people from other religion. I do support it & respect their choice. I don’t care that people love each other, because they don’t bother me. If they want to get married, get married then. God can judge them.
And then a father will go and kill his daughter, who is 18 years old because of that [honor]. Where are her dreams? Just because she loved a Muslim? You didn’t have another way of talking to her, to find a solution? You could have talked to her about a solution in another way and not kill the person – but for him killing her was the best solution, to keep his honor.
In Nazareth there are also people who marry with people from other religions. I think with the pass of time the people will not considered it as a big deal. If people help others and respect others and just fell in love with someone else, what do you care?
Don’t judge. Just respect, because it’s their choice. Don’t come and kill just because of that.
I have a lesson to teach others. After my final project at Shenkar with my partner, I noticed that I really have to teach others something.
The fact that I’m an Arab and have studied here for four years and have dealt with the whole environment and that I didn’t have a problem or any experience of someone treating me in a racist way, that means something. It says something.
I managed to live here and to succeed here, and everything is good and everyone respected me.
I had the best people in my class and also in my grade, and everyone would recommend me whenever I took part in projects. I was never made to feel different from others, even towards the end.
I would say that it was difficult in terms of the language, but they would explain things to me. No one ever let me deal with things on my own.
And I noticed that perhaps this happened because I was open to them. I wasn’t a person who thought: I don’t want to talk to the people, because they are different than me, so it’s impossible for us to be friends. No, you see, I accepted the person in front of my eyes, and the things that I didn’t like I wouldn’t participate in. I loved everyone and this love in the end came back to me.
First of all I wanted to study fashion design.
Those who finish high school in our community usually want to go and study things that allow them to find jobs right after, so typically it’s within medicine, engineering and law or something on a high level, and they think that design isn’t really on that level. They think that if someone is a good student, then he/she shouldn’t study that. For example, some will think: If you were good in school and you liked chemistry, then go to Technion [Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel]. What are you doing in Shenkar?
That is what we believe in.
So when I finished high school I really wanted to study chemistry, but my dad really wanted for me to study design, because he knew that I really like design and I liked to design, so my dad was the one who supported me.
I knew Hebrew at the time, but I didn’t know how to talk.
I would know how to read and write. In school you learn Arabic, English and Hebrew and German, because the nuns of my school were German, so we would learn three languages – German was a choice. But I had to learn Hebrew because I hadn’t really talked in Hebrew before in front of people.
My dad said that the moment that I finished high school I had to do mechina [Israeli educational program that prepares high school graduates for serving in the Israeli army or study at an institution of higher level in Israel] at Studio 6B [Design Institute in Tel Aviv], through their online programs.
Here I learnt Hebrew well and I got all sorts of experiences within design. I learned all kinds of designs.
When I began studying at Studio 6B I wanted to study fashion design, but then someone came from a design team from New York. She saw my work, and the moment she saw my work, which I had done at high school, she said: “You want to study textile.” I said: “No, I want to study fashion design,” to which she answered: “No, you are very textile.” But I didn’t know what textile was. In our community, when we think of design, it’s either architecture or fashion design.
I was in shock, because I really didn’t know what textile design was, and then she introduced me to all kinds of websites and showed me what it was about.
Textile is basically the design of the fabric itself. You only design the fabric, not the shape of the clothes.
There is the three majors in textile design, print weaving & knitting, and then we chose majors. I chose knitting.
Textile is the basis of fashion, because you are making the fabric, and you can create special unique things for yourself as a fashion designer. Otherwise a fashion designers needs to buy, but as a textile designer, you can create the fabric.
After learning about textile design, I started liking the topic, and then I did home-tests at Shenkar, then an interview and then I got accepted [to Shenkar], and it was fun. After I got into Shenkar and I really studied textile, I noticed that I really am textile and not fashion. Thank God that she met me at the last minute and told me because I like to work on all the details of the fabric.
Last year I also got accepted to an internship at Delta in Carmel and Caesarea [in Israel] for two months, and then I really got to understand how the knitting industry works, and how to work with the fabric. They also do things there for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike , Under Armour and Victoria’s Secret , and it was a huge factory.
It was the most fun internship that I’ve ever done during my studies, because you really get to see how the industry works, how they get orders from Calvin Klein, how they make the fabric and how they color it. I was there in the whole process from when they get the thread until you see the whole fabric.
