Israel: Women and Their Bodies
In 2011, Women and Their Bodies, a group of Israeli Jewish and Arab-Palestinian women, completed their adaptations of Our Bodies, Ourselves into Hebrew and Arabic.
The Hebrew edition, Nashim LeGufan, is available in print and online. Three additional chapters, that were not included in the book, are available here.
The group's stated intention was to "create a clear readable book, each woman's bible; a book that can be found at each home and library, which contains answers to the questions which we are afraid to ask out loud, or to which we do not know where to find the answers."
Both resources offer medical and alternative approaches to women's health. They encourage women and girls to experience their bodies in positive ways and use contemporary language to express their needs. The Arabic, in particular, is the first of its kind in Israel and unique in the wider Arabic-speaking world, boldly addressing issues often taboo and silenced in Arab society.
How? Here are some great examples.
Cultural vocabulary and constructions of "older women" in Hebrew and Arabic are quite negative. In Hebrew, commonly used terms translate as the "age of wilting or loss" and in Arabic as "the years of despair". Our partner is changing the norm with terms that honor growth and midlife - "Emza Ha'hayim" in Hebrew and "San' al Aman" in Arabic, which loosely translate as "the years of security or safety".
At workshops for Muslim, Christian Arabs, Bedouin Arabs and Jews, our partner has distributed 2,000 handouts based on their adapted materials and received enthusiastic feedback. Participants, according to facilitators, have walked away with a new and heightened awareness about their physical and emotional well being, claiming:
"… each session was a celebration – enriching, strengthening, opinion changing."
"Since the workshop, I have been busy planning my future and my health in a new and different way."
"Suddenly, I feel like it is ok to tell the doctor the things I want to say."
"…we learned the importance of traditional Palestinian food and plants such as olives and za'atar.”
Developing content for the Arabic resource has been a particular challenge. Hebrew is the language of choice in Israel - even among native Arabic speakers. As a result, our partner has had to first translate and adapt content from Our Bodies, Ourselves into Hebrew and then translate and adapt the Hebrew content into Arabic. This painstaking process was slower than expected as few people can work in both languages. Progress was also been frustrated by a publishing industry reluctant to publish in Arabic, citing low profit margins as a reason.
Women and Their Bodies, founded in 2005, is a unique peace building initiative between Israeli and Palestinian women. The organization has over 300 volunteers from the entire spectrum of Israeli society: religious and secular, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. They come from different professions and include physicians, psychologists, gynecologists, midwives, sexologists, gender and social studies researchers; some are health professionals in key positions within the medical establishment and veteran feminist activists with experience in lobbying.
The organization promotes change in the attitudes of Jewish and Palestinian women by providing empowering scientific information on health and sexuality to women of all ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic levels. They also conduct community workshops, organize regular trainings for workshop facilitators across the country, and advocate for women's health rights with policy-makers. For example, they are the only organization to write chapters on women's health for the Israel Women’s Network Data Book, which tracks the status of Israeli women and girls every 2 years.
More on this courageous collaboration can be found in a 10.18.11 article from The Forward. You can also find out more in our 9.7.11 blog entry and in our spring 2009 newsletter, as well as from these articles in Israel Non Profit News and Haaretz.
The project coordinator is one of two young people (out of 300) to win the 2007 Social Entrepreneur Fellowship competition, a joint initiative of the Israel Venture Network and the New Israel Fund to promote young leadership in Israel. Read the press release.
Looking for a Copy?
The Women and Their Bodies website features extensive excerpts from Nashim LeGufan in Hebrew and English and excerpts from Al Mara wa Kayanaha in Arabic. Print copies of the Hebrew edition are available for $40.00 with a shipping fee of $20.00. Print copies of the Arabic edition are not yet available for sale outside of Israel. For information, please contact Women and Their Bodies.
If you would like more information about this project and explore ways you might get involved, please contact the OBOS Global Initiative staff.
For more information on Women and Their Bodies:
Contact Person: Dana Weinberg / Tal Weintraub
Address: 34 Kfar Etzion St. Jerusalem