Meet the world’s first all-female racing-car driving team from occupied Palestine. There is Maysoon Jayyusi, the team’s 38-year-old manager, from Jerusalem, who says her love for racing-car driving came from the frustration of being stuck in the West Bank’s constant traffic jams and checkpoints; Mona Ali, 29, from Ramallah, who was one of the first female racers in Palestine; Marah Zahalka, 23, who was a racing champion at 19; Noor Dauod, 25, from Jerusalem, who is determinedly persistent, if not always successful on the race track; and finally Betty Saadeh, 35, the only member who comes from a wealthy family of racers in Bethlehem.
The first woman to join the fledgling Palestinian racing federation in 2005 was Ms. Ali who says, “At first, the boys wouldn’t accept me; they didn’t want to race with me,” she says. “But I told them I’d carry on racing whether they liked it or not.” And so she did. As the other women joined the federation in the years that followed, they soon became a regular fixture on Palestine’s increasingly popular car-racing circuit — basically market squares and airstrips repurposed for weekend races.
“It’s true that, when we first started, people looked at us as though we’d just landed from space,” said Team manager Jayyusi now lives in Jordan, but she still leads the team. She adds, “But when they saw us race they changed their minds. Now we have fans, people who encourage us and sponsor us.” She thinks female racing-car drivers becoming a formidable force within the Arab world are just like anything else in any other place: “You prove that you are strong enough, not scared, that you can compete with the men,” she says. “And then it just becomes acceptable.”