Women Who Sit At Home
I’m done now [at Shenkar], after four years of studying, and I would like to do another degree.
Last week I got accepted to a scholarship given by the Israel American Foundation. They chose a certain number of students from each department, and then you [as a student] get interviewed. You give them your workbook, and the moment they have seen it, you go and get interviewed.
They meet you and ask you what you would like to do afterwards, and the moment they accept your idea for a project or a business, they will finance it. For example, if you want to buy a sewing machine, you buy it and then they will fund it, and so I went there for an interview, and they asked me what I wanted to do.
I told them that being from Nazareth I’ve seen the people there and how important textile is, but when you go back [to Nazareth], people just say: “What is textile? “They think of it as women who sit at home and don’t need a degree to do it. They sew because that’s what they do.
So I thought to myself: People look at these women and their work as something ordinary, although women now go out and study design. Most people have this perception.
So I thought of developing textile in the community, to take women who sit at home and who need money and need to help their husband and their children – to help them feel they are doing something for themselves as well.
I will do a project, where we will work on ten fabrics, for example. I will choose a subject and ten fabrics, and they [women] will do them for me. I will choose a place for them to do it. They will sew, and afterwards we will do bags or clothes or other things out of these fabrics, and we will sell them. And then they will feel they did something. They didn’t just waste their time, and then I can also use all the knowledge that I learnt here [at SHenkar] and I will also help women, also those that are sitting at home and need to earn money.
I believe that the world doesn’t really need fabrics, and there are designers and textile designers. Every designer has a textile designer. So now what needs to happen is for women to open up their eyes and look at what already exists and to give value to things that already exists, and now we are going back to the topic of Jews and Arabs.
In every church, mosque and synagogue, there is textile, and it shows the happiness of the place. All the religious places here are decorated in textiles, and it has nothing to do with politics, or this person not liking this other person, and about how he wants to kill this person and how he hates this person.
I Don’t Care
I think that I chose to study design because I’m a person, who has peace within, and I’ve always needed to bring it outside, because I always feel that I have a lot of energy. I always have energy. I’m like that and I can affect another person.
If I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve been surrounded by 30 Jews and none of them did anything to me and everyone helped me, and I go out with them and they are my friends, and they come to my place and I go to their places, then everyone can do that. We need to do that, and that’s what we didn’t want to talk about for the final project, because the moment you talk about it, it’s like you emphasize it.
You know this thing, where you say: “I don’t want to talk about it.” Then you actually emphasize it, but the moment that you say: “I don’t care,” [it’s not emphasized]. I care about how I sit with you and if you are nice, and that you are blonde and that I have brown hair, and I don’t care whether you are Yemeni [of Yemeni Jewish descent] or Moroccan [Moroccan Jewish descent] or Ashkenazi. I care about you being a person and whether it’s fun for me or not to sit with you, if we have common topics to talk about, if you have something to contribute, if I have something to contribute and we together can go forward in life. If you sit with people and listen to them, you can develop more as a person.
I know there is a big changes BUT we must respect this changes
That’s also what I noticed with the final project, because the moment that you sit with a person and you exchange ideas, it makes you go forward in life and it makes you get to see things, which you never saw in life before.
For example, I can say that I like the color blue, pink and green, and then another person in the project can say “but I like the colors turquoise and gold,” and then you learn how to compromise. Because you can’t live alone in your life. Even if you say you can, and even if you say that you are okay alone, even if you build your own business and you work alone in your studio, you still need to sell to a customer at the end of the day, and you need to collaborate with the client. Negotiations [with the client] is a collaboration.
I also did a seminar on collaboration, and I read that the moment that a person breathes, it’s a collaboration with the surroundings, because you give out air, and then you get it back.
At the very basic you need to collaborate with people, and how did you get to live in this world? By two people who had a relationship and then you came to the world. No one person can come into this world and deal with things on his own.
Many will say: “Here it doesn’t work for me. They don’t give me anything, especially rights to women or Arabs, so I have nothing, so why should I live here?”
But I don’t look at freedom as the ability to smoke on the beach of Tel Aviv and to go out, or to wear a tank top and to get tattoos. That’s not freedom for me but whether or not you can come here and talk about what bothers you from the inside without being scared of what the person in front of you will say – that you can come and say what’s inside of you, for example: “There is a problem here and we need to solve it.”
