Round Stones or Full Rights

Posted on 26 February 2010 by

Mar 8 Update: Third Prize Winner in Group 2

Finalist in WLP’s Youth Essay Contest Group 2: 18-25 Years
Nuseir Yassin, Israel

“Never let the hand you hold, hold you down” This expression is completely true among the Arab society of women here in Israel. Though inconceivable as it may be, Arab women here in Israel, generally speaking, are facing tremendous forces trying to hold them down, yet, with great difficulty and unprecedented bravery, women that I have known are outstandingly strong before suppression by their most beloved ones.

Jerusalem Window (cc) jaime.silva

Jerusalem Window (cc) jaime.silva

In a generally conservative Arab community, women and young girls alike are struggling to earn their most fundamental freedoms: the freedom of speech, movement, and ideas. Starting with the most basic of all, the freedom of speech is the wish of most Arab women here in my community, for they cannot express their opinions or points of views lest they get suppressed by their own surroundings. “Family honor”, as obsolete as it may sound, is still a frequently used term that most likely serves as the reason behind an incident where a woman pays the price.

Furthermore, the condition of women is far from being equal to that of men’s. Women are destined to stay at home and men are free to go to wherever they wish. This injustice to women is what I believe to be the reason behind a corrupt offspring. The apple does not fall far from the tree, and neither does the offspring of suppressed women. Thus, the mighty men of today need to understand clearly that granting their poor women their most basic rights, such as the freedom of movement, is the key factor for a thriving community.

Although I am not a woman, I still sympathize with those women that need to look, sound, and act morally perfect as to fit the primitive traditions of their community. Based on my observations among the masculine world, if a woman greets men in a peculiar way then the woman is instantly not worthy of “being married”, for she will be put on the men’s black list. In addition, men tend to treat women as objects rather than as human beings with feelings and innovative ideas. And even though I am being highly critical towards men, I believe that women in Israel are yet to show their true hidden capabilities. All that is needed is to overcome a few obstacles.

The most pressing issue for the minority of Arab-Israeli women in the conservative Arab-Israeli community is the influence of community itself, which, undoubtedly, involves religion, society, and traditions. For a helpless woman to face rigid traditions is a great challenge. One example of how rigid a tradition can be is depicted in the following true story: One girl noticed that her mother cuts both the head and the tail of a fish before cooking it in the pot. She asked her mother why she does that, and the mother said that she got this habit from her own mother. The daughter then addressed her grandmother with the same question and she got the same answer. At last, the daughter addressed her great grandmother and the latter replied: “I cut the head and the tail of a fish because the pot was too small to fit”. The traditions involving how we should treat a woman are simply inherited. So for a fragile woman to change the way we cut the fish is a painstaking task that requires substantial resources and efforts.

In order to empower men and abridge the gaps between both sexes, we need to fully understand the community that we are facing. By saying we, I mean that both sexes need to come together as one unit and grant equality to the underprivileged sex that has suffered for so long due to having a “small pot”. A complete understanding of the bases on which the community stands is required. Furthermore, women need to face their community as one unit, and not as individuals. When “divide and conquer” method is practiced, women need to unite against the community, by the community, and for the community.

Plus, if you are going to change a tradition, come up with something better. And so should women come up with a more efficient method in which human rights of both sexes are guaranteed, and moral rules in the community are not neglected. Change, but maintain.

Last but not least, change is not immediate. Although women are in desperate need to be given their rights, they should be aware that the road of amendments is long and changing the views of extremists and moderates alike takes a considerable amount of time. I have witnessed women coming together as one unit to a local feminist organization called Kayan in hopes that tomorrow will be better. Currently, we are trying to build virtual bridges that will soon allow women to move freely in their village, with no unjust restrictions whatsoever. Sooner or later, I believe, those women will succeed eventually.

Some questions cannot be answered. They become familiar weights in the hand, round stones pulled from the pocket, unyielding and cool.
– Jane Hirshfield, poet, Princeton Class of 1973

This quote fully represents underprivileged women that are facing the pressure of their conservative communities. Yet, with the help of a unified position against obsolete traditions, the quote can be adjusted to become like this:

Some questions can be answered. They become gifts given to our grandchildren. Full human rights pulled from history books, permanent and ubiquitous.

Finalist in WLP’s Youth Essay Contest Group 2: 18-25 Years
Nuseir Yassin, Israel

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27 Comments For This Post

  1. Rafee Shakour Says:

    I am impressed by the way this essay was written. It effeciently depicts the situation of Arab Israeli women today and I think that it gives some satisfying and logical solutions. Good job on this essay. Good luck. Rafe.

