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The Tribe of Dina

On December 28th the New York Times released an article detailing accounts of sexual violence used on the October 7th massacre in Israel. On my social media the article circled with the disclaimer: Jewish women, this is not for you. We, the Jewish women, did not need the details to believe the accounts of sexual violence on October 7th. Many others did, including U.N. Women, which waited eight weeks before acknowledging what the Jewish women of the world already knew. Still, people did not believe the accounts, waiting to know every gruesome detail before they could fathom what could have taken place, and some still questioned it after that. Yet, I fear that we could be creating “Dinas” as we try to prove to the world that Jewish women should be believed. 

The Torah describes Dina as the only daughter of Jacob, who had 12 sons. His sons would go on to found the 12 tribes of Israel, which many Jews see themselves as the descendants of even after thousands of years. They are allotted well known stories that have even made their way into secular culture, the most well known being Joseph, of multicolored coat fame. The crests of the Tribes adorn synagogues and their names are put to tunes for children to memorize. Dina, though, gets only one story, the story of her rape and her brothers’ revenge on her behalf. After this brief, awful anecdote she disappears from the text. Author Anita Diamont tries to remedy this in her book “The Red Tent,” which provides details that are absent in the Torah about the life of Dina, allowing her more than just the story of her violation. 

We cannot make more Dinas as we advocate for the acknowledgment of sexual violence on October 7th. The women who are being written about, whose violated bodies are being circulated on social media without their names or consent, have stories. Jewish women should not only be a part of the narrative when we are victims. There is more to know of these women that honors their humanity. 

November 14th thousands of people gathered in DC to rally in support of Israel. Prior to the march many people gathered at the White House to daven shacharit, Jewish morning prayers. The awe-inspiring photo that circulated was of the lifting of the Torah during Hagbah, the presentation of the portion of Torah that had been read that morning, in a sea of observant men. Where were the women? Rabbanit Leah Sarna later posted that women were present at shacharit but their attendance was largely undocumented by the cameras. These women who showed up to pray for the women who were killed, violated, and injured were left out of the news cycle. We preach believing women and documenting the crimes against our bodies, but cannot seem to document our participation in Jewish life and in protests against violence against us while we are alive. 

To further demonstrate the invisibility of Jewish women, there are signs reading “believe Jewish women” popping up in Israel and the United States. Yet, female surveillance soldiers warned Israeli officials about suspicious activity on the Israel-Gaza border and were not believed. Their warnings were not heeded, which played a factor in the lack of preparedness of Israeli troops on the Gaza border when October 7th took place. Not only were Jewish women not believed and heard after October 7th but also in the days leading up to that awful day. 

We are at risk of creating more Dinas in the wake of the massacre in the form of women whose stories are told only of their violation. We cannot solely talk about Jewish women when our bodies are used as a tactic of war. We cannot only believe women after rape. We need to tell these women’s stories that exist outside their violation. We need to include Jewish women in all of our documentation of October 7th and the events after, including both the accounts of rape and Jewish women’s resistance, the use of our voices and prayers in advocacy for the Jewish people. We need to believe women when they report suspicious activity. Women deserve to be documented and believed as full people. It should not be up to the future Anita Diaments to write Jewish women into the story. Am Yisrael includes all Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live, not just the men.

About the Author
Alana is currently a second year student at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs where she studies Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic. She is currently an Israel Policy Forum Atid Fellow. In addition to IPF Atid, Alana is a co-President of the GW Jewish Student Association.
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