THE EFFECTS OF 2014 WAR ON WOMEN’S SENSE OF SECURITY IN ISRAEL
WSI surveys are conducted each year since 2012. The questionnaire explores women’s both women’s experiences and their anxieties regarding issues such as domestic violence, financial insecurity, sexual violence, loss of home, war, bombing and terror attacks, etc.
WSI’s last survey was conducted immediately after the last war against Gaza, and addressed the sense of security and stress level of women in different areas of their lives. Hundreds of Jewish and Palestinian women living in different areas of Israel were interviewed. In addition to the basic questions that we asked each year, we asked women whether they feel fear of verbal or physical attack due to their ethnic origins, that is them being Jewish and Palestinians.
How the proximity to the areas under heavy rocket fire affects women.
The results of Women Security Index show that first of all, the stress due to the war is very high for all women. Predictably, the stress was more intense for those living in the area under heavy rocket fire. We also discovered that Jewish women living in the areas under heavy rocket fire experienced more fear and stress not only in the context of fear for their lives or the well-being of their family. They were also much more fearful regarding their economic situation and were more afraid to lose their homes than women living in the areas where the rocket fire is not constant.
Lilach, resident of Israel Southern region, works in the Gaza Envelope area:
I continues working, feeling as if I was in a casino, not knowing if there will be a siren when I’m there, or not. One day I was at the Sapir College in Sderot, and the siren started. I got into the car and drove away, ran away, I felt that I had to get as far as I could from the war.
There is an important gender angle here as well – among Jewish women living in the relatively more quiet areas 20% were afraid of domestic violence in there families during the war. Whle for women living in the heavy rocket fire areas this number raises to 40% , that is, twice as much! These numbers confirm the reports of the domestic violence hot lines that there was a sharp raise in the number women turning to them for help during the war period.
The experience of the Palestinian women living in Israel during the war.
Palestinian women living in Israel experienced lack of security and fear during the war much more than did Jewish women. 50% of Jewish women reported that they experience constant pressure and fear of war, while for Palestinian women the number raises to 80%!
I felt very helpless during the attack on Gaza. It was not against the Gazans – every Arab in this place was attacked. I was afraid to speak Arabic, I was afraid to wear national attributes, anything that would show that I’m Arab. I hardly used public transportation. I said nothing when I heard right Jewish racists make all kinds of generalizations on the street, I didn’t raise my voice against the left wing’s hypocrisy either.
But then, when I saw women and children die in Gaza like flies, I was angry. The fear gradually disappeared and turned into anger, violent anger. I asked myself, why don’t they die? Why do we die? Why is the world silent?
Suddenly my own personal security became unimportant. What’s the worst that could happen to me? I’d get beaten up? Arrested? Investigated? But the real danger is there, in Gaza, where words like “security” and “safety” are irrelevant, where a word like “survival” may be more suitable
60% of Palestinian women reported being afraid of verbal attacks against them in the public space just because they are Palestinians. 70% of them were afraid of physical attacks against them just because they are Palestinians. For comparison, Jewish women fear of being attacked due to them being Jewish came to 17%.
You try to scare me. Make me shrink. Further.
Make me walk the streets of my city
Trying to take up less space.
For two whole weeks that I’ve been avoiding public transportation. And when I had to take the train, and wanted to take my laptop out to work, I remembered it had stickers in Arabic on it, saying: “my right to live, to chose, to be.”
So the laptop remained in my backpack. Along with my language.
When my friend called during that same train ride, I mumbled quietly, “aha, hmmm, yeah, ok, bye.”
For two whole weeks, they have succeeded in crushing me, in erasing my language, silencing my very voice, even my smile. The feeling was one of complete paralysis.
But today I rise, and I smile. Because erasing my smile would mean they have succeeded in their mission of crushing me. And today I raise my voice and say: with all the devastation around us, with over 1,400 dead women, girls, boys, and men in Gaza, with the all permeating sense of helplessness, and the crushing sense of hopelessness, we will not give you the satisfaction of yielding. We will not be crushed. Our smiles will not be erased, no matter how hard you try!
The experience of mothers during the war.
One of the central parts of tension and anxiety during the war for women is concern for women’s near and dear. The absolute majority of women worry about their life partners, children and parents. But then we compared between women living with children under 18 with women that do not live with their underage children.
We found out that striking 55% of women that have children experience extremely high levels of worry for their loved ones, while for women that don’t have children the number is 18 percent.
“I worry for my husband and mother, of course, but the fear for my children is just so incomparably more intense. I am sure it’s like that for all mothers”
An additional number that is very revealing is related to the fear of losing one’s life. The percentage of women for whom this worry is high or extremely high among those who live without children is 20%, while for those who live with children is 38, almost twice as much. That is the danger of losing her life in mother’s life evokes not only fear for herself, but worry about the devastating effect it will most probably have on her children.
Some women felt that they need to remain strong in order to make the experience less traumatic for her children.
H,. resident of Israel‘s Central region, mother of a one-year old baby:
I set our entire daily schedule according to the sirens’ order. The challenge was to be dressed and ready before 6 a.m, before the morning siren. For the sake of my daughter, I tried making going down to the shelter and meeting the neighbors into a party, so she wouldn’t be afraid.
In addition to the immediate danger, mothers found themselves worried for the future of their children, feeling hopeless about the possibility of ending the cycle of violence.
My son asked me: “Does it mean that when I grow up I will need to die or to kill?” It was a horrible moment for me, I thought to myself “It can’t go on like this, this endless violence needs to stop!”.
Women advocating for peace and justice
A substantial number of women found themselves even more determined to bring about a just and peaceful solution, being affected by this war even more than the previous ones. For example Irena (quoted in the previous paragraph) became active in the “Women wage peace movement” and her center-right political views notwithstanding became a strong advocate for peace agreement.
Khulud, a Palestinian feminist activist and writer described her resolve to continue her struggle for justice in the following words:
No matter how hard you try to erase my language, silence my voice, I raise my voice for justice. And I refuse to lose hope, and I refuse to give up on my smile.