Wadi Ara is a valley in the Haifa district of Northern Israel mainly populated by Arab citizens who have experienced discrimination and marginalisation for decades. Their daily reality is shaped by the on-going conflict between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They face threats of eviction, political tension and economic exclusion.
In this context, women feel more vulnerable. As a minority within a minority, their personal and economic security are at risk. Arab women in Israel have reported feeling humiliated and frightened by dealing with state institutions. Some will not seek services to which they are entitled in order to avoid such situations.
Al-Bir, which means “The Well” in Arabic, seeks to promote critical and creative voices that will provoke dialogue through art workshops, poetry readings, film screenings and other cultural events, in order to raise awareness and enhance solidarity among communities.
The organisation offers parenting courses for mothers and workshops for girls to discuss themes such as identity and sexuality. Al-Bir also works with volunteers in the Wadi Ara area to train local students in leadership skills.
Al Bir’s community centre has established a Girls’ Council made up of nine girls aged 12 to 18 who are dedicated to identifying the needs of their peers in the community. Guided by five female adults, the Girls’ Council members help plan and monitor the organisation’s programming. Their input on design, implementation and evaluation give a unique perspective on the requirements of girls in their age group.
Al-Bir has offered a much-needed reprieve from the daily tensions to the women and girls of Wadi Ara. Its board is made up of seven women who meet regularly to oversee organisational matters and review the centre’s direction and sustainability. So far, Al-Bir has directly benefited 2,600 people, half of whom are female.
Photos: Shana Rappel