Published on Facebook, April 4th 2018
My friend Fatma, a 20-year-old from Baqa Al-Gharbiyye who wears a hijab, is a student of interdisciplinary art at Shenkar college near Tel Aviv. Today, she took bus no. 1 in Tel Aviv to take care of some errands. At some point, the bus stopped for ten minutes due to construction work in the street. There was a lone suitcase on the bus with nobody standing next to it. An older man started asking who’s bag it was but no one answered. Suddenly all eyes were turning towards Fatma!
That’s how the story began. Gradually they started to harass her and demanded to know if the suitcase was hers! And whether it was a bomb! Someone called her a terrorist! Fatma was in shock! She didn’t know how to handle the situation! No one came to claim the suitcase, to confirm it wasn’t Fatma’s, and things on the bus got more difficult and dangerous! Passengers suspected her and called her a terrorist! A soldier who was riding the bus came over and pointed his gun at Fatma’s face! A 20-year-old art student!
Pointing guns in civilians’ faces has become so normalized! And on a bus, in a public space!
And accusing a normal girl of being a terrorist is also normalized! Just because of her hijab! Hate and racism have become normalized!
There were 10 minutes of hell that Fatma had to go through just because she’s an Arab, all of which only ended when a young Ethiopian woman came up from the other end of the bus and said that the suitcase was hers!
I don’t want to respond or state my opinion of this story that Fatma told me over the phone! She was shocked! She didn’t cry or shout! She just told me the story in an extremely calm tone, not yet having processed what she had been through, rightly! It is impossible to take in that we, citizens of the state, in 2018, in “liberal and democratic” Tel Aviv still have to deal with this type of hate and racism, and encounter stories like this every day of our lives, just because we are Arabs!