The Driving License as a Tool of Empowerment for Middle-Aged Arab-Palestinian Women in Israel
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of middle-aged Arab-Palestinian women in Israel who take driving lessons. Significant cultural transformations have taken place of late, which have resulted in changes in the status of these women, providing them with opportunities to enhance their individuality. Driving, in particular, represents an arena in which they strive to reshape their physical space, in protest against the controlling restrictions placed upon them by traditional patriarchal society. This study addresses the role that a driving license plays in the empowerment of middle-aged Arab-Palestinian women in Israel. I argue that the driving license is interpreted by them as a tool for both personal and gender liberation. This question is tested by semi-structured interviews with 16 new drivers aged 41-61.
The findings of this study showed that acquiring a driving license by women leads to both continuity and change. The aspect of continuity reflects the conservative desire to maintain the traditional priorities of taking care of the household and family. Nevertheless, there was evidence of empowerment in terms of the women's ability to recognize the mechanisms of power and oppression in their lives and the effect on gender management in their traditional societal roles. Arab-Palestinian women in Israel are able to achieve a satisfactory level of efficacy and self-realization and are aware of their needs for freedom, leisure, employment, and study.