Meet Shahd Masarwa, a 17-year-old Israeli Muslim girl from Kiryat Ono who is passionate about Israeli advocacy.
Shahad grew up in Taybe. She moved to Kiryat Ono when she was 12 years old. “My mom signed me up to a democratic school because she wanted a pluralist school with a diverse community” Shahd says,” My school treated me with lots of respect and I felt good”.
What was the trigger that made you start advocating for Israel online?
“When I was 12 years old I read a comment on an Instagram post that says ‘all Arabs are animals’ and I got scared and started to cry”
The post was the beginning of Shahad’s story. ” although I was 12 years old, I knew this comment was about the Israeli-Arab conflict, it made me want to explore and learn more”.
Learning the conflict wasn’t just educating but also a tool that helped Shahd build her identity.
“as time went by, I witnessed lots of comments from both sides (Israeli and Arab) and started to have conversations to change people’s perspectives. I got underestimated for my English”
Getting underestimated and disrespected wasn’t a threat to Shahd, it was a sign that she was doing the right thing.
The person who motivates Shahad
The more busy Shahd becomes with advocating for Israel, the lonelier she feels, not because advocating for Israel is hard but because she feels like she is the only Israeli arab who is passionate about representing Israel. “My mom calmed me down and told me there are more Arabs who think like me, and that was the point I met Yoseph Hadad who supports me in my way”
Shahd also participated in “Tevel” program, a program run by the famous pro-Israel organisation “Stand with Us”. The program educates youth on diplomacy and leadership.
Shahd aspires to protect Israel outside of the screen
“I grew up in Kiryat ono most of my childhood and got excited when I saw soldiers in uniforms, I dreamed of being like them, my first costume was of a policewoman because it was my dream to protect Israel”
Shahd is now in the process of drafting the IDF. She dreams of service in the Israeli border police.
You get a lot of hate, What makes you continue your work?
“The trigger was to find out what my identity is in the first place. I learned there are lots of definitions of being an Israeli. I hate lies, I don’t want people to lie about what I experience as an Israeli arab who lives mostly with Jews and knows the truth”
What about your family, do they support you?
“My close family is aware of what I’m doing, My mom supports me. I’m not in touch with my dad, so I have no idea about what they have to say about my activism”
The recent war in Israel caused tension in the arab society in Israel “When the war broke out I increased my activism” Shahad says “It caused arguments in my family. However, it didn’t make me stop”
For Shahd it can be difficult to continue her activities “I don’t have a way to defend myself, but I told my mom that it isn’t going to stop me from telling the truth”
Do you think there are more Arabs your age who love Israel and want to defend it?
“It depends on where they grew up. When I moved to Kiryat Ono I lost many of my friends, they automatically believed the things they were being told”
Many of the arab youth are inspired by the environment they live in “They (arab youth) don’t understand they can’t live without Israel”
Do you think arab youth choosing the opposite side can impact Israel’s image?
” yes, when I tell people I’m an Israeli arab who lives with Jews it makes them look at me differently”. However, Shahad is a minority who thinks her way in comparison to the rest of the Arabs her age.” if more Arabs speak up, it will have an impact. ”
What is the message you have to say to the Arabs who think like you but are afraid?
“I know how difficult it is to get criticised all the time, but you speak the truth and speaking the truth will make people support you”