Rela Mazali – Israel

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “This struggle, for me, has branched into almost every part of my life. It has fed and formed both my creative work as a writer and my work as a peace activist, which are in turn interconnected.”

Rela Mazali – Israel

She works for the New Profile Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society (NPMfCIS)

Linked to our presentation of Raising boys to maintain armies on January 4, 2006.

Rela Mazali, an Israeli writer and feminist activist, is one of the founders of New Profile, an activist group that promotes peace among young Israelis. An outspoken critic of Israeli militarism, Rela has worked for many years to end torture and other human rights violations by Israeli authorities. Since 1980 she has been working at national and international levels on antimilitarism and feminism, especially with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Her strong emphasis on the role of women working towards a demilitarized society is an inspiration to all who work with her.

Rela Mazali writes: In 12th century England, points out Rela Mazali, a serf wasn’t free until his master escorted him to a crossroad and showed him that, for the first time in his life, he could make his own decision on which way to go.

The serf’s wife, of course, was not privy to the decision-making process. She had to mind the house.

“The concept of freedom is very androcentric and deeply gendered in Western culture, and women are excluded from its roots, its imagery,” said Mazali, an Israeli author, educator and activist. “That has a lot of influence in how we play out our lives. That is why I looked at women who lived differently.”

In “Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings,” an oft-surreal hybrid of journalism and fiction, Mazali writes of a gathering at the ethereal “talking house” of a handful of screamingly non-traditional and highly mobile women. They include a nomadic veterinary surgeon, a psychologist who traveled to the mountains of Guatemala to engage in covert human rights work, and a photographer of pilgrimages who followed her subject matter around the globe, to name a few.

“These woman who travel extensively, usually on their own, are quite exceptional within standard Western culture,” said Mazali, a resident of Herzliya whose own travels will bring her to the Bay Area for several book-signings and speeches in the coming week. “I look at their travel and life stories, what drove them, what they achieved, what price they paid.”

Women are systematically instructed to live sedentary lives in subtle — and not-so-subtle — ways, according to Mazali, who co-founded “New Profile,” a feminist organization working to reduce the military’s influence in Israeli society.

As children in Israel, she points out, boys dominate the school soccer fields and basketball courts, while girls are forced to play in the margins. And, while “boys will be boys,” girls are constantly warned not to dirty their clothes or “get their skirts hiked up too high.”

Mazali cites a sociological study undertaken in a small American town, in which researchers found that young girls were consistently allowed to wander only half as far from home as young boys, with the discrepancy growing even larger after children reached the sixth grade.

“Also, there’s the element of having girls near the home to help out,” said Mazali, who lived for seven years in the American Midwest as a young child. (She still pronounces Missouri as ‘Missourah.’)

“Traditionally, the house was one of the most confining elements in women’s lives, and, to a large extent, still is.”

It was certainly a factor for Mazali. The mother of three admits that writing an article about globetrotting women was a method of dealing with her own, largely unfulfilled “wander wish.”

“Today, I have a very complex view of what I’m doing when I travel. A lot of the places where people travel and tour today are, to a large extent, places where colonial armies made their mark two or three or even only one generation ago,” she said.

“Today, the Western world rules the rest of the world through economy rather than through military means, and tourism is a part of that. Very often exotic places where people can come and enjoy and leave are populated by indigenous people who do not have that kind of freedom.”

Still, as her youngest child is now 15, Mazali may soon be able to fulfill her wander wish, despite reservations.

“When I travel across borders, for instance, when I went into Gaza for human rights work, even though it was human rights work I was doing, I could see traces of conquest in it,” she said. “That complexity is something I am not able to ignore. That’s not to say I won’t travel because of it, it just makes me more humble about traveling.” (Read on

Book – Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings: This book writes itself off the guide map of familiar literary forms and melts down conceptual barriers, offering a new kind of reading and thinking experience as it tells the life and travel stories of fascinating women and examines women’s physical mobility in a culture of gendered, postcolonial space that restricts their movement. Straddling the divide between fiction and scholarship, it combines fictional narrative, contemplation, theoretical thinking, scholarly discussion, and interviews. The book examines and crosses boundaries on various ontological levels—between genders, languages, historical epochs, and literary genres—as it questions reality, identity, knowledge, culture, truth, and mind.

While openly confronting the author’s location in Israel, the book looks at women’s ability to take themselves from place to place, viewing space and spatial freedom as deeply gendered in modern Western cultures. From this perspective, “home” is imagined as a protective holding space for one gender, and girls are systematically deskilled for spatial competence. The author tells of women whose lives embody a powerful project of travel, realizing exceptional degrees of independence, and also tells of women who refrain from driving, a major contemporary tool of autonomous movement.

The book imagines a movement-nurturing space that subverts the confining construct of home. From this nonexistent yet tangibly welcoming home space, the “glass corridors” of home—analogous to the “glass ceiling” of professional life—can be brought into full view and denaturalized. This cannot be accomplished, however, without a compelling, painful look at the patriarchal, colonial, and militarized structures underpinning all Western travel, women’s emancipatory journeys included—a look influenced by the still-colonial structure of the author’s Israeli placement. (Read on Stanford Univ. Press).

Another Book – Mazali, Rela 1948- “And What About the Girls? What a Culture of War Genders Out of View”, Nashim – A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues – Number 6, Fall 5764/2003, pp. 39-50, Indiana University Press. Excerpt: Certain ideas, concerns, interests, information, feelings, and meanings are marked in national security discourse as feminine, and are devalued. They are therefore, first, very difficult to speak. … And second, they are very difficult to hear, to take in and work with seriously, even if they are said. … What gets left out degrades our ability to think well and fully. (Read more on Project MUSE).


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