That’s freedom. That’s freedom of expression, the freedom to go and study a topic even if they will tell you that there is no money it, and even if they will tell you that it’s not that good, even if they will tell you: “Will you go and study medicine?” and I say: “No, that’s what I want.”
It’s about being responsible for what I choose. That’s freedom for me actually – not the freedom of what I wear. That’s not the big deal in life.
I live in Nazareth. I’ve been living here [in Tel Aviv] for three years, but now I came back.
I’m always here [Tel Aviv] – the problem is that almost every day I come from there. It’s difficult for me to be far away from the house itself, from my parents, just my home, my building, but the moment that I go out with my friends in Nazareth, I suddenly look around and see how people are there.
Even if everyone there goes to study, nobody does more than that. Everyone goes to study and then looks for a job, for a good salary, and the women think: I studied, I have a good salary, and now I will look for someone who loves me, a good husband, but that’s not the life. The moment that you finished studying you for sure also have something to contribute with.
If I contribute, and she contributes and she contributes – if everyone will contribute to this community, then for sure Nazareth will have a lot to offer.
I’m not only saying this because I’m from there. It has a lot to contribute and from all aspects. From all the places in Israel, Nazareth really is a wonderful place. It has everything.
There are also many Jews that visit Nazareth on Shabbat. There are lots of Jews on Shabbat. There are many who aren’t scared, who will come and eat hummus in the middle of Nazareth and don’t care what will happen, and nothing will happen to them, especially now. Arabs won’t look for Jews and then try to kill them the moment they come to Nazareth.
Almost all of us study, a first degree, second degree. We all have higher education. Nobody here stops studying [at high school] and won’t continue studying. All of us goes to study. Everyone has a degree. That’s what I see, but then after their first or second degree they just look for a job. They are just occupied with their own: I will study and then I will work in a really good company, and that’s it. I don’t want to do more than that.
But, for example, if you studied law, you can contribute to women whose husbands are beating them and don’t get their rights. Focus on that. Or if you studied medicine you can then check where there are children who really need help, treatments or psychological therapy. Allow them to go and see a psychologist, for free even, because some people don’t have the money.
That’s what I thought about when I thought about my business. Now I’ve studied textile so instead of going to work in haute couture and do an internship in Paris (although everyone’s dream is to go and do an internship in Paris or in Italy, which I don’t have a problem with), if I’m someone who has succeeded in my studies, then I for sure have something extra. I will help women who sit at home and to work on textile, and I will allow them to make money.
If everyone didn’t just focus on his/her own thing, then the country would be much better, not only within my own community but also within the Jewish community, but everyone is concerned with him/herself: I just want to succeed, and everyone is stressed with this, about succeeding in work. That’s the biggest problem I think.
I don’t know if my way of thinking is really different or if I think differently than others, because money you can find. There aren’t a lack of places to work. If you need money you can go and work in the Stock Exchange, and you will get a high salary. If you want money you can go and work in a clothes shop. You will get money.
I’m someone who worked in McDonalds for six year in Alonim Junction between Haifa and Nazareth. Most of the people that worked with me were Bedouin, so the whole time I was there I was the minority in the majority, and all the time in high school I heard that the Bedouin were bad people, and that I needed to be afraid of them, and that they kill each other.
I went and worked with them for six years. Now they are my best friends, the best people. It’s true that our cultures are different, but we managed to get along. For six years we worked together.
And after working there I noticed that I got a good salary at McDonalds, about 8000-9000 shekels a month, but what does it give me to go forward? Okay, I moved forward from being an employee to a team leader, from a manager to a manager with a higher rank, and eventually the restaurant manager.
I didn’t want to, because I said to myself that it wasn’t my place. I don’t only want to give people food and then get a salary at the end of the month. I had an inner feeling that I could give more, and that I could be someone more social, so why not? If I have the strength, the social strength which not everyone has, then why not?
Not everyone can go and deal with Bedouins in the Negev or with Jews. Not everyone has that. I understand. It’s not the easiest to sit with people who are different than you and to accept how they think, but if I could do it then, I need to do it to the maximum and to make a change and not to stop in the middle.
That’s what I learned, and I think that everyone needs to do that and to contribute with what he/she has in his head, to stop thinking about how this person is good or not or to judge people, as they do in our community.
Sometimes people will call a woman a prostitute, if she went out with more than six men, and then you can’t be friends with her, because she’s not really a good girl. That’s how people look at her, so we also have this judgment of women, because the moment she goes out with more than one or two men, then she is a bad girl, but this man can go out with 20 girls on the same day, and nobody will say anything.
