My Arab Idol – Op-ed by Deputy Consul General Dorothy Shea.

My Arab Idol

March 8th was International Women’s Day – a chance to celebrate the achievements of women, and look for ways to empower and encourage women’s voices and leadership.  However, in the United States, one day is simply not enough; we spend the entire month of March celebrating women as part of Women’s History Month.


At the beginning of last month, I joined my Palestinian friends in celebrating Yacoub Shaheen‘s incredible win as the new Arab Idol.  I watched and admired his charisma, composure, and undeniable talent.  But his performance also made me think about the many other Palestinians I admire, and in particular the strong Palestinian women who are role models for so many in their communities.  So, today, after the end of Women’s History Month, I want to share with you some of my female Arab Idols.


I’ll start with Hanan al Horoub.  Oustatha Hanan is a Palestinian teacher who won the global teacher award in 2016.  She overcame adversity growing up in a refugee camp, and now equips her students with the skills to succeed.  She developed a curriculum focused on non-violence and instills in her students hope and determination.  She inspires me and so many others.


Or Abeer Abu Ghaith from Hebron: she set herself on a path to becoming an entrepreneur at the cutting edge of the tech industry, establishing her business on a global scale and creating jobs for communities in need.  Eman Shannan from Gaza also inspires many.  She is breaking taboos about women’s health and supporting those fighting cancer in a way that has mobilized her community and is saving lives.  Also deserving of attention is Ruba Qadi from Nablus, who is an outspoken critic of gender discrimination in the field of engineering.  She has shone a light on the unconscious biases and prejudices about women that linger even within highly educated and professional circles.  And last fall I had a chance to meet Jumana Quneis from Ramallah, who made an incredible film drawing attention to the problem of so-called “honor killings” and gender-based violence.


At the American Consulate General in Jerusalem, we’ve celebrated these and other stories throughout the month of March as examples of the contributions women make to every corner of Palestinian society.  Many of my colleagues highlighted Palestinian women who inspire them in a Facebook video we put together for Women’s History Month.  But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to this month alone.   I hope that all of us can find our Arab idols among the everyday heroes – and heroines – and find ways to celebrate them throughout the year.  I’m proud of the work we’re doing at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem to honor and help empower hundreds of incredible Palestinian women across numerous sectors of the economy and society, and we pledge to keep up this work with our talented partners throughout the year ahead.


The pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart once said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” These and many other female Arab idols also exhibit that fine trait; let us raise them up and celebrate all they do for society.