HER STORY #69 - nadia

Family

My name is Nadia, and I am from Wadi Ara. Yesterday I celebrated my 66th birthday.

I grew up in a rich and educated family. We grew up with human values such as loving the other, accepting the other as well as values based on justice, belief and love.

My father, bless his memory, was one of the most respected people - not only locally but all over Israel, and he would respect anyone he met, whether they were Jewish or Arab.

He studied in Lebanon before 1948, but when there were conflicts in the 50’s, my mother’s parents were expelled out of Israel and were forced to sell their lands.

My father had fallen in love with my mother at the time. She was 16 years old. He asked my grandfather for her to stay in Israel, because he wanted her as his wife. In the beginning, my grandfather refused, because she was too young, and who would protect her, now that everyone was leaving for Jordan, and she would be left on her own? So it was difficult to convince him, but in the end my father managed to convince him, and then my father got married to my mother, and he did take really good care of my mother and gave her a good life, also because he was rich.

However, my siblings and I suffered from not having any grandparents, uncles or aunts, so we always looked for someone to call our grandfather, grandmother, aunt or uncle – on my mother’s side, and it was very difficult for us. She had been left alone in Israel, and we felt her suffering.

I grew up in a good home that gave us everything.

Every month my father would take us to doctor’s appointments. Back then tuberculosis was a prevalent disease in Israel, and he always thought of how to take care of us.

We would also travel a lot. For example, every Friday we would go with him to Haifa, because he had to be present in court hearings about land settlements in Haifa. He would help people there as well.

Boarding School

When I went to high school I studied at a monastery, with nuns. It was a boarding school located in Haifa. My siblings went there as well.

There was a school in Pardes Hanna-Karkur, where one could study agriculture, and even though it was five minutes from here, my father preferred to have us study in the boarding school.

Only the children of ambassadors etc. studied at the monastery, because they would study in French and English besides Hebrew and Arabic of course.

After school, we took part in a study-program in the afternoons, and outside in the courtyard a nun would walk around, and if she heard anyone talking in Arabic or Hebrew, they would have to pay a fine. She wanted for us to talk English or French in order for us to improve the language.

Science

After 12th grade I went to study at the university, and I got my first degree in biology.

After that I worked as a teacher of science and technology in primary schools and then I went on to teach at a high school for six years. That was in Umm al-Fahm.

Prior to this I had also worked as a counselor for teachers in science and technology, and following this I worked as a monitor for the Ministry of Education in science and technology for a couple of years.

After 36 years of work I retired.

Islam

When I retired I didn’t sit at home, because I’m very active and I like to help, and because I hadn’t studied about the religion of Islam ever, I took an intense two-year course in Islam in order to be a mediator within Sharia courts in Israel.

I wanted to help women, who have problems at home, and I wanted to work in mediation at these courts for all kinds of issues, including divorce. I had noticed that many women had problems at home, with their husbands for example, so I wanted to help, and I worked there as a volunteer.

Many times after having helped the Qadis [Islamic judges] and the lawyers, many women came to me, asking me to help them. Sometimes we managed to solve the issues through mediation, but sometimes you have to give up, if you don’t succeed.

If I Know You

After retiring I also studied many other things that focused on social issues, and it concerned Arab and Jewish groups all the time.

I’m for this combination. I’m for getting to know one another. For example, if I know you, I get closer to you, and that allows for our conversations to be more effective.

I’m with Women Wage Peace, and I am the coordinator in this region, and a week ago, we had an event in Wadi Ara, which we planned together with a group of Jewish and Arab women from the same region.

If we know each other, it makes things easier, and we will understand each other more.

Accident

Twenty years ago I sat on the porch with my husband in the afternoon. Suddenly we saw a car that rolled over on the main road. It was an accident, and I told my husband: “Rush over there. Maybe the person needs help.” We didn’t know, who was in the car, but I insisted that my husband go there.

He went there and found an Israeli soldier with his weapons, uniform, alone, and he was miserable. He was trembling from fear, because he knew that he was in an area of Arabs. He was scared, so my husband told him in Hebrew: “Don’t be scared. You are in good hands. Come to our home.” The main road is one second away from our house.

