The words “no, I do not hate women” are etched on the door of the boutique store in the West Bank village of Buraq.
The women who work there are “a group of people who don’t see themselves as bad, but who are also people of good intentions,” said Marwa Shabaka, who owns the boutique, which opened in January.
The shop, which is owned by a nonprofit organization, helps refugees and internally displaced people find jobs in Israel.
Shabaka is a veteran of the war and who has been to the Middle East herself.
She says she has lived in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as well as in Syria and Iraq.
In each country, she says, women were treated as second-class citizens.
“I remember being so sad when we were in a refugee camp,” Shabak said.
“I was so sad, and I kept saying, ‘Oh, I love women, I want to marry them.’
But I was so proud when I saw my sister’s face when she was married.
So I went back to Syria.”
Shabak says she is glad to be able to offer a new kind of home to refugees.
She and her husband were able to move into a house with two other people who were also refugees and they also started a small business selling homemade baked goods.
Now they want to help other refugees.
The store, which sells handmade goods, has been opening for about a month and will open a second shop in Israel in two weeks.
The Shabaks say the store has been able to reach out to a new group of women, who want to start businesses.
“The shop has helped us, we know we are not alone in our pain,” Shafak said, adding that the shop has also helped them feel better about themselves.
The boutique shop has been the target of threats before, but Shabakis fears the violence in Syria is making them fearful of speaking up.
“We’re here because we are refugees, we are here because of the suffering of the refugees, and we are just here because it’s our way to live,” Shabadasaid.
“If we do not speak up and speak up, there will be more deaths, and the whole situation will get worse.”