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The lives of Arab women are simply worth less in this country

The lives of two more women, a mother and a daughter, were taken in a shooting last week. What must Arab women do to rid our streets of criminals?

Arab politicians and activists protest the murder of Suha Mansour, Tira, northern Israel, November 7, 2015. (photo courtesy of the Joint List)

Arab politicians and activists protest the murder of Suha Mansour, Tira, northern Israel, November 7, 2015. (photo courtesy of the Joint List)

I know, dear readers, that you must be having a hard time disconnecting from what is happening in France and Mali and across the world, or from the stabbing attacks on both sides of the Green Line.

While I was busy trying to do whatever I could for the women in my society, I found myself in a different world this past week. I tried to escape it as best as I could, but to no avail. My feet dragged me to a backyard in Ramle, where I disappeared among a crowd of hundreds of mourning Arab women following the murder of a 50-year-old woman and her 30-year-old daughter.

I hugged and kissed women I did not know; I wanted to be with them, to be strengthened by them. I cried with my friends who have lived and worked in Ramle since I came to this city as a social worker specializing in teenagers and women 15 years ago.

We waited for hours until the bodies of the mother, Nariman, and her daughter, Sundus, made their way from Abu Kabir Forensic Institute to the family home. When the tears stopped temporarily, the women spoke with one another about the crisis of Arab women in this country. The mother has another daughter who studies in Jordan, she is on her way. She was told that her mother was in the hospital, although she ended up finding out the awful truth through Facebook. I thought about this teenage girl, traveling alone with this storyline playing in her head: “Your mother and sister were murdered, the man you rejected as a husband is the primary suspect.”

Our lives are worth less

An elderly woman said, “Everyone is going crazy. Everything is murder. Murder. Human life is worthless these days.” Another woman in her forties said, “Don’t let the damn police tell you stories. They know who the murderer is and who has weapons, they are only good at catching little kids with knives, leaving us with the criminals and their pistols.” Another woman called out, “If only we were Jews, imagine what they would do. A Jewish woman and her daughter murdered by gunfire? Half the country would go crazy.”

A teacher from the city described how the police sent photos of some of the schoolchildren who took part in a recent protest to the principal. “How professional! These bored kids are the terrorists — and the criminals who keep murdering us, what about them? After all, this family filed complaints with the police and the suspect was detained and then released. So what else must we do? You said complain and not be afraid. And then there is a double murder, and we are expected to believe the police?”

I hear more and more stories that lead to a single conclusion: the life of Arab women is worth less, and the police do not really seem to care. At a certain point we began speaking about education and the need to change what our children are taught in the classroom, in order to rid the streets of violence and the culture of power and control. We must do something, khalas, we are tired of these murders. Every month another woman, every month orphans, every month a funeral. “We are planning a protest,” I told them, “what do you suggest?”

One woman answered that she thinks we need a gang to get rid all of the criminals once and for all by collecting weapons. “Us mothers will clean the city. Enough is enough, we must remove the thorns ourselves.”

“We’ll go on strike. We’ll stand in front of the police until they find the killers, every single day, until someone confesses. Too bad there is no death penalty in Israel, the people behind the murders deserve it.” I told them that we are organizing something for next week’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, asking if they would come. “If it’s only just a few women, we’ll afraid to be identified,” one woman answered, “but if we are a thousand, what are they going to do?”

At the conversations died down, the woman began to move, crying and lamenting. The ambulance arrived, and a group of men cleared the way for the bodies to be brought to the yard. Teary eyes everywhere, hands pressed to cheeks, crying out “There is no God by Allah, there is nothing greater and we put our trust in Him.”

The funeral procession left after the family members said goodbye to the victims. Twenty-two year old Bar’a, Nariman’s other daughter, whom I first met when she was 16, asked everyone to calm down, not to yell or act unruly. Where does she get her strength from? From where does this girl summon all that power to calm down the mourners?

The coffins of the two bodies disappeared. The last of the men closed the big, black gate behind him. Then the aunt, Ahlam, locked it, leaving hundreds of women to face the darkness.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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