So he came back with my husband. He washed his hands and face, and he calmed down, drank something. Then we had lunch, and he ate lunch with us, and then he told me: “It’s the first time that I walk into the house of an Arab. I’ve always seen it from far away but have never been inside, and I’ve never talked to an Arab woman.” He said that it was the first time that he was in direct contact with an Arab.

Then we gave him our home phone, and he called his parents and called the army base telling them that he had been in an accident, but that he was okay, and that he was in the house of Arabs. Everyone got scared. His parents lived in Ramat HaSharon, and it takes around three quarters of an hour to get here from there, but they did it in 30 minutes.

They were scared, but when they came, we gave them something to drink, and we sat down and talked. (I get emotional when I think about it). And to this day, we have good relations. We went to his wedding. We were also there, when his son was born. We became friends, and he once said the following: “From now on I won’t point my gun towards someone Arab. Now I have realized that Arabs are people like us, and they deserve to live.”

This whole thing strengthened within me the need to get to know one another and to communicate.

And so why did we do the Women Wage Peace event in Kfar Ara? Because so many Jews haven’t been to Arab places. They just pass them by on the roads, and many in Israel only listen to the news, and this is their sense of reality, but if they would come and enter our houses, talk to the people, it wouldn’t be like this.

He Will Try To Eat You

All the Arabs are perceived as “enemies” – that’s what they are called. But do you think that the mother in the West Bank, in Nablus for example, would push her son to commit suicide [in a suicide bombing attack]? I don’t believe that. Even animals wouldn’t do that to their children. But it seems that there is something from within that pushes me to do this thing.

Also, the country [Israel] doesn’t let them [Palestinians in the West Bank] come in freely and work in Israel and to make an income in that way. So what do they have to lose? Nothing. They don’t work. They don’t have food, no milk; their children have nothing, so all of their efforts go into getting revenge.

So I think like this: If we would let them work and make an income, they would be preoccupied with this and their children, their homes.

For example my worker here is from the West Bank, and he comes here every day to work. He doesn’t even think about throwing a stone. Why? Because he has a family at home, and they want to eat, and he gets a good income. So the ones who do the things that we hear about have a reason I think.

Let’s look at Gaza today. Gaza is like a prison today. They don’t have food and no electricity. Everything is closed. What will a cat do, if you put him in a cage? He will try to eat you. It’s the same thing.

Headscarf

They [Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza] are my relatives. My cousins, aunts and uncles live there. Some of them live in Nablus, others in Jenin, some in the US – they are spread all around the world.

Actually, I don’t want to talk about the West Bank but about the U.S. instead. Imagine if someone comes and shoots in a school, wouldn’t it hurt me? It hurts me. Because I’m a human being, and so it also hurts me, when something happens in the West Bank, in Syria – if someone shoots an innocent Jewish person, it also hurts me.

As an Arab I’m also fearful. Why? Because, here in Israel, if someone carries out a terrorist attack or something like that, he won’t differentiate between me and you. If I travel elsewhere, nobody knows whether I’m an Israeli Jew or Arab. If I put my headscarf on, they would see, but if not, they wouldn’t, and many [Palestinians/Arabs] don’t do that. My daughters wear tank tops and shorts. How would people know that they are Arabs? So our fear is double.

Also, I am a human being. I was taught to accept a human being as he/she is, no matter what the color of his/her skin is, no matter the religion and anything else.

When God created me, I didn’t choose to be the daughter of- or to belong to the religion of- or to live in a specific country. God created me, and only God can take my life. No human being has the right to take my life. That’s my belief. Nobody has the right to hurt my life or the lives of others.

That’s my way of life. I was raised like this. My father raised us like this, and I raised my daughters like this – not to hurt anyone. It’s forbidden, and the best way to solve problems is to sit down and to discuss and to get to know one another.

Educator

That is why I really appreciate the “Hand in Hand” schools [in Israel], where children study in Arabic and Hebrew from a young age. They get to grow up together and to be friends. None of them will hurt each other.

Also, workshops need to be given to mothers in terms of how to raise the children, because only the woman can do this thing. The husband works outside, so what does he care? The mother is the educator, and that is the reason why I joined Women Wage Peace. Only women can make peace. She is the mother, the grandmother, the sister.

Solution

I joined Women Wage Peace two years ago.

I have many Jewish friends, and I am a very liberal, open-minded person and have been part of other social-political movements before.

