HER STORY #19 - ronit
I was a very curious kid. From the 8th grade until I was 16 I was part of a youth movement, and there we always talked about being socially involved, how not to be impartial and how to fulfill yourself. I wanted to fulfill myself, so I read the newspaper every day. I used to collect all kinds of articles from newspapers - articles that had to do with all kinds of violations of people's rights.
What particularly moved me was the stories of the new immigrants from Ethiopia, who faced a lot of obstacles and lacked resources. I wanted to change this, so I figured I would have to be a social worker - to change things.
My father was a carpenter but also a quite known political figure and a member of the political party Mapai, the Labor party at the time. When Likud won the elections in 1977 he moved over to the Likud party.
His brother was one of the Wadi Salib activists [reference to Wadi Salib riots in Haifa in 1959]. It was one of the first demonstrations led by Mizrahis [Jews of Middle Eastern descent] protesting against discrimination and poverty in Haifa. He was one of the leaders.
We didn't really speak about this in my family. I only realized that he had been an activist, when I was at the university. My parents would just say that he was politically active, but since nothing had come out of it (as in he didn't own a house, he had no money, he was divorced etc.) it wasn't really of much "worth" in that sense.
When I was 20 years old, I finished my military service. I had a boyfriend, who was still in the army. He died in a training accident. It's one of the known ones that happened in a top unit. They were doing a training exercise before going to Iraq to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Five soldiers were killed, and he was one of them.
During all of the difficult weeks that followed his death, someone told me about the organization ACRI, about all the good things that they were doing and about how it could be a good place for me to be. I kept the brochure that I was given, and I realized that I didn't want to be a social worker, because I would be part of the system, and I basically wanted to change the system from the outside.
So I began studying for my first degree at the university, and I took part in a lot of different social projects in and out of the university. At some point I was hired by ACRI.
I think it was the best place to exercise your abilities as an activist, a spokesperson, as someone who collects data about human rights infringements and a best place for a lot of other things. After some years I decided to leave ACRI to implement, what I had learnt there. I'm still learning today.
It's a privilege to work at the organization Isha L'Isha, because while you try to do good for other women, you do it within a collective of women. The women aren't necessarily my best friends, but they are all here for the same cause. We share the very wide agenda of women's rights.
Sometimes we can have arguments, but most of the time, the arguments ends with: "Ronit, we trust you. Go ahead, we will follow you." It's a treasure, which you won't find in other places. This specific work place is very unique.
It's also unique, because we don't have a director. We have committees for everything. We all have the same salary, so I'm getting the same salary as the cleaner.
When things heat up around us as now, it brings us all to depression, but because we are connected to the Palestinian cause, we also know that they suffer every day. When it "calms down," it's just calm on the surface. Palestinians suffer every day. They face awful violations. I don't justify any attacks from both sides, but I can understand the Palestinian discourse, and I think that most women here also understand it.
Maybe we are incapable of prompting change on a national and municipal level, but we can affect our everyday life, and we can also deliberately buy from a Palestinian shop and hire a Palestinian plumber - just because.
Haifa has always been unique in terms of co-existence between Jews and Arabs - until last sunmmer. When the war in Gaza was taking place, Haifa faced the most violent demonstrations that I've ever seen, and I've taken part in a lot of left-wing demonstrations in Jerusalm - none of them were this violent.
The demonstration last summer was so violent and frightening and not at all like the previous demonstrations merging Arabs and Jews. But we know that a lot of those, who interrupted the demonstration came from outside of Haifa. They made it impossible for us to demonstrate. People were throwing stones and bottles of water at us. A bus with Palestinians was attacked and had its windows smashed. We felt that the police was not functioning well either and wasn't protecting us enough.
Prior to the demonstration, we had received a lot of threats, such as having our legs broken, because we were leftists.
We hadn't realized that the demonstration itself would be so violent, so if we receive such threats in the future, we will let the police know in advance.
I assume that most people like me here face some form of rejection of their views within the family.
Within my own family I feel comfortable. My partner believes in the same values as I, and we raise our children according to these values. They also understand that we don't want them to go to the army but rather do national service.
However many of the members of my larger family don't share the same values, and that's hard for me. We don't meet that often but perhaps once every second week, and we have had a lot of confrontations.
Although I may not always speak up, I always try too expose them to other perspectives, because much of the discourse in Israel is so narrow - a lot of people speak before they know the full data and history of a specific subject.
Sometimes I just close off.
I had a big argument with my niece about commercial surrogacy, currently one of my biggest projects at Isha L'Isha, and she was amazed by the fact that I, as a feminist, was against it. At some point in our argument I realized that she didn't actually understand, what it was, so I told her: "Go learn the data - then come to me, and we will talk."
My brother, who is completely right-wing, has so many Arab friends, but he will argue that this views have nothing to do with his views about security. So sometimes I ask myself, if his friends explain to him, how difficult it is to be a Palestinian here or in the occupied territories. For example, the ability of a young Palestinian couple and a Jewish couple to buy a house is very different.
My mother would always tell me: "You won't change the world, so don't try. You won't succeed." But today she is very proud of me.
I don't think your sex determines all of your life circumstances. A lot of it has to do with your experiences and your values, education and the course of your life. I can see and have seen men carry out amazing shifts and changes.
However, women in general are the majority of people from disadvantaged groups, and in general they do have values and priorities that are different than those of men.
I don't think that the feminist revolution can succeed without men - it will have to include men and women, but we do need to let more women take the lead.
I really feel a relief about not having to update myself daily with how many Palestinians died, how many blockades and checkpoints there are. This was a major part of the work that I'd do at ACRI, and this became especially difficult for me, when I became a mother. I really felt sometimes, as if I couldn't work in this field anymore.
I am happy here at Isha L'Isha, but I do see myself going back to working with the occupied territories at some point, because it's the major issue Israel has to face and solve. Without ending the occupation, we won't be a liberal democratic society, and we won't see a success in this project that is called Israel.
I do think or hope to be able to serve in the public service, because now I come from a much more empowered position and I learnt a lot. Today I really feel that I can go inside a ministry and do a good job.
Interview conducted on November 29, 2015 by Sarah Arnd Linder