HER STORY #63 - wedad
I’m Wedad Zaid Alkilany, from Ara, in Wadi Ara.
I’m 29 years old, mother to two wonderful daughters, and a student in my last year of a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Parallel to this, I also study group training, and this year I have spent a lot of time volunteering for the women’s organization Women Wage Peace.
The course in group training is basically a course not related to my degree. It’s something that you study independently with some intensive months of studying, and at the end of the course you receive a diploma.
I really like the course on group training, because I have previously got the opportunity to guide groups, but I wanted to gain professional skills, in order to learn how to do it really well. In addition to this, I am considering working within this field in the future.
The reason why I have chosen to study psychology and group guidance is that, first of all, I don’t have stage fright, and second of all I am a person, who likes to guide groups of people and to talk and to discuss, so I think all of this is very relevant [for me].
I learnt Hebrew in school, but I began improving my Hebrew on my own from a young age.
In school they don’t teach you the spoken Hebrew, the high-level Hebrew. They teach you Hebrew in accordance with the guidelines given by the Ministry of Education.
I began to read newspapers as a child, and I grew up on [Israeli] Channel 6 and different children’s program Chiquititas.
I connected a lot to the language, and when I finished going to school and began to work and study, it helped me to improve the language even further and to strengthen it.
It’s true that my [mother-tongue] language is Arabic, but we live in a country where Hebrew is also the official language, and in institutions they teach in Hebrew, and they speak Hebrew in work places. That’s why it’s very important for me to improve it, so I can communicate with people.
I really hope that in a couple of years, the Jews will also be able to learn Arabic, so that we really can discuss and work together in Arabic. Of course there are many work places where Arabic is the spoken language, especially in predominantly Arab neighborhoods, but, in general, that’s the reality, and we deal with it – for now.
It’s okay, but I really hope that in the future more Jews will study the Arabic language.
I’m originally from Fureidis [Arab town in the Haifa District of Israel], which is next to Zikhron Ya’akov. Fureidis and other Arab towns in the area are all next to Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish kibbutzim, so to be able to work and to be able to communicate with people, you need to learn the language [Hebrew], and because I lived in a place like this, where it was necessary, it helped me improve the language.
When you live in a mixed area, such as in Haifa or in Jaffa in Tel Aviv, you need to use Hebrew, so you improve it, because you have want to and you have to.
You Fall In Love
I joined a conference organized by Women Wage Peace a year ago, and at such events there are always these women, who sign you up. My friend had asked me to join her in this conference and wanted to go together, and immediately when you attend activities organized by Women Wage Peace, you automatically fall in love with the amount of women (religious women, secular, Jewish women, Arab women) that join and have a common goal.
You fall in love with this thing, and you see how committed they are to this, and how much they want to reach their goal.
You have to go to some kind of event to feel the essence of this movement
Because I didn’t work this year, as I had to be home and take care of my girl, I told myself that I wanted to do something meaningful, and of course all of us [at Women Wage Peace] do everything non-paid.
Women Wage Peace has two goals. The first goal is to reach a respectful peace agreement between Israelis and the Palestinians. The second goal involves the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which aims to involve women in decision-making within the government and in everything security-related.
These two goals speak to me. As an Arab-Palestinian woman in this country, I really want to reach a peace agreement, and everyone wants to prevent the next war, and if I can do my share, then I’ll do it with pleasure. I’m ready to do it.
I hate the question of how I define myself, as in: “What is your identity?”
I’m not ashamed of saying that I am an Arab, a Palestinian, and at the same time a citizen of the state of Israel. I’m not ashamed of saying it, but I think that definitions place us in different kinds of categories, and people will react differently to these kinds of categories.
So, yes, I am an Arab, in terms of my origin, and I am an Arab Palestinian that lives in the state of Israel. I am a citizen of this state.
Sometimes people judge you in terms of how you define yourself and place you in a specific category. It depends on the people of course. It can be people, who don’t know you. Let’s go forward and ignore this stage. I’m a citizen of this state? Is this enough of a definition for you? Good.
We live in a difficulty realty, and we can’t ignore the situation that we live in. The conflict is very intense, and it’s not easy for us to see all that happens, including all the violence.
We can’t ignore reality, but I have some kind of agenda that I follow. As an Arab I was born into this reality, and I can be either frustrated the whole time or just try to deal with the situation, and in my essence I’m a very positive and optimistic person, so I chose the second option in terms of how to deal with reality.
For example I try to contribute to coexisting, on my own, by joining all kinds of movements that promote peace and coexistence.
You can sit on the side and cry, and there are many people who sit on the side and cry and complain.
I look at reality in a very different way. I try to change things. I’m not okay with the situation, but I try to change it in my way and not always to cry. I really believe in actions.
Having a negative perspective takes a lot of energy from you, so if I go through something difficult, I try to look at the glass as being half full and to keep on going.
Many people, who know me well know that I’m an optimistic person, and that I am a person, who believes in positive psychology, in terms of trying to bring out the good from everything. Sometimes it’s difficult, but you have to find the way. Otherwise you drown.
My husband’s family is a very special family.
My mother-in-law passed away 20 years ago, in 1998, from cancer, and my husband’s father didn’t remarry. He has seven boys and one daughter.
He [father-in-law] said that he would raise them, and he would make sure that they all study. Today they are all academics, all eight of them. Four of his sons are doctors. His daughter is a teacher. My husband is an architect. One of the brothers is an engineer and another brother is a nurse.
