I am developing an educational project for Palestinian high school students in Israel that addresses gender violence and toxic masculinity and their effects on Palestinian society. I want the teens to understand how deeply entrenched and normalized these practices are in our daily lives, speech, and culture.
I have a dual MD-PhD degree and am currently working as a family medicine resident in Tel Aviv. As a teenager, I took part in multiple Palestinian-Israeli dialogue programs; later in life, I became a certified facilitator through the Seeds of Peace facilitation training course and currently work as a dialogue facilitator.
What is the need you are trying to meet through your work?
I feel that my fellow Palestinians living in Israel need to fight against the rising rates of gender-related violence and the toxic masculinity that is ingrained in society.
There is a need for education, a need for raising awareness, and for changing violent norms—especially when it comes to gender-based violence towards women.
My approach would be to discuss these topics in a class setting dedicated to fighting violence, cooperating with local nonprofits working on the ground in schools by preparing special curriculum and activities, including dialogue.
How does your personal context—where you are from, your religion, your communities, what you have experienced, where you live and work—impact or inspire the work that you do?
I grew up in Haifa in a house teeming with politics and got involved with Palestinian-Israeli dialogue as a teenager. I experienced firsthand the empowering effects of dialogue and gained numerous skills from my interactions with Palestinians and Israelis in this setting. Fast-forward a decade, and I find myself still involved with dialogue work with some of the very same organizations and programs I grew up with, but this time I’m a trained facilitator challenging participants to push themselves forward and break stereotypes.
These days I find myself trying to make a change in different walks of life: I am active in the Residents’ Professional Association, which is focusing on improving the working conditions of residents within the medical system. We are also working to keep the medical system accessible to all patients and violence-free for the medical staff.
I also volunteer for Alqaws, a local Palestinian grassroots organization working to advance sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society, manning their twice-weekly helpline where queer individuals can telephone or chat sharing their challenges and personal stories. Alqaws also provided me with an opportunity to use my facilitation skills in a new setting, accompanying young-adult Palestinian LGBTQ groups in a process of introspection and growth.
How do you talk about your work to your family or friends?
Some of my friends pretend to be tired of my “activism talk” as I constantly bombard them with information about my latest activities and projects, but in reality, I know they are very supportive of the work I try to do and they try to help if possible. The same goes for my family. I share with them my struggles and efforts in an open conversation and I’m happy to have their support. Actually, my mom is my lead into the first school I plan to run my project in the next school year.
What is one thing that you have learned in the course of doing this work that you want everyone to know?
All struggles for justice and equality are connected—you can’t fight for freedom of a nation or people without providing freedom for women and queer individuals. In order to truly achieve one, you have to work for the other as well.
“I hope to empower these young men and women going through the program by enabling them to identify, call out and become agents of change in their environment on all matters related to gender violence and toxic masculinity.”