Two years ago, one of my Jewish friends invited me to the screening of a documentary about the women in Liberia [screening hosted by Women Wage Peace], and after the screening someone told me: “Nadia, everyone knows you in the region, and you are very active; you have power and ideas, and you are flexible and liberal. Why wouldn’t you become a member of our movement?” And I responded: “Which movement?” “Women Wage Peace” she said, and I said: “With pleasure.”

I am searching for peace, because I want my daughters and my grandchildren to have an easier life. I don’t want my grandchild to get hurt or to have a hard life in the future.

I won’t live forever, so I need to make an effort and to keep going, until we get there. I don’t know, when we will get there, but we can’t sit down and do nothing or to pray. If you don’t do anything, you won’t get there.

My father would always tell us: “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” If I don’t try to find a solution, then I’m part of the problem. If I do something, my conscience will be calm and quiet, because at least I tried, and if it doesn’t work, I did my part at least. I need to keep trying and not just to sit on the side and say: There is no peace, and there won’t be. What would come out of this?

Politicians

The politicians are not those, who will make peace. They don’t want peace. They just sit in the Knesset or in their parliaments and do nothing. Most of them are men and men’s ways to solve problems is through strength, and they merely look at who has most planes, most weapons etc.

The members of Knesset, whether Jewish or Arab, just sit there, and they play this political game and don’t solve anything. They do it just in order to stay in their seats and to keep their fat salaries.

The people are suffering, Jews and Arabs alike.

Therefore we need to open our eyes and to find out, which people [politicians] really care about our future. We need to think deeply and to choose people who want to work for a good future for us. This is the work that we need to do.

Look at all the many problems we have in this country, and how many politicians steal money. We pay so many taxes, and the politicians earn from us. We work day and night, and we don’t get anything out of it, but they [politicians] increase their salaries every couple of months.

People are preoccupied with making a living, with earning the minuscule salaries that they earn to provide for their families. The government intentionally makes us preoccupied with all of this work for us not to be able to lift out heads - for us not to have time to think and to vote for the right people.

Saba Ya’akov

I miss my childhood, because back then the conflict didn’t feel as strong.

I grew up in Pardes Hanna [Pardes Hanna-Karkur], for example, and there my father had many Jewish friends. We had a friend in Pardes Hanna. He was around 70 years old, and he had a clementine orchard and other fruit orchards. We called him Saba [“grandpa” in Hebrew] Ya’akov.

We stayed with him and his wife. We even slept over many times, and we ate there – at Saba Ya’akov and Savta [“grandma” in Hebrew] Miriam. We were there all the time, and we developed really good relations.

One of the people in Pardes Hanna, a German Jew, planned the building of our house. He was a friend of my father’s. To this day people visit my parents’ house to see how it was built.

So there [in Pardes Hanna] we lived together. We ate together, and it didn’t matter whether you were from Iraq, Syria, or if you were born in Israel.

I don’t know what has happened to the world today. There is violence, crime racism – even between Jews themselves. It’s very difficult.

40 Years Ago

When I was five years old, I didn’t feel the racism. Perhaps I wasn’t conscious of it, because I was with Jews all the time.

40 years ago, when my husband worked in a kibbutz, he had a friend who was a contractor, and he had this very rare American car. I recall him insisting on taking me to the hospital, when I had to do pregnancy tests, and then he organized a party for us, and he paid for everything. We had a really good relation until his passing ten years ago.

He would come and visit and eat with us. He also had a yacht, and he would take us on this yacht. We were like siblings, and he also wouldn’t hesitate to ask, if I needed anything.

When he was sick, before he passed away, he asked us to take care of his daughter. His daughter is married, but we are like her parents now.

Difficult

Things have changed a lot since. Everyone changed, not only the Jewish people, but also the Arabs.

Now there is violence. If you drive in the street and someone honks at you for you to move, and if you don’t move, there is a chance he suddenly could shoot you. I don’t know what has happened to people.

You hear about shootings that happen here and there – everywhere.

People have no patience. Everyone is stressed and under pressure. Everyone is in a hurry. The children are raised on the streets, because the parents are busy. They want money, because the price of living here is very high. Daily life has become difficult.

I’m Not Hurt

When Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] called for voters to come out and vote [warning them of Arab citizens voting], I realized that it was a political game.

If you are a candidate, even for the position of mayor, you want more votes. You play the game. And so Bibi wanted votes, and he tried. He bluffed people, and in politics that’s allowed.

