Struggling in Jerusalem
by Sahar Vardi
  • March 20, 2018
  • 9 mins story
1. Tell us your name, where you are from and why you have become a human rights defender. (Was there a particular moment that made you decide to choose this?)

My name is Sahar Vardi. I'm a Jewish-Israeli activist from Jerusalem. 
Jerusalem is a lot of things to a lot of people. For me it was the city that taught me to be an activist - a term that sounds more natural to my ears than human rights defender. Growing up in a city that 38% of its residents - Palestinians - do not even have citizenship and live in a completely different reality than their Jewish neighbours, that's what politicised me. 
As a teenager, while busses were blowing up in West Jerusalem - the side of the city I grew up in - I first had  a chance to go to an East Jerusalem village. A small village a 15 minute drive from my home, the residents of which weren't even residents of the city: according to Israeli law, while the village was in Jerusalem, its residents were not considered residents of the city, and therefor illegal inhabitants of their own homes. I remember my father getting phone calls in the middle of the night from people from the village that were taken out of their beds at 3am by the police, arrested for being illegally inhabitants, taken to the closest checkpoint, made to sign a statement that they won't do it again, and released with no way to get back to the home that they aren't allowed to be in anyway. And so there was a need for an Israeli activist to come and "smuggle" them back into the city, back to their homes, until the next night. For me, seeing these two completely different realities, sets of laws and daily experiences of people according to whom they were born to - that's what made me an activist. 

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