Why do you look at her like this? At the end of the day you don’t need to judge her. The moment you can talk to her and it’s fun for you to be around her, then why do you care about her personal life?
Everyone needs to understand that the moment a person bothers you, and you don’t understand what he/she says or you don’t have things in common, then leave him and don’t talk to him, but you need to respect a person from zero.
Today you can’t come and say that the moment this person is Arab then I won’t respect him. He’s below me. No, it’s not like that. Who are you to say- and to decide that he is below you? He is a human being. Just like your parents invested in you, his parents did the same.
The moment he bothers you, the moment he really does something to you that makes you feel uncomfortable or does something that affected your freedom, then you can say it.
And also you can’t say that everyone is like that, that everyone behaves like that, and when you meet a bad Arab then everyone is like that. It’s like if someone Jewish would come to me and would treat me with racism, and then I will say that all the Jews are racist. No, it’s not like that.
Also, there have been fights between Catholics and Orthodox, Sunni and Shias and between Jews and Muslims. It happens all the time. Our goal is to ignore this and not to get into these things. The moment that the person is nice to you, then what do you care? Go forward and continue to smile and respect me as a human being.
The moment that you give to a person, with all of your heart, with love and respect, love will come back to you in some way, for sure.
Because I’m a human being and I’ve been abroad, to all sorts of place. I’ve been with many Muslims, Bedouins, Jews, religious Jews, Russians, Americans, American Jews, etc. and every time I come to the same conclusions: The moment that you respect someone, he will respect you in return.
There are those who won’t behave like this, but there is nothing to do about it. There are also people who have mental problems. You can’t come now and get respect from everyone in the world, but you can distance yourself from people who bother you.
But enough with emphasizing things that aren’t the essence. Let’s do something that really is good. At the end of the day we won’t leave the country, and you [Jews] won’t leave the country. I’m not ready to leave my parents and to go and live outside and to live alone. Here I have all my friends and I’m busy with things, and I also really love Nazareth.
Maybe I don’t deal well with the people there, and I don’t really agree with their ways of living but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love Nazareth. I really love it and that’s why I want to do something good for it.
I see myself in Tel Aviv and Nazareth, because I’m there and here all the time. I don’t have a specific place, because I’m a person with a bag on his back all day, all the time travelling between Haifa, Tel Aviv, and then Nazareth. I don’t have a specific place.
I’m drawn to Tel Aviv, because I feel that it has everything besides the fact that it’s a place that lives all the time. There is action and people, and there is always something new. It always has tourists from abroad, as well as Arabs, Jews, religious people, Muslims with hijabs. There is everything here.
I feel like it’s the least racist place [in Israel]. Haifa is more racist and Jerusalem is the most racist place. Here [in Tel Aviv] people accept different more.
Tel Aviv is also the best place for businesses. There are things to do here. You will never be bored. There is no way that you will come here and be bored.
Tel Aviv I really like – also before I moved here, because I always thought that it was this big place that always have people and music. If you go out in the night, you will find all kinds of people that sit and nobody cares about others. Everyone dances, eats and drinks together. Nobody looks at you, and that’s what needs to happen.
What are our lives for here? At the end of the day, you only live once, and even if you fight, nothing will happen.
Haifa also has a lot, but I don’t really like Haifa, because I have bad memories from it.
My older sister had a handicap, and she lived in an institution. They [parents] couldn’t leave her at home.
She was 90% handicapped. She couldn’t walk or talk and she lived there at the institution, called the heart of jesus in Haifa, and then all my childhood we, my sisters and parents, would go and visit my sister.
And she also passed away in Haifa, at Ram Bam Hospital, so it’s difficult for me to be there. I can’t go there.
My sister passed away six years ago. She was young, and so was I, and it was more difficult for me to accept it because of my age. I was 17 years old, and she was passed away at the age of 19. It was very difficult for all of us.
My sister studied engineering at Technion, and she couldn’t go to Haifa at some point. She began working there, and then she stopped because it wasn’t fun for her, because every time she went there, memories came up. She really had to open a new page. I’m also not ready to go back there really.
So my dislike of Haifa has more to do with something personal, because Haifa is also really nice, and you have everything there. But there is more racism than here I have heard, such as in Haifa University, in comparison to Tel Aviv for example. Haifa has a higher percentage of Arabs there, so maybe because of that there is racism.
