Wednesday, December 19, 2012
When Marah Zahalka was twelve, she used to ride in the back seat of a car while her mother taught other adults how to drive. And it eventually turned her into a competition auto racer in a part of the world where some women aren't allowed to drive at all. A member of a five-woman group of Palestinians called the "Speed Sisters," Zahalka -- at twenty-one -- is one of the youngest.
In the West Bank, where people's lives are largely controlled by neighboring Israel, cars represent a form of freedom, however prescribed the roadways are by checkpoints, permits, and interrogations. But the Middle East doesn't always encourage women to encroach on areas perceived as belonging to males. Enter the in-your-face woman.
Zahalka not only competes full-throttle against her other Speed Sisters, but she -- like them -- competes against and often beats male racers on the track, gaining attention and respect around the world while doing so. Toughened by her years growing up in troubled Jenin, Zahalka considers racing her way of taking a stand for what she believes in about being a woman and being a Palestinian. "When I'm racing," she says, "I feel like I'm resisting the occupation."