I'm Samera Ahmed Khalil Syam, a Palestinian woman from the Gaza strip.
In 1948 my family was expelled from their home, we came to Gaza and took refuge at Jabalia refugee camp. My parents are from Beit Jirja, a village inside the green line. They were expelled to Gaza and took refuge here. They were expelled; they didn’t migrate. When you say you’re an immigrant that means you chose to leave your country to live in another, but expelled means that there is a strong power forcing people to leave their homes.
I’ve been working as a driving instructor since 1990. When I began to work people challenged me and said I wouldn’t be able to assert myself or continue in this profession because it is very hard, especially for a woman. So I decided to challenge them. I accepted the challenge because I am determined and persistent.
Usually when women come to take their first lesson they are afraid. They tell me that they don't know anything, that they’ve never driven a car before. I tell them that there is nothing more enjoyable than driving. It’s the most enjoyable thing for a woman when she masters it, and you too will feel that.
During lessons with young girls we hear comments from the guys on the street, and from some other drivers as well. I ask them not to pay attention, because these comments will increase, not decrease.
I began by taking them to very crowded streets like Al-Naser Street. As long as I can control the car and the student’s driving, I am not afraid. So the student learns to drive well after taking two or three lessons.
When a woman learns to drive and buys a car she can transport her kids and be an independent woman who can depend on herself.
My injury is from the days of the first Intifada. When I saw folks throwing stones at the Israeli army as they were being shot with rubber bullets and gas, or were getting caught and hit in front of everyone- I couldn't stand by and do nothing. So I got out from my home.
One day when I was standing beside our front door and suddenly something came at me and hit my head. I put my hand on my face and there was blood everywhere. I started running onto the street. Our neighbour wanted to take me to the hospital, they threw gas on me, but I still kept running. Then I arrived at the hospital and they treated me, they took the bullet out.
When I got home, they [the occupying army] knocked on our door. Back then we had a Mercedes van. They wanted to take it and use it as a shield from the stones, but they couldn't drive it.
So I went to them because I can speak Hebrew. He asked me, "who did that to you?"
I answered, “You did that”. Then he apologized, because they hit a girl.
“When a woman learns to drive she can be an independent woman who can depend on herself." Samera Syam