So it’s a home, where 100% of the children are academics, and I think that that is the reason why their perspective on life is positive. They chose to study a profession and to contribute and to influence in some way via their studies.
This family has a positive outlook on life, because they chose another way, and I respect them for that. They believe that you have to live life in some way or another.
All of us Arab people, who live in Israel, are called all kinds of names: Arabs from within the Green Line, Arabs of 1948, etc. We have all kinds of names, depending on who is referring to us.
It’s very important to know that we live difficult lives, because we live in this country and we want to live together with the Jews on one hand, while on the other hand there are people, who are like us, Palestinians, who live beyond the Green Line, and who suffer from other difficult situations, so our hearts are divided.
On one hand I want a shared coexistence [with Jews], and on the other hand every time I see some kind of violent confrontations in the news my heart hurts.
I’m Palestinian, and they are Palestinians. This we can’t get rid of nor ignore.
But at the same time, I will say that it hurts me to see anyone, whether Palestinian, Jewish, Syrian, Lebanese or other, to be in this situation. All situations of war are very difficult for me, personally.
Many of the [Jewish] women in Women Wage Peace want to prevent the next war. Many of them either lost a son, a brother or someone else close to them in wars, and they really want to prevent the next pain.
Women Wage Peace was founded after the war [with Gaza] in 2014 – after they saw the loss and what happened during that war, and for many mothers it was a red light.
We don’t want to lose our sons.
As a woman, and a mother, and also the sister of someone, I really can understand this thing – how nobody would want to lose a family member. It doesn’t matter who you are, and whether you are Jewish, Arab, whatever. Nobody wants to lose a partner, father or brother, and that’s why you can connect to this – in your heart.
So if you can do something to prevent the next war, then you will do anything, and especially as a mother. It’s something that you can’t explain.
It’s Very Simple
There are women from all kinds of political backgrounds in Women Wage Peace, including Jewish women living in settlements.
That is what is beautiful about the movement – the diversity. It manages to gather women from all kinds of backgrounds and to put them in one place, to talk and to get to know each other.
Not everyone has to agree with my perspective, and I don’t have to agree with other people’s perspectives, but we all have one goal, and that is to reach a peace agreement. It’s very simple, if you think about it. We all want to live in peace and quiet.
In the near future, I would want there to be a peace agreement, and for people not to go out to demonstrations and to have to talk about the war.
I would want for people to be able to visit each other. I have this kind of vision of every Jew, who doesn’t know his Arab neighbors, going to visit his Arab neighbors and getting to know the Arab culture, and eating a meal together with them, at the same table, without being scared.
To begin with, we should really get to know each other in reality and not just talk about coexistence.
I think we would all gain from a situation of calm and peace, because we would be busy in trying to improve ourselves and in going forward, in improving the country in all kinds of things, such as tourism, and we wouldn’t be preoccupied with wars and with confrontations.
Also, I think that there is something in the Arab society. There are many talented people [in Arab society], who don’t find their place because of the current situation, and I think that they should be given the opportunity to exist, to blossom and to begin achieving big things in their lives.
We should all be equal in this country.
All the beauty is in the different. If we were all similar, it would be so boring.
Differences in life are very important for me, as this gives opportunity for a real discussion.
You need to be optimistic in this situation. Of course, we need to admit that not everything is nice and pink.
It takes a lot of personal strength to be an optimistic person. From within, you need to be very strong, and your soul needs to be able to cope with hardships.
I personally believe that one should not give up. And if I am in this place today, where I am able to make a change, I will do it, because one of the most important reasons for why I do what I do and for why I believe in coexistence, is that I have two daughters, and I really do want a pink future for them, where there is peace and harmony, and where they won’t be exposed to anything related to war.
Their future is very important to me, and it might take energy to contribute, but at the same time it gives you something, especially if you believe in something and can contribute to its realization.
I want coexistence, peace and harmony, and I want to contribute my part.
Everything comes from education. If you are educated to accept the other, you will adopt this thing, and you will grow up with it, and later on you will keep adopting things that are related to this.
I was raised with accepting the other and to respect the other, and I think that the best solution for our situation today is to educate our children, at home, to accept the other, to try to listen to the other. That’s the first important thing to do.
You can sit here from today until I don’t know when and talk about coexistence, but you can also be an example to your children.
Your children only learn from you, when you do the things, so when my daughters see that we are hosting a Jewish family, with their children, and they eat dinner at our house, and they see that we are discussing this, our daughters then grow up with the idea of: Yes, it is possible to live with the Jews. They can visit us, and we can visit them, and life is great.
Your children will believe you, when you do. They take you as an example. They learn from you, and that’s something that I believe in, and the most important thing is that I want to be an example to my daughters. They will grow up, and they will look up to a role model, who doesn’t only talk, but who also does.
Participating in Women Wage Peace this year has been very important to me, because first of all they strengthen this thing in me that I’ve tried to do before, which basically is to live in peace with my Jewish neighbors.
This movement gives you the opportunity to meet women from other backgrounds and other communities, and even if you don’t agree with the other women 100%, you can still sit and talk, and anyhow everyone [in Women Wage Peace] has the same goal.
This movement [Women Wage Peace] has 30000 women, and it keeps growing, and when you see these women and how committed they are to this goal, and how they each contribute time from their personal lives, you see the strength in this, and I think this is a very beautiful thing about women.
It’s also very important for me to let my opinions be heard and to hear other voices, in order to be able to look at reality from other perspectives.
Interview conducted on May 28, 2018 by Sarah Arnd Linder