Have you ever heard of Muslims and Jews in the Middle East joining hands to battle violence against women? Stay tuned. You’re about to get an earful.
I volunteer as an assistant in a self-defense program for women called IMPACT. The course we finished yesterday was for a group of Muslim women in East Jerusalem. Since none of the team spoke fluent Arabic, we used a translator most of the time, but we communicated pretty well even without a common language.
After the third session, one of the women shared this story.
I never used to take my children out by myself. When I wanted to take them out, I’d call my sisters, and if no one could come with me I just wouldn’t go. But last week I took them out alone. I wasn’t afraid at all.
This is a perfect example of the kind of changes IMPACT makes on the lives of the women who take it. There is a certain misconception that learning self-defense techniques will make a woman violent, but that’s not what happens in reality. Beyond sexual assault, these little everyday inconveniences are what imprison us as women. IMPACT does not make us belligerent; it sets us free.
I’ll be perfectly honest. Before the course, I was prepared to be accepting and friendly towards the women, since that was my job, and also because I believe in approaching everyone with love, no matter what their background is. However, I was not prepared for the amount of acceptance they showed toward us. There was not a peep about the racial and cultural differences between us for the entire course. Until the last day, when one woman told us:
In the past, when I saw a Jew, I used to be scared of them. Now when I see a Jew, I think of you, and I remember that some are good.
O_O I swear I didn’t pay her to say that.
I realized the only real difference between us is that they wear pretty scarves over their hair. We’re not different; we’re estranged from each other. The moment we are given an opportunity to interact all racism is thrown to the wind. Seriously, who needs it anyway?
Huge thanks to the people who stood by me and helped me through this process. I couldn’t have done it without you. Staff of IMPACT Israel: you are the change you want to see in the world. Keep shining.
*Check out El HaLev, the amazing Non Profit in charge of this project.