But Haifa is also very beautiful, and you have Christians, Muslims and Jews living there and having fun. I have lots friends who studied and none of them want to go back to Nazareth after this. They love Haifa.
I won’t forget something racist that happened to me in the second year.
There was an article about how Arabs are second rank in the country. It was an article in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, and then the one who sat next to me in the class said: “Oh yes, the Arabs will remain second rank. What did they think to themselves?” She didn’t care about the fact that I was sitting next to her.
I didn’t really feel like she was being racist to me specifically, but there were all sorts of similar sentences that I heard, but at the same time they [classmates] still respect what was different. That’s the thing: Respect the different and don’t say that the Arabs and Jews are the same thing. It’s not. There are cultural and societal differences – big gaps. There are also gaps between Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs, but we live together in Nazareth.
But when my classmate said the thing about the article it hurt, even if it wasn’t directed towards me personally. I belong to them (the Arabs). There is nothing to do about it, even if I say: No, no, I’m not an Arab. I am Arab. I can’t change that, and I’m proud. The fact that I’m an Arab doesn’t mean that I’m a terrorist.
Something similar also happened to me in the first year, when I began working on a final project, and we weren’t talking about the differences between Jews and Arabs. Then, at some point, I mentioned that I come from Nazareth, and someone else mentioned that she was from Karkur [Pardes Hanna-Karkur , a town in the Haifa District of Israel], and then someone in the class jumped up and said: “You said you didn’t want to talk about religion, so why do you say that you are Arab?” I then said: “Who said that Arabism is a religion?” I told her: “Do you understand that there is ignorance within this field? The moment you don’t understand then don’t talk.” That’s how I answered her.
On one hand, it hurt me as well, because I didn’t talk to her about religion. Being Arab is not a religion. There is a difference, and then the fact that you are here admitting that you don’t understand the difference between Arabism and religion, which puts you in a very bad situation. And when you say that you don’t care about other things than Jews, then sorry, but that is first of all being disrespectful, and second of all that means that you are a person, who doesn’t have knowledge of the most basic things.
So I’ve been through different stages. I won’t say that everything [in Shenkar] was okay in the beginning, but I could have gone out of the class and cried and said something like: I can’t do this, and that’s it. Instead I responded to her comment that’s all.
It also happened for me with a professor, when we started working on the final project. You know what he came and said? He said: “Listen, forget about what you want to do. Write Arab student and Jewish student, and the project will succeed.”
I was sitting on the floor, but the moment that I heard it, I jumped up and said: “What?! Why?” He replied: “Because if the project is done by two Jewish students, the project can’t succeed.” Then I stood up and said: “Listen, I will never write something like that about my project. I will never do this, and if you want to do it, then for me, it won’t be my project. Write your name below it, because it’s not me and not her.”
The two of us worked together, because we both liked each other, and for two years we have worked together, and we never looked at each other like that – quite the opposite. We tried to understand how the whole world works, and it was fun to learn about another culture and for her to learn about another culture, and then we didn’t talk more about that.
So it doesn’t have to be about this [an Arab student and a Jewish student] in the project.
We chose potatoes as the basis for the project. In my culture, as far as I know, the potato is something that’s hard, stuck in the earth, and it’s difficult to get it out. It’s something that comes out of darkness and doesn’t need light, until it comes up. It’s something that is strong and that moves forward.
On the other hand, my friend has German roots. She is Israeli German, and for her it symbolizes poverty, and it reminds her of war.
It’s just a potato, and look at how we look at it in our culture, and how she looks at it from her culture. There is a big difference, and then we took the potato as the basis of the project, because first of all everyone eats it, and nobody looks beyond that. Everyone eats potatoes, in all cultures, even if it’s associated with poverty. Everyone likes French fries and eats it.
So it’s something that everyone in the world eats, but there is a big difference in how both cultures look at it, and that’s what I learnt. I never thought that people would look at it in a different light.
We never looked at the difference there is [between us]. She never cared about where I’m from. She visited us, also at Christmas. We took her for trips, and I’ve been to her home, and everything was just fine besides the differences in our cultures, where we look at things differently.
We are two people, who sit together and love family, and she is also the mom of a kid. She is a really strong women, and also the whole thing with giving birth didn’t bother her with her studies at Shenkar and to finish the degree with honors. It’s like me: With all the hardships of studying and living in Tel Aviv and being away from my family and to go to work in the middle of the week to earn money, it didn’t stop me from finishing [the degree].