It didn’t hurt me. Why would it hurt me? He wanted to have more votes. It’s his right, but the stupid people are those who believed him. And who are they? Those in the South [of Israel] who suffer and struggle.

Everything depends on how you take it. It depends on how you feel about yourself. That’s my opinion.

If Bibi needs to win, he will try everything, whether it’s on the account of Jews or Arabs or even his friends. So I’m not hurt.

Obviously it wasn’t a good thing for him to say. It wasn’t educational or just, but he used this as a method. Instead I accuse those who believed in him.

You have to understand: Not everything I hear hurts, because I know who I am.

If a person comes and tells me something hurtful personally, it will hurt me, but if someone says a general thing, why would I be hurt?

I will give you an example: When I worked in Umm al-Fahm, I had a car. One day I drove on a one-way street, and I was driving against the right direction, because I was in a hurry. My husband was in the hospital, and I wanted to get there quickly, but I only drove on a short part of the street, which was about a kilometer-long.

On my way to the hospital, I suddenly passed a man in his car, and he was the parent of someone that I taught. When I saw him, he didn’t know that I was sitting in the car, and he yelled: “Idiot! I don’t know who gave you your driver’s license. You are breaking the rules.” I just closed my car window. I didn’t look at him, and I continued driving.

I’m a very strong person, and I very much believe in what I do and don’t get insulted from every word, because if someone tells me something personally, I will listen to it and then ask him/her: “Why did you say that? Explain it to me. I don’t see myself like this, and I don’t believe that I’m like this.”

I don’t believe in generalizations and stereotypes. I believe in talking to someone directly, and if I have a problem with someone, I will try to solve it. I will invite the person over, talk with him/her, have a discussion calmly. I don’t get irritated.

That’s my method. That’s what I’ve learnt. I was raised like this.

I swallow the anger. If I’m angry at you, I get it out of my system and tell you: “I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like to hear this. It didn’t do me well, so I want to know why you said it.” When I get it out, I feel pure and good.

So the day after [the incident] he [parent of student] came to school, and he apologized: “I didn’t know that it was you [in the car],” to which I answered: “No, it’s fine. I didn’t even hear what you said. I thought that you said ‘hello,’ but I was in a hurry and needed to get there [to the hospital] quickly.” He said: “Are you sure you didn’t hear what I said?” “No,” I responded.

Give

That’s my method. That’s how my life works, and I’m very calm and happy all the time. I don’t get irritated.

I also prefer to give than to receive. I don’t like to receive things.

For example, I gave a jacket for my worker’s wife as well as new shoes – for him to feel good. Money is not everything, and I wanted him to feel good. It makes me feel good.

Even when I make food, I feel like this. I cook every day, but sometimes I cook things that are more special, and then I invite my neighbor to come over to eat. I like it. It feels like putting money in the bank.

Respect

I’m very happy with my life. I only get hurt by people, who don’t respect others.

Sometimes, if I go with a headscarf in the bus or on the train, people will look at you, as if you are foreigner. Why? There are [Jewish] religious girls and women, who wear head coverings. Why do you accept them and not me? Why does it bother you? Why do you make those stereotypes?

Aren’t there Jews, who kill people? Many. The one who killed [Yitzhak] Rabin was Jewish, so what do you want? There are Arabs who kill as well, but you need to understand that there isn’t only one side, who kills. Both sides kill.

In the West Bank there are [Israeli] soldiers, who enter houses and do awful things. There are horrific pictures of this. I’m not for one thing or another, but I just say: I was born here. My grandparents were born here.

I didn’t come from Russia or the U.S. I’m from here. I have rights. I respect whoever comes, but I need to get all my rights. I was born in Israel. Those who come: Welcome, but they need to respect us, because we are the real citizens here, as with all the Jews, who were born here – not the ones like [Avigdor] Lieberman [Soviet-born Israeli politician]. Where is he from? From Russia. I respect him, but he should respect us as well. He shouldn’t say that every inhabitant of Wadi Ara should be expelled because of someone crazy, who did something stupid, and who happens to be from here.

Why make generalizations? Should I then say that all inhabitants of Tel Aviv should be expelled because of the assassination of Rabin? Nobody says this, only when it’s about Arabs. It’s not fair, and you have to be just.