I observed the behavior of the women who attended our encounters or who came to the meetings at the universities. I noticed that women's voices were not heard so much during the meetings; women tended to let the men speak. This reflects the reality in other facets of life as well, as usually the only ones at the podium giving speeches are men. We took note of this issue, and in an attempt to give women a chance to make their voices heard, we decided to organize meetings for women only. This does not mean that we are against men. We host these meetings in order to give support and encouragement to those women who believe that women should not be involved in politics, but rather that their proper role in life is to work in the kitchen, to tailor the clothes of the men in the army, and to give birth to boys who grow up to join the army. I disagree. I believe women should take more responsibility in life.
Nine years ago, we started a program with Tel Aviv University. The program is concerned with women's identities from a range of perspectives. As uneducated women are usually marginalized in society, we decided to work with women who had a lot of potential. Our goals were both to help them develop self-confidence and to help them identify the constructive roles that they, as Israeli and Palestinian women, can play in the conflict.
Boosting women's confidence allows them to start thinking about finding an effective role for themselves in politics and about contributing to the shaping of their own ethnic identity. For example, gaining confidence allows them to think about refusing to send their children to the army. These are issues that women must examine in order to decide for themselves what role they play in the conflict and what roles they want to play.
Our work has brought us to a number of conclusions. For example, we have done some research interviewing Israeli and Palestinian women inside Israel. You know all of the fantasies about solidarity among women in the face of their shared oppression at the hands of men and the structures of society? We wanted to investigate this fantasy and examine its grounding in reality. We found that Palestinian women for the most part, do not feel a sense of sisterhood with Jewish women. In some of the interviews I conducted, when we talked about women’s issues, Palestinian women would say that they felt unity with Jewish women. When we started to talk about nationalist issues, however, it was a different story. From the perspective of the Palestinian woman, that other woman takes on the role of a man. That is, when a woman faces a conflict as massive as this one, her concerns go beyond feminist issues, alone. This is my own experience, as well. When I lived in Eilaboun, for instance, I was deeply involved in women’s issues. As soon as I arrived here, however, I became more concerned with ethno-national identity. I’ve become so involved in preserving my identity in the face of the Israelis that I have almost forgotten about feminism. This leads us to question where, under these circumstances, feminism is to be found.