  2. zahi Says:

    To Nuseir, your essay is absolutely amazing and I totally agree with the mentioned above except for one issue. Do you think that changing long-standing traditions is possible especially when women are so seemingly powerless? I think that traditions stick for a while and they are replaced automatically without any outside help. I hope this is not the case but this is what I believe in.

  3. Reemosh Says:

    Wow Nosayr!

    Thank you for your astounding essay, for the big words’s meaning that you wrote. I guess you desreve the first place in this competition!
    Arab-Israeli women do have to suffer from the mentioned above on a daily basis. You portrayed our situation so well that I can only feel happy because we are being represented worldwide.

    You are briliant ! I wish all the men were as you are, with a full understanding of what a “woman” is, and deeply knowing how to treat a woman as a human being.
    I appreciate your writing and Good LUCK!
    Keep the truely work!
    God bless you.

  4. khalid Says:

    I totally agree with the author’s point of views. I understand the backgroud that he is coming from. With regards to “Change, but maintain” philosophy, I think it is rather effective in terms of changing a society. The way I view it, the situation of Arab-Israeli women needs some quick amendments as soon as possible and that can only be achieved through the unity of the societym both women and men
    .Likeeeeeeeeeeeee I t :D

  5. Rania Says:

    This is probably one of the most fascinating essays that I have read so far. The author clearly depicts what the situation is like and I am very impressed to see such efficient solution being put on the table. I hope that the government acknowledges such problems and works towards achieving equality and getting rid of traditions that server as an obstacle rather than as an incentive.
    Nuseir, I never knew you were into these things, I am impressed.
    Good luck!

  6. Seh Hadi Says:

    This article is quite fascianting. By the way, the “small pot” story is actual and has mryaid implications. Also, the ways proposed by Nuseir are both feasible and tangible. I think that the right way to change traditions is through unity of the community. I am very eager to see these solutions practiced in this region because that would be so helpful to the women of today.
    I am impressed by the views mentioned in here and I would really recommend this essay to feminist activists
    Good Luck!

  7. Rakad Khwalid Says:

    good luck nosayr!! very nice essay!

  8. Ibrahim Says:

    I like this essay!
    Its so awesome to see such motivated youth from across the globe standing up for the issues of women. I am now motivated to do the same and I can’t wait to actually have an impact on this world. Women in particular need to understand that traditions are obsolete and there is no better time than now.
    Good luck again Nuseir.

  9. maher Says:

    *good job Nuseir on this outstanding essay. The solutions discussed here are really cool and I hope this becomes a reality. Good luck, maher.

  10. Ameer Says:

    Outstanding essay and good points are discussed here. Much emphasize needs to be on the change but maintain theory. I fully support the author and his ideas.

    I think there should be more awareness towards women issues in particular. Because as its mentioned above, women give birth to our offspring and we need to focus on how they are being treated rather than on how traditions should be maintained.

    Good luck!

  11. sleman sh Says:

    Gret essay nosayr!! I like the ideas mentioned! Awesome…keep on and I wish you good luck .

  12. Sayra Says:

    I am shocked to see that, even in the state of Israel, family honor is still practiced. I have learned a great deal of information from this particular essay. This wealth of information is not so positive but still, the methods discussed tend to make it positive.

    One thing caught my attention is the fact that this author is calling for men as well to participate in this process. I would really like to see him convincing men to engage in giving back equality to men and fight those old traditions. This essay is truly inspiring women worldwide to fight all traditions and not just those lying in the region of Israel or even the Middle East. I consider this as a wake up call and the story about the fish is insightful and intelligent, good job on including it to better the understanding of readers. It definitely helped me understand the situation there more deeply.

    I hope you win this contest, because you deserve it for this insightful experience.

  13. Martha Moody Says:

    A very moving essay. I love the story about cutting the head and tail off the fish. Nosayr, you are very wise to realize as a young man that freedom and power for women can make a society stronger. Some men never realize this; sadly, some women don’t, either. Martha Moody

  14. maysa Says:

    I really liked the beginning of your essay, Nosayr. The opening perfectly fits the content of the essay and the mention of stories serve well in presenting your idea. I think your ideas are innovative and original. This work of yours is of high value to me because I believe that it represents us here in the Arab-Israeli region. I agree on the fact that the way a woman acts or even says “hello”
    determins pretty much the rest of the future. So I think our people need to abandon old traditions and relpace them with new ones that are much better. I also believe in women and men standing together on this issue, this is vital to strengthen our community. Good luck mate.

  15. Morad Says:

    i really like the idea i think it’s great that someone out there thinks about this stuff, reading it made me think about how women desperately need to overcome obsolete traditions and thrive in our society.