Hebrew / My Own Language
I knew Hebrew [before studying Shenkar] but not really to talk, because we didn’t really use it. I did study Hebrew in school, but I didn’t know how to talk. I didn’t really use the language, because I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. We only talked Arabic in Nazareth.
Working at McDonalds helped me more.
It was difficult in the beginning [at Shenkar]. I remember the first semester during the first year. I had a course, for example, called “Studio Concept.” I would go into courses, where I didn’t understand one word. I mean it seriously. I would sometimes go out of the class, and it felt like I had just heard Yiddish.
I didn’t understand what they were saying, and I would write down a little bit, because I know how to write words, but I couldn’t understand. I would come home and would look for the words on Google Translate to understand what was going on there.
It was really hell the first year, especially during the first semester, and then I remember myself sitting down and thinking: Maybe I don’t belong here. Think about it Sirin, you have the opportunity to leave now, but then I thought to myself: In our community, either you wait for one year or you go straight from high school to study, or you save money the first year and then you go study, and I had waited two years after high school, so I went to study at the age of 20, which is considered pretty late. Usually people go to study, when they are 18 or 19 years old, not at the age of 20. So I said: Sirin, you are 20 years old now, and if you take a break from the studies, then you will be 21-22, so think about it.
And I thought to myself: I really do belong to this place. I need to be here. The fact that I’m here means that I can contribute something.
The first year was really difficult, the second semester in the first year was less, and the first semester of the second year was when I began to find myself and the things that I liked, and I began finding my language here and not only to listen to the teachers and to do what they want me to do.
And in the third year I developed and began finding my language. I did a project where I felt that it did this revolution for me, and which really made me become a design student. I found my place.
I did a research the whole year based on knitting, and that’s the one that got me accepted to Delta, and from there I found my language as a designer, and my grades got better. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that I was more involved with my environment, with the people, and it was easier for me to live I Tel Aviv.
And in the fourth year that’s it. I began feeling like I really belonged to this place. Today I feel like I belong to this place, and at the same time I feel like I’m in-between.
I don’t only want to be here, because I feel that if I stay in Tel Aviv I lose something from my values, because the moment you live in a place that’s different than you, you will begin behaving like them, so if I stay in Tel Aviv, then at some point I will like the Tel Aviv people here, and I will lose the value of my Arabic background, from the inside.
The moment you become part of here [Tel Aviv], you need to deal with people here and you will begin behaving like then, and then you will belong to them at some point. So I have to do this balance between here and there, and I won’t be there all the time, because the moment that I will be there all the time, then I won’t go forward, because then I will say: Okay, I finished my degree. Now I will look for my partner, and I will do what everyone does here. What do I need to work hard for then?
And if I stay here all the time, I will lose the value of having good relations with my family, and that’s what I don’t want, so I do the thing between being with my family and being with myself, and here all the progress is given to me, in terms of career, and there I am given all the support in terms of family, and that’s what is important to do – in terms of being a human being and a designer. You need to go forward in your career, but you don’t really need to leave your family behind and to say: That’s it. I don’t have anything to do in Nazareth, so I don’t want to live here or to go back there, because it’s nice to sit there in the weekend with your friends in a restaurant in Nazareth and to talk together and to talk about how you go forward ad how everyone is going forwarding life, because these are all the people that you belong to.
You belong there in some ways. You can’t say that you don’t belong there. You can’t get out of the place that you belong to.
Arab From Nazareth
The moment that people ask me where I am from, I say that I’m an Arab from Nazareth. That’s it. To say that I’m a Palestinian, when I haven’t been there wouldn’t make sense.
I understand when people say that it used to be Palestine, and then the Jews came, and it became Israel and everything, but it’s in the history. Everything is in the past, which I don’t think about. I only live in my present and my future. Everything else won’t change. I don’t know what happened. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I won’t leave, and you won’t leave, and we will live here together, but I won’t say that I’m a Palestinian, when I haven’t been there. And they [Palestinians] also won’t say that I belong to them, so why talk about people that I don’t even know?
I’m an Arab woman from Nazareth. That’s what I call myself. I was born there. I’m Arab, and I lived there, most of my life. That’s it. That’s what I need to say when I describe myself.
