Jisr az-Zarqa is an Arab village on Israel’s northern coastal plain. I first encountered the warmth of its water, sun and people during a hiking trip last Spring. I let my sweaty bag fall off my back at Juha’s Guesthouse, fell in love with the village vibes, and kept going back to volunteer.
While Jisr az-Zarqa is progressing in many respects, it is still widely known for poverty and crime. But it stands to reason that in a village facing serious challenges, women step up to the plate. In the week leading up to International Women’s Day, Rana Jarban and Genevieve Begue demonstrated the sort of leadership that transforms a community.
On March 4th, Rana was featured as the first female lawyer from Jisr az-Zarqa. After overcoming numerous obstacles, she proved all the disbelievers wrong by graduating law school, passing the bar, and opening a legal office in her hometown. Today, Rana handles civil cases for residents, and delivers lectures on workers’ rights.
Then on March 7th, Genevieve Begue shared her life story with employees of the advertising company, Taboola. Originally form Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, Genevieve moved to Israel and today lives on Bein Hanania. She broke her family’s cycle of violence and devotes her time to empowering women so that they can establish cycles of support.
When Genevieve first came to Jisr az-Zarqa, she was helping kids construct makeshift benches out of discarded wood. Fast forward five years, and Genevieve is running workshops left and right. She organizes a women’s group on business development, runs an extracurricular leadership program for teens, and leads craft sessions in a newly finished art gallery.
With women like these, Jisr az-Zarqa can thrive like never before.