'Arabs sexually harass me every time I go outside'

Jenny from Upper Nazareth: 'I can't leave the house without a car honking, without catcalls, without being offered a ride in a car.' #Metoo

Jenny Raz,

Jenny Raz
Jenny Raz
Jenny Raz

I immigrated to Israel in 2000, and since then I've grown up and was educated in Natzrat Illit (Upper Nazareth). A wonderful city by all accounts; the capital of the Galilee - with one problem that has become a daily reality for every woman who lives in this city: Sexual harassment.

The term sexual harassment sounds very bombastic and aggravated by the ease with which this term is bandied about and what it has become in our public consciousness.

'He harassed me' became a formula amounting to no more than a cry for attention, but not in this case.

But when everyday situations such as walking to or from work, catching a bus to the mall, boarding a taxi, throwing garbage in the dumpster outside - become unpleasant, unbearable, or even impossible, one can appreciate that there is a problem.

And from this moment on I will stop talking in generalities and speak about myself.

So I am Jenny, 21, now from Ramat Gan, but until two months ago I was living in Nazareth Illit. I experienced harassment on a daily basis by minorities (a euphemism for Arabs, ed.) in my hometown.

Harassment - for the sake of clarity and focus - is when a person I don't know does things that are unpleasant to me, pesters me, makes me uncomfortable, and causes me distress.

How do I know that the harassers (and with your permission I call them "harassers", because they fit the most basic dictionary definition, and so, in fact, one may call them that) are members of minorities? When you grow up in a mixed environment, in a town surrounded by Arab villages; when you work with this population (whom, incidentally, I greatly respect), you simply learn to identify them.

There is no politically correct answer. You recognize the vehicles, you recognize the accent, you recognize the language. You learn to identify the expressions, the faces, the pattern of behavior. You just know. Not because you're a racist, not because you assume, not because you're guessing, not because you estimate. You just know.

Among the many ways to harass a person, harassment in his public and secure space is perhaps the most serious, at least to me, because it disrupts the most basic thing a person needs in his or her living environment - that is security. I can't leave the house without being honked at, without being catcalled, without being invited to get into a car.

In the more unusual cases (which unfortunately are not unusual in Nazareth Illit), these harassers aren't embarrassed in the slightest to stop next to me or in front of me down the road, and suggest that I get in the car. I mean, with no hesitation whatsoever. And I ask - why?

Why, regardless of my attire (for the sake of disclosure - it's not provocative, just because it is not my style, but even if it was, there's no justification), regardless of my appearance, regardless of what I'm broadcasting (I don't know ... What am I broadcasting? When I was twenty years-old with jeans and a T-shirt did I somehow broadcast that I wanted to go on a ride with a stranger?).

Importantly, I write this not because I was raped. Not because they physically assaulted me. I write this because these seemingly minor incidents of harassment, on the scale of how massive harassment can be, happen constantly.

It's this harassment that has caused me and my friends to exercise discretion - will we take a bus or walk? Because if we walk, we'll be honked at all the way, and it's not so pleasant and maybe we do not want to deal with it right now because we're just going to have coffee somewhere. Because I would never leave the house alone or go back to the house alone without being escorted to the building. Because I'll never walk around without carrying pepper spray.

And the simplest reason we need to think about this is: Why is it so easy to harass me in the streets of my own town? Why is this so self-evident? And why is it that when I state reality as it truly is - and it only takes a minute of walking for every girl to understand that what I'm saying is true - they say I'm a racist.

I've worked with minorities, I have Arab female friends; I have acquaintances and colleagues from the sector. The issue here is not racism. The thing here is awareness: Public awareness, awareness on the part of the sector's educational institutions, and our awareness as a people. Something's going on here. Somebody's treating us like garbage. Somebody's treating me like garbage.

I am Jenny, I experienced harassment every day in Upper Nazareth, on the part of minorities. Day or night. When I was alone or when I was with my mother, or when I was with friends. And I'm not apologizing for talking about it. #metoo

Translated by Mordechai Sones




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