The moment that the baby is born, they announce his family name, his religion and then all of his life, he belongs to things that he didn’t even choose. If they gave him the choice then maybe he wouldn’t have chosen this at all, so why do I need to argue about things that there is a chance I wouldn’t have chosen? It’s also things that I don’t really like to talk about.
Religion is something so personal. It’s something that I think is between me and my God. Everyone has his religion. I can go to church, to a mosque, to a synagogue and to pray to God. I don’t need to go in the streets and say I’m like this and that, because none of us chose our religion, so why do you begin to argue with me about things that I didn’t even choose? It doesn’t mean that I don’t love my religion, but everyone is born with his family’s religion, so therefore I like to talk about things that I have control over.
All of my family is in Nazareth.
However I am always feeling a lot of pity for the children and their lives [in the West Bank and Gaza], and I just wish that I had the money to get the children out at least, not the men and women. They [children] don’t have a choice, because they are not asked. They let their children die in the middle of the street.
I wish I had the resources to allow the children to develop and to go forward, because at the end of the day: What is the meaning of a kid that is born and see his family dying in front of him? He should have fun instead. However he doesn’t get to play. He sees people dying all the time, and it’s not his fault.
And I also understand why the country here does things like this to it, because it’s scared for its children all the time.
Every side has its negativity and none of the sides will understand the other side, and I got to a point where I’ve given up and I’m fed up talking about it, because I understand that it won’t get solved. It won’t get solved for sure.
If they now told me: You have the right to go and give money to the children in Gaza and also let them go to school elsewhere – then I would help them with that.
First of all, I can help the children there to go forward and to allow for the children to give back to their society, because they would go and study and get educated, or some would become doctors and would go back and help their families instead of killing all day and dying all day, and then you can say that you are doing something – you are going forward. And that’s what I say.
I don’t say: Oh, you’re from Gaza, so I won’t help you, because I would only help a little kid from Nazareth.
In The Middle
Therefore I say that I’m not Palestinian, , why would I say that I’m from there? My family also wasn’t there. They’ve always been from Nazareth.
My great great-grandfather was born in Nazareth.
I tell people abroad that I am from Holy Land, Nazareth, because everyone abroad knows Nazareth, so the moment I say that I’m from Nazareth, they say: “Wow,” because it’s a very important religious place.
You’re in a place where the moment that you say that you’re Israeli [to Arabs abroad], they will say: “What, Israeli?” And then some get scared, but then if you say that you are Palestinian, then you’re Jewish friends will look at you and will say: “You’re Palestinian? You’re not.”
So you are in the middle, so I won’t talk about Israeli or Palestinian, because I’m not one of them. I’m an Arab who lives in Nazareth.
Minority In The Majority
We [Arabs] always look at how Jews are those who control everything and don’t want Arabs to live in the country. These are the thoughts that you grow up with, because you are scared, and you come from such a small place, and you are the minority in the majority.
It’s like if you go and study in Nazareth, you for sure will be scared in the beginning, and especially if you don’t talk the language. You will think: How will they accept me, and how they will look at me?
So in the beginning [of studies at Shenkar] I was scared, also of talking in Hebrew, and I was scared of expressing myself and to get around in Tel Aviv, because the place is not easy, but that was only during the first year.
The first day [at Shenkar] nobody paid attention to me. The second day it was difficult for me as well, because I didn’t have any friends, but then eventually everyone really respected me. Everyone was okay with me, especially those from my studies.
I recall one teacher, who once came to the class, and one of my classmates is homosexual, so he [teacher] said: “There is a homosexual, an Arab and a lesbian, so let’s take part in Big Brother.”
From that I understood that he was making fun of me. I ignored it but it hurts you, even if he doesn’t mean it. But then that day I understood that this particular teacher had a racist thing, and I didn’t want to get into these conflicts, so I ignored it.
I had him in the first year of my studies, and I decided to do all my works in his class in Arabic, just to bother him. I thought to myself: If you get to make fun of you, I will show you how ignorant you are. I have power over you, because I can read and write in Hebrew, and I can do the same with Arabic, but you can’t, and I have the advantage over you. You always see yourself as Jewish and therefore as better than me, but you don’t know the Arabic language. I can curse you, and you won’t understand.
I would only write in Arabic, and then he didn’t have anything to say, and I felt like I brought my honor back, because at the end of the day he is a miserable guy, because he doesn’t know how to read and write in Arabic, and he needs to know Arabic, because it’s a basic language.
