16:48 . I went to Jewish school until I was thirteen years old. Jewish schools are…you know, surrounded by police officers and high walls for security reasons, so there is always this weird feeling you have – that you are constantly under threat. One of my early memories from school was that we had fire drills during the Intifada. It may be why I felt this need to work out intensively and eventually learn self defence. So, as a teenager I started Krav Maga and I absolutely loved it. It was intense but it also felt very empowering because whilst training nobody was ever scared to hit me because I was a woman; and nobody cared that I was Jewish or young or whatever. We were all there simply to learn together – how to defend ourselves against danger. Jewish people have been an ‘easy’ target for a while; if you look at it, terrorism against Jews started as a secondary means of targeting Israel.
The fact that something can happen to me on the street because of who I am is something that never goes away and I don’t know if it ever will – but at least now I feel that I can just punch the person in the face and run. I can fight back.
I didn’t chose to be Jewish, or to be put in Jewish school, but this meant that I got to see from very early on – the amount of hate that can exist in this world. My father escaped the Holocaust you know? But many people in the world are still victims of hate : hate crimes, hate speeches. That is why I keep fighting on a daily basis. I don’t want to sound like I have a transcendent power or mission or something – but it’s just something that has always been part of me. Of course it makes me angry to see the amount of hate in this world, but I chose to act upon it. The way I deal with this anger is putting it out there, voicing it out. I try not to be overwhelmed by it. Going back to exercising, it is a way for me to let this anger out without making it my enemy. It also a way for me to find the strength of doing what I do. Being engaged in restoring justice is a constant fight.
Alissa works as a policy officer, fighting anti-semitism at the EU level in Brussels, Belgium. She also volunteers for the Italian union of Jewish students.