My fascination with the Middle East has been growing ever since my freshman year of college and though I am no longer in school studying Arabic or the region in general, I try to keep up to date on what is going on there, as it is a beautiful place steeped in rich history, but also political turmoil. The strength of Middle Eastern women has always captivated me. I find that they bridge the gap between tradition and modernity better than any other group in the world and they possess an incredible power that is quiet, yet so forceful.
Rula Jebreal is one of the latest women who I am enthralled by. She was born in Haifa, Israel and grew up in Jerusalem, but is Palestinian: a very interesting and tricky dichotomy based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her beginning years of childhood were traumatic: her mother committed suicide when Rula was just five years old. Her stepfather then placed her and her younger sister in the Dar El-Tifel orphanage, where her love for reading and writing began.
“When I read One Thousand and One Nights, it opened my mind to the role of female sexuality in Arab literature. And then Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, about society, politics, and artists living in Egypt in the thirties. These two books show women as protagonists.” (Vogue.com)
Rula won a scholarship from the Italian government to study medicine at the University of Bologna, where she lived with an Italian family. She graduated with a degree in Physiotherapy, but also met an Italian art student there. They had a child together: a daughter named Miral. Rula then went back to school to get a Masters in Journalism and Political Science, her true passions.
From that point on, Rula’s star became even brighter. She became the first foreign-born anchorwoman in Italian television’s history and went on to have her own political talk show on which she interviewed some of the world’s most important figures. Rula won a Media Watch award for her Iraq War coverage, as well as the International Ischia Award for Best Journalist of the Year.
In 2003, Rula wrote her first novel, Miral, which was later translated into 15 languages, showing the scope of her work and influence. She then turned the book into a screenplay and director Julian Schnabel made it into a film which premiered at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, starring great actors and actresses including Freida Pinto and Willem Dafoe. It went on to win the Unicef Protection of Children award and also premiered in the United States at the United Nations General Assembly Hall: the first film to ever do so.
Rula wrote two other books book, The Bride of Assuan and Rejected, as well as writing and producing the documentary, Permesso di Soggiorno. She is fluent in Arabic, English, Hebrew, Italian and German: a total inspiration for a linguaphile like myself.
Let’s not forget Rula’s style: Alaia dresses, chic Christian Louboutin heels and so much more. She shows that a woman can be stylish and powerful, never having to sacrifice her looks for her talent.
Visit www.rulajebreal.net for more information and see some of my favorite looks from her below.
*Images courtesy of Getty and Vogue.com.