HER STORY #18 - anonymous
I am 18 years old from Herzliya. My school is in Ramat HaSharon, where I have been a part of their Feminist Forum for a while. We discuss many different subjects and take part in different events such as the “Mitzad Sharmutot” [“Slutwalk” in Tel Aviv]. Most of the forum is made up of girls, but there are some boys as well.
I joined the forum partly because one of my friends created it, and partly because I always saw myself as a feminist, and this panel spoke about issues that interested me. From an early age I never felt like I was inferior for being a girl – and my two sisters felt the same way.
The forum also has a Whatsapp group, so if someone is having a bad day everyone can support and comfort that person via messages. I’ve gained some very good friends through the forum.
From a young age, I always hated pink. I preferred orange, black, green, and other colors. I was physically strong, a real tomboy – before I knew what feminism was. Why do I have to do things differently, because I am a girl?
In one week I am going into the army as a combat soldier. I chose this position. Due to the extra training needed to become a combat soldier, I will be in the army for three years instead of the mandatory two years for women.
It’s stressful but also really exciting, because it’s a new chapter in my life. It’s not something small. I really wanted this job, and not everyone gets the position that they want in the army. In other words, I’d much rather be a combat soldier than someone who serves coffee in an army office.
Search & Rescue / Paramedic
I have a small conflict with myself in terms of being a combat soldier.
I know that there is a difference between Arabs and terrorists, although many people like to say that all Arabs are terrorists. I’m hoping that, as a soldier, I will be able to treat Arabs well.
I’m trying to look at it in a positive light and see myself as someone who could save lives as well. That’s why I will also train to become part of the Search and Rescue unit, which is needed in cases of earthquakes, natural disasters, chemical attacks, or when missiles fall on a person’s home – a Jew or an Arab’s home.
I imagine that in the future I could work for insurance companies as a Search and Rescue worker.
I would also like to get train to become a paramedic so that I could use those skills to save lives.
I want to be able to save lives. I don’t seek to become a tough, aggressive fighter. I want to be gentle. That is why I chose to become a paramedic.
Scared For Me
I’m the youngest. My two older sisters had office-jobs when they served in the army. My family doesn’t love that I made the choice to become a combat soldier. They’re stressed about my decision, but they’ve always respected my choices.
Recently, a soldier was stabbed, and that’s when it became real for my family. This could be me next year.
A couple of days ago I was in Holland with my friend. While abroad, my sister went to see my grandmother, and apparently my grandmother told her that she was scared for me. When my sister told me this, I realized that my choice carries an emotional price for my family. It’s not only how I feel about it. I hadn’t thought about this at all. I had only thought about how this choice impacted me.
It makes me feel sad that people are scared, but then again my grandmother specifically worries a lot. She’d be scared if I got a papercut.
"What About Your Arab Friends?"
I live in the center of Israel, so I am not that affected by the recent stabbing attacks. The closest it came to me was when it happened in Ra’anana. That day I was supposed to go by bus to a shopping center in Herzliya, but my mother told me not to go because of what had happened.
My parents are much more scared than me.
When there were lynches of Arabs or killings of Mizrahi Jews, I was shocked. My father is Mizrahi and looks like an Arab, and people could hurt him because of that.
Every time there are wars, or in times when there is heightened tension, discussions become even more nationalistic.
I am part of a Whatsapp group with people who are going to the same unit as me in the army. A few people recently sent pictures and videos of the terrorists after having been caught. It bothers me a lot.
Many of my father’s friends are Arabs. One of his friends even served in the army but is not able to buy a house in Herzliya because people won’t sell him a house.
I really don’t like the tension and the nationalism.
Sometimes in school people make fun of me because of my political opinions, although most people in my class have the same opinions as me. However, once, one of my classmates, who has right-wing opinions, told me that we need to kick all the Arabs out. As he himself has friends that are Arab, I asked him, “And what about your Arab friends?” To this he answered, “friends” using air quotes. That’s when I stopped respecting him. I was shocked by his attitude.
I think I turned out the way I am, because of the way I grew up. My parents always had Arab friends. My family’s friends would bring their children, and my sisters and I would play with them. Their children only knew Arabic, but that didn’t matter to me.
I think a lot of it has to do with getting to know the people—not just eating pita and humus with Arabs, but to really getting to know them.
Two years ago, a Jew was killed in Yafo by one of the Arabs working with him. When that happened, one of my father’s Arab friends was as shocked as we were. That made an impression on me. They want peace just as much as we do.
My grandfather has lived in Tel Aviv, since he was born. His family is from Libya, and he speaks Arabic. He would speak about his Arab friends in Yafo, about how they would steal oranges from gardens and do all sorts of things for fun. It made me understand that Arabs are much more than the terrorist in the news.
My father’s parents, my grandparents, were in the Shoah [Holocaust]. When I tell people that my Mizrahi grandparents were in the Holocaust, they act surprised.
We didn’t learn about this in school. In fact, I have only found one book that has discussed the Libyan Jews and their deportation to Bergen Belsen.
But I think this part of my background has made me the way I am in terms of how I think we, as Jews, should treat the Palestinians and the refugees. We were refugees ourselves. During Pesach [the Passover holiday in Judaism], Jews talk about how we need to remember that we were foreigners in Egypt. We were in the same situation as refugees. It’s easy to forget when you have your own country. When you have your roots in this place, it’s easy to forget the weak ones and why you should take care of them. We need to remember that and not carry out the mistakes of others.
A lot of people from the outside feel very connected to the suffering of the Palestinians. It makes sense because they don’t have an organized army, they don’t have independence, they don’t control themselves, and they have much fewer privileges than we do.
But it’s very difficult to live here, with the “tzeva adom” [code red siren] and the fear of going on the bus.
Before my aunt gave birth, she told my mother: “I don’t know if I want my baby to be a girl or a boy. If the baby is a girl, she will have the risk of being raped later on. If the baby is a boy, he will have greater chances of becoming a combat soldier.”
I just want people to see a small part of “our side” as well.
Interview conducted on November 15, 2015