  16. Tarek Yassin Says:

    excellent well wriiten essay .. thax my bro for making such an articulate statement about in issue dear to the hearts of many people.. It is truly encouraging to have a young person be able to see and express the complexities of a problem that most people cheerfully ignore.
    es tut mir echt leid aber ich hab die eng sprache schon vergessen :(
    a5ee 3la had al mwdoo3 btistahal al 1 place ;) …
    bal twfee2 7beebi wnshalla btisal lale bddak yaa wbtit3alam wen biddak ;)

  17. Jamal Assadi Says:

    I am proud of you. I am moved by your intellect reflected by the points you raised, the controvery you stir and the level of your composition.
    Good luck

  18. Bettina Suleiman Says:

    This essay hits the nail on the head. Although I am not an Arab woman either, I have experienced that Arab women here in Israel are indeed expected to look, sound, and act in a specific, even uniform way to fit the traditions of their community – if they want to get married, that is. I see this as something that harms not only Arab women but also Arab men, especially the younger ones. On the one hand, many young men are intellectually attracted to women who speak their minds, are not afraid to show their character and individualism and to live according to their talents and desires. On the other hand, their families expect them to marry “a good girl” who will make him bored and miserable for the rest of his life. It is a shame that too many men are giving in to this family pressure, and it shows how oppressed the Arab youth in Israel is – men and women. My compliments to the brave young men who swim against the current.

    Nosayr, I know you as a bright and committed volunteer for our organization who not only writes about women’s rights but also helps to advance them in many other ways. We at Kayan are very proud of you!

    Bettina Suleiman
    Kayan – Feminist Organization

  19. Lina Says:

    I guess this essay is a very comprehnsive one, that represents all sides of the subject “Women Rights” and “Equality between men and women”.
    You must be so conversant in the issue that you had written about it.

  20. Lina Says:

    I have to agree with Bettina on this issue. Women do have to act as perfect human beings and the issues raised well represent the reality.It is sad to see the men of today being forced to pick the “seemingly right girl” while the perfect girl in his eyes is out of his reach. I am so glad this issue has been brought up here.

    This is essay is one of the few that I have read that details specific things that happen in reality here in Israel.

    Well done!

  21. Shlomo Says:

    Nice essay Nosy:D Good Luck bro

  22. Megan Says:

    I think this is an insightful look into conservative Arab culture in Israel, and think it’s even more powerful because it’s by someone from that culture. Great work, Nosayr! You’re definitely an asset to Kayan, and to their work to advance Arab women in Israel.

  23. Rose Says:

    Great essay that captures the status of Arab-Israeli women very well. I am glad this one is in the finalists. The issues raised on the comment section are very insightful as well, I believe. I am glad to see the voice of Arab-Israeli women reaching the world through this essay, they really are in a predicament and they need to change traditions as soon as possible.

    Good job Nosayr.

  24. Nuseir Yassin Says:

    Thanks for featuring my essay. Actually, I have to agree with Bettina on her comment. The women of today have to chose between two possibilities: to be obedient, yet morally and socially acceptable, or to be open to the world when it comes to her opinion and her views on particular matters in this world. Either cases, the women will definitely be the losing part in this predicament. If she speaks out, then she is not fit to be married and if she holds her silence then she is suppressed in many ways. I hope this matter reached a wider audience.

  25. Avy Says:

    this analysis is spot on. traditions are known to affect women more than they affect men and that I think is a universal issue. Nosayr’s essay has shown how women can suffer from both their community and their own traditions that they grew up with. I think rigid traditions lead to poverty as well as any other negative aspect you may think of.As mentioned, this problem will push on to the offspring of those women and soon will become more prevalent. Women, even in the USA, are still being driven by traditions that are well depicted basically everywhere: movies, ads..etc. the superiority of men is still apparent even when it comes to traditions. to have this essay come from a man instead of a woman is a special thing indeed. Few men even consider writing about women nowadays. Applause to you nosayr

  26. Jack Says:

    Excellent essay, well written and thought provoking. For suggestions, I think you might want to look at Arab tribalism, which is (I think) the issue you’re striking at. Some of your essay is just attacking the concept of patriarchy in broad strokes, which isn’t solely specific to Israeli-Arab women, which is your theme. Also, I’m somewhat curious, what the direct effect of the nominally secular Israeli government has had on Arab women as opposed to the clearly negative effects on women of the overly religiously motivated Arab governments in the Middle East. Nominally speaking, in Israel women and “citizen-Arabs” have equal rights with the Men and Jews. I’m curious about the reality.

  27. Ameer Sh Says:

    Excellent essay good luck nosyer

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