I can curse you and write all sorts of things about you, and you won’t understand it, so I have the advantage over you, because I can understand every word you say.
And that’s the thing. People don’t want to learn Arabic, but it’s an advantage to learn another language. For us [Arabs] it’s an advantage. We can sit here and talk Arabic, and Israelis won’t understand any word, and they can’t talk about me, because I understand them.
I’m the kind of person that always says things to people’s faces. I’m not scared. If I have something to say, I say it to people directly.
Also, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to drink alcohol, but I like go out to places where people drink alcohol. Then some people have told me: “How come you don’t go out and drink alcohol?” But why would I go to Tel Aviv and immediately become a person who is not me?
People think that being in Tel Aviv is to become your environment. If my environment is one where everyone has tattoos and where everyone smokes, then people think I have to be like that. But I’ve been here for four years, and I didn’t smoke one cigarette. I didn’t drink alcohol. I didn’t go to clubs, because I didn’t have time as well, because I always studied and worked, but I still have friends from Tel Aviv.
I don’t need to become like them for them to like me. I can stay myself and people can respect me for who I am for the things that I like to do.
What Is Shenkar?
In the beginning [of studies] I had some issues with people in Nazareth. People would ask me what the design of textile was. They would ask questions like: “What is that? What is Shenkar?” There are many people who still don’t know what Shenkar is.
Shenkar is number 12 in the whole world in terms of design, and many people still ask what Shenkar is, and nowadays I work in the admissions office of Shenkar and I talk to Arab students, and when I talk to them about Shenkar, they say: “Oh, we didn’t think that of Shenkar! We didn’t know that there were all kinds of designs.” They only think that it’s about interior design, fashion design and architecture. They didn’t know that Shenkar offers product design and other kinds of designs.
They don’t have all the information, and it bothers you because you have invested so many years and you almost have a degree. Some people thought it was only a diploma, but you’ve done seminars, and I would study every day from nine in the morning until five or six in the evening. I have been studying here almost five days a week, and I’ve almost paid 100.000 shekels for my studies and the apartment that I rented.
And in your [Jewish] society, when people hear “Shenkar,” they say “wow.” They don’t ask what I studied, but in Nazareth I first have to explain what Shenkar is for them to understand.
And it hurts you because if I had said that I was finishing up on my fourth year in law, then everyone would say “wow, congratulations!” But when I say textile design at Shenkar, they say: “Oh, okay.” They degrade it, and it really hurts, because I really invested a lot in it.
Number One Place
I never celebrated Christmas anywhere else than in Nazareth. I won’t celebrate Christmas abroad. I can’t, because I always believe that that is the place to celebrate Christmas.
Besides, a week before [Christmas], we do a Christmas market, so the whole week you have concerts, booths, and people from everywhere come and visit.
They have tried to do that in Haifa and in other places [in Israel], but the most successful place is Nazareth, and I know it’s a special place, and that’s why I want to turn this place into something, because it has everything, and I think it can become the number one place for textile.
Everywhere you go in Nazareth you will find textile, such as in the mosques, the churches and in the restaurants. People there just don’t understand, because the people who deal with it is women who work from home, and that’s why I want to do everything for it, because I believe in this city. I believe that so many good things can come out from this city.
I’m just sad that people there are leaving the place and are saying: “What is there to do here? Let’s go study, find a good job and leave Nazareth.” I know that there is nothing to do there, and that’s why I’m in Tel Aviv, but I insist on going back there, to learn here and to apply the things that I have learnt there, because come on, we need to get out of the box, because if all the people got to know Nazareth, and if it managed to create so much buzz during the holidays, and the whole country comes to visit this place, it means that it managed to do things.
It has everything: The people, businesses, and people with higher education, places to go out to, and many restaurants.
In terms of food, it’s number one. It has plenty of restaurants. If people come from abroad and you want to take them to a place with good food, you will always take them to Nazareth.
Also in terms of clothes, nothing is missing there. It also has designers there, and they are beginning to come back, but many designers, in order to earn money, only deal with particular kind of clothes, like wedding dresses. Why not also work with casual clothing or sports clothing, for example? Go and do that. What do you care?
At the end of the day, people will understand will buy from you. If you are successful, people will buy from you. You don’t need to match yourself to others.
Interview conducted on August 30, 2017