Tel-Hai Magazine - Fall 2020

Against All Odds the story of Suzan Sawaid S uzan Sawaid's (34) story serves as an inspiration to anyone facing a struggle against overwhelming odds and cruel social conventions and has given hope to many women suffering from domestic abuse

Suzan, who recently graduated from Tel-Hai College has won the prestigious Hamer Scholarship, which grants 40,000 NIS to students who excelled in their first-degree studies in an academic college and went on to continue their advanced degree studies in one of Israel's Universities. Suzan is currently studying for a master's in mediation and conflict resolution in Tel-Aviv University. Suzan's story, however, as Prof. Snait Tamir, Vice President of the College testified in her recommendation letter, is about more than academic excellence and intellectual development here in Tel-Hai. It is also the story of a student who completed her academic degrees while working to support both herself and her daughter – alone. She did so while also volunteering in the community and nurturing an active social life and inspiring youth where she lives. Tel-Hai College – staff and students both, were blessed by Suzan's presence. Let's rewind two decades back. Suzan has loved the sciences even at a young age, studying an expanded chemistry and biology track. This was far from common in the Galilean Bedouin village where she was born and raised, since these professions were typically reserved for boys. She also joined various programs and projects in the Technion and won many prizes for her academic achievements. Alongside her academic investment, she also volunteered as an instructor in various youth movements. This too was uncommon in her village, for all the instructors were boys, but she would not give up, even in the face of her family's and community's opposition. When she graduated from high school, she wished to study to be a social worker, but given her young age she registered for sociology studies in Bar-Ilan University, far from home. This required her to live in the student dorms in Bnei Brak contrary to the cultural norms of her community, generating much furor and anger in the village. In her last year in Bar-Ilan she met her future husband, a resident of a Bedouin village in Southern Israel. Five months later they married, and she was only one term paper short of completing her degree. At the same time she started working with at-risk youth – and became pregnant.

Her relationship with her husband became increasingly acrimonious, and even violent and life threatening, forcing Suzan to undergo an emergency C-section, given the danger to herself and her child. Suffering violence even after the delivery, Suzan returned to her parents in the Galilee. But her parents would not accept this shame to her family. She struggled for six years to keep the child, in spite of deteriorating medical conditions, and eventually won custody. Suzan returned to the village where she continued to suffer from violent threats to her life, but this did not prevent her from continuing to develop professionally and personally, and even develop plans and activities for at-risk youth. In 2017 she prepared a business plan to work with at-risk youth in the Druze villages of the Golan Heights. These programs included workshops, enrichment activities, after-school courses, activities, hikes and the like. She developed the business plan and was able to raise funding from the Security Ministry and additional parties. In parallel, Suzan registered for studies in the track for working people in the Department of Human Services and Multidisciplinary Studies at Tel-Hai College. She kept this registration secret, even from her parents, concerned of being harassed once more and prevented from completing her studies. Today Suzan is working in Kishorit Village, a village for special needs individuals. Among other activities, she is building a special site for handicapped individuals meant to help them find a job and integrate into the workplace. At the same time she is also, as aforementioned, studying in a research plan for a master's degree in conflict resolution and management in Tel Aviv University, where she is doing very well indeed. "My dream is to complete a PhD and to continue to aid disadvantaged populations" Tel-Hai College takes great pride and pleasure in Suzan's achievements and we can only wish that she should continue to shatter all boundaries and inspire other young women fearful of resisting social conventions.

Magazine, Fall 2020

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