"I used to have a lot more time and energy to fly, but since I work in six places, I'm very stressed and fly less," says Dr. Anan Falah, a self-described Arab-Druze-Israeli woman who also happens to be a dentist and a lawyer as well as a pilot.
Falah, who lives in Akko, says it wasn't easy to convince those around her about her professional path. "I barely persuaded them to let me study (dentistry). Because of the limitations on Druze women at the time, it was hard for them to accept the idea. My father was worried about me, but now he's full of praise," she explains, noting that her mother had always been supportive.
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"I became the first female Druze dentist," Falah notes. Today, she serves as the Health Ministry supervisor for a dentistry clinic in the Arab sector.
'When I fly, everything is more beautiful' (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Falah's father was born in the village of Samia and her mother in Ramah. When they married, they moved to Akko, where Falah and her six siblings were born. They are the only Druze family in the city, Falah observes.
Falah, who married in the 1990s, has a 16-year-old son.
On the way to her prestigious profession, the prejudice and oppression Falah encountered prompted her to take unconventional steps. "Our society is considered chauvinist, but as a woman I believe in equality.
That's a difficult word to accept, but you need to insist on it," she explains. "It's not easy to move ahead in life and break a new path in a society that believes that a woman's role is to have babies, raise children, and stay in the kitchen. But today, women are much more than that."
When the head of the Druze community published a ban on woman driving, Falah decided that if she couldn't drive on the ground – she'd take to the skies. She earned her pilot's license in 2001. "I've been to Beersheba, Rosh Pina, and Cyprus," she says, adding that when she flies, she feels "freer, like I don't have to fight for everything. Everything looks more beautiful, quiet, and fun."
What's funny, she says, is that Druze law gives men and woman equality in matters of inheritance, rights, and obligations. A woman can appeal to the Druze court – the equivalent of a rabbinical court – and ask to divorce her husband without his consent. "But what the religion says isn't reflected in the culture and traditions," she explains.
But Falah is still looking ahead. A qualified lawyer, she dreams of becoming a judge in the Druze court, which she says is currently run entirely by men. "Druze woman were almost without rights, but slowly they are getting them – we still have to fight the sheikhs," she says.
And things are changing – today, according to Falah, more Druze women go on to higher education than men, and "modern girls learn not only how to drive but also how to cut loose."
When asked the questions everyone asks successful women about work and family life, she answers: "I try to spend two hours a day with my son, and then go to the clinic or to another job. I see my parents once a week and we always go places together."
She says that she's less social than in the past, since "everything comes at the expense of my personal time."
Nevertheless, Falah tries to keep her drive to move ahead: "I don't look at jealousy. I move on with positive energy. I don't care what others think."
In addition to her other occupations, Falah also serves as a judge in beauty pageants, and sees no contradiction between these events and feminism. "The idea is that a woman can express herself in whatever place she's interested in doing so," she observes. Still, when judging she tries to take into account the contestants' character as well as their looks.