Sometimes, it is difficult for a woman to maintain a very gentle balance between power and weakness; and those who fail to keep that thin balance suffer from the sense of isolation. Their community ceases to support or protect them. Sa’ar (2001) states that “Your husband loves you when you are rich; your parents love you when you are strong” (p.723). This fact of life is very sad but indisputable. In her article, “Lonely in Your Firm Grip: Women in Israeli-Palestinian Families ” Amalia Sa’ar raises many essential social and moral topics, such as the place of women in Israeli-Palestinian families, their loneliness and lack of support, violence against women, as well as failed familial fidelity. The author also writes about behavior according to gender roles. People behave as “women” or “men” because society teaches them to act in a particular way. Patriarchy operates as gender power, as the dictatorial system that imposes a narrow behavioral framework and applies repressive measures to those, whose psychological, physical, and intellectual experience does not correspond to the patriarchal dimension (Sa’ar, 2001, p. 729). Therefore, patriarchy is supported by social norms and conditions of public and private life. Patriarchal gender order ascribes certain roles to men and women. The author’s main argument is that Israeli-Palestinian women suffer from loneliness when they violate the standard code of gender behavior: if they are more strong or weak then it is required by society.
Sa’ar’s argument is based on evidence. Using four cases, in which women feel lonely due to the failed familial fidelity, the author shows the realities of women’s life in Israeli-Palestinian families. These true stories are shocking but demonstrative, as in the example of I’m. Being the only provider for her family, she was suffering from violence. Her generosity and altruism played a cruel joke with her. Providing selfless assistance to her relatives, husband, and brothers has caused physical and moral humiliation instead of gratitude or support. Undoubtedly, I’m a strong woman, who can tolerate all the abuse in her life. Moreover, here is the evidence of another author’s argument: society treats a strong woman positively or negatively depending on whether she is selfish or altruistic.
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While analyzing the state of being lonely, Amalia refers to Winnicott’s and Moustakas’s definitions of loneliness, who consider its positive aspect, which means emotional maturity and a source of creativity and self-acceptance. However, the state of real isolation from society and loneliness inside a family, which is described in Amalia’s article, has a negative connotation. Using Fromm-Reichmann’s description, the author wants to prove that real loneliness leads to mental destruction (Sa’ar, 2001, p. 723). Loneliness is the emptiness of the soul. This article also suggests the idea, who is to blame and how to solve the problem of Israeli-Palestinian women’s loneliness. It is difficult to say exactly, who is guilty: the society or women themselves. Unfortunately, it is generally accepted that public power is the prerogative of men. Many people who talk about equality believe that it should reflect the rights of both genders equally. However, it is not always the case. Furthermore, when it comes to men and women, everyone recognizes that there are indisputable differences between them, inherent from birth. Men and women inherently largely differ from each other.
While reading this article, some questions appear. Is loneliness a state, which a person experiences alone, in isolation from others, or this is a process of being, including in social life? Is isolation a process, in which people immerse themselves, or it occurs involuntarily, due to social or cultural conditions? What are the sources of loneliness? These questions are left unanswered as this research should go deep into the roots of every personality, her character, her family history, and the community, in which she lives. The text raises one more question. Four women, described in the article, differ in their character and family situation: In’am, Na’ila, and Dina are stronger, Nabiha is weaker. Nevertheless, what is common in those women’s loneliness? The author answers that their sense of isolation is a result of their failure in maintaining the balance between power and weakness. All these women feel lonely, as they have no support from their family, parents, from the whole society. When receiving any help from their relatives, the women have the feeling that they would wish for anything in return.
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The author’s argument about women’s discrimination and loneliness can be useful for further social, cultural, and moral discussions. This topic is extremely important for understanding women’s rights and obligations. Amalia reveals the truth not only to the lack of male solidarity to women in Israeli-Palestinian culture, but she also pays attention that this society “discourages female solidarity” (Sa’ar, 2001, p. 735). Not to mention husbands, fathers, or brothers, but neither mothers nor sisters want to help or protect their blood relatives who experience any kind of hardship. The author shows how the family as ideology differs from family as evidence. Some sources may paint images of the perfect Arab family, in which there are principles of mutual love, respect, understanding, sincerity, care, and support. However, the author proves once again that not theoretical speculation but real-life evidence is important. The reality is completely different: neglect, complete loneliness, and even various types of violence prevail in an Israeli-Palestinian family. Although a strong family ideal is alive in people’s minds, a living experience of how to create such a family has been lost.
The issue of female power has always been a concern to feminist scholars. Sa’ar’s article relates to her other work “Feminine Strength: Reflections on Power and Gender in Israeli-Palestinian Culture,” in which she provides ethnographic documentation of women who consider themselves strong. She speaks about feminine strength and masculine power (Sa’ar, 2006, p. 415). As in the analyzed article “Lonely in Your Firm Grip: Women in Israeli-Palestinian Families,” the author mentions the “separate worlds” paradigm, according to which the status of women should not be determined through comparison of men’s status, but through the gender-specific scale (Sa’ar, 2001, p. 735). She refers to such researchers as Davis-Shaefer, Holmes-Eber, Michael, and Nelson, who support this idea. Middle East world is divided into the male part, which is public, and the female part, connected only with private life. Indeed, it is obvious that compliance with the standards and norms of behavior is required by society. However, this gender segregation should be changed from women’s weakness to power. In their social world, women can get some power, prestige, influence, and that women’s status should not be compared with men’s.
Sa’ar’s article is interesting, informative, and thought-provoking; sometimes it is shocking, sometimes eye-opening, but it is close to life and very useful for understanding the realities of the life of Israeli-Palestinian women. The writing is well-organized and convincing as it contains four true examples of the hard life of Israeli-Palestinian women who have the experience of failed familial fidelity. Gender problem seems to be particularly acute in Arab, namely in Israeli-Palestinian families, whose cultural paradigm in most cases is based on patriarchal gender norms. Lastly, the author’s argument that women lose any support from their relatives when becoming either too strong or too weak, which leads to the feeling of complete loneliness and isolation, is supported by both theory and evidence.