The third in our series of participant reflections…
Reflecting on all of the memorable days in the Middle East, one that stands out for me is “Womens Day”, that we celebrated with a group of Palestinian Women at the Vision Arts Center in Betheny. We sat in a large circle, neither of us speaking each other’s language. I wondered how this day would go!
To better understand what it was like to be a woman in the others culture, our “Master of Ceremonies,” asked if women from both sides, would talk about what it was like to be a woman in their culture. Women who lived in Palestine spoke of the fear, the oppression, the danger, the fact that the had little say in their marriages. They also spoke of their gratitude to us, and their hope for the future.
When the American women were asked to talk about our lives, it was not really a narrative I wanted to follow…but I did. I told them that we are women and we are all the same. We all seek to be great mothers and to be seen as equals. A few days before I had journeyed to Israel and Palestine, I lost my long term job. It was not a surprise, as my company had just been acquired. My children were ecstatic. I told them that my 8 year old daughters exact words were, “now you can be a real mom.” This is in a culture where these women would love the opportunity to go to work.
I also spoke of working in a male dominated industry where much of the time men think they know more than me. One of the women in the group responded with a little giggle and said, “even in America where you are free, men think they know more.” The point of my share, is that we are the same. I am them, and they are me. At one point during our sharing one woman said, that she thought we in America have so much that we cannot appreciate what we have. I would say it’s bigger than that. We don’t appreciate what we have, our families, or each other.
Upon my U.S. return, it was time for the “job hunt”. I right away started to look into the non- profit job sector. I had no experience in this, but I came from Sales Management, so thought this must integrate into fundraising somehow? Within a few weeks I became fairly discouraged, mainly because the jobs I was qualified for were very entry level, and really would not work for my family financially. The ones that would work, I appeared to be in no way qualified for. So I looked on Craigslist, and there was a job in my industry, right down the street from my house.
I sent my email online. I was hired, and started within 72 hours. The lady that I interviewed with who was the General Manager asked me at the time she hired me what the most important thing to me was. I told her, “happiness.” I didn’t ask about the pay. It all actually went way too quick for me. You would think I would be happy? My husband went and bought me new c!lothes, he was over the moon excited.
I worked there 2 weeks. Something in me has shifted. The General Manager was abusive. She called her employees “idiots”. She introduces one of her key managers as “Forrest Gump” instead of by his given name. I was told by other employees that if she confronts me the only answers are “yes” or “no”. Most of the employees have been there 5-15 years. The General Manager has been there 20. That is how long the people have put up with this.
We have so much in this world we are afraid. We are afraid to look outside our boundaries, our country, our profession. After the day she told me to “get over it, it’s not rocket science”, I decided to contend for myself and others, which of course would get me fired. I asked my boss to respect me and others. I let her know that I would like to be treated respectfully, and that calling people idiots and referring to them as handicapped people was not okay. She let me know that it wasn’t going to work out.
After I left, I called the man she called Forrest. I let him know he was one of the most talented men I had ever worked with, and that he could run the business. Also that it was not ok to be called that name. He said he had asked her years before to stop, but she hadn’t. I told him life is too short, and that he should be somewhere where he could be happy. I made the money in two weeks there to pay my mortgage for two months. So that means two more months to enjoy my life, my kids, and hopefully find a fulfilling job.
The next job I have that takes me away from my family I hope will better the lives of someone else. The money does not matter. We simply need enough to eat, have shelter and clothing. Do you know what I noticed? In every home we went into in the West Bank no one apologized for their home. We here in the U.S. always apologize for the condition of our houses. Its too small, its so dirty, its always something. Everyone always has to have more, and apologize for what we don’t have.
I want to say enough. This money is enough. God will provide enough. Yes, Disneyland vacations may be out. I just ordered a tent. We will go camping instead, even if it is just in the backyard. Because family and love are enough. And that, I learned in Palestine.
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