Jewfem Blog

#MeToo Israel Round-up #GamAni

Here is a quick round-up of the #MeToo movement in Israel from the past few days:* Alex Giladi, the head of Keshet, has been accused of rape by at least two women. In a very Harvey Weinstein-esque description, women were apparently told that if they want to get a meeting, they have to speak to "it" -- he would say this while standing naked in front of them. So we know what "it" is. Anyway, Giladi hasn't denied this, and has "stepped aside" from his current role but has not suffered any consequences of these revelations. * Haim Yavin, the famous news anchor, has been accused of making similar propositions to Neri Livneh. Haim Yavin has that same "clean cut" image that we have seen in other alleged sexual predators, the Bill-Cosby type of father-figure style that makes people reluctant to believe he would do such a thing. * Ehud Barak apparently helped Weinstein cover up -- not literally, but figuratively -- his actions by connecting him with the Mossad. What does it tell us that Israeli security agents were being used to help a rich rapist, with zero interest in the victims? There are layers of patriarchy here and we have only begun scratching the surface of what this means. * Gabi Gazit has been accused by Dana Weis of sexual harassment, where he would kiss her on the lips without permission. He has not denied these allegations and in fact sort of bragged that "One day, people will be telling stories about me from 45 years ago." This was actually just 15 years ago.  * Yoram Zak of Big Brother (a Keshet production....) would routinely send the women on his staff explicit sexual notes and comments, like an entire email all about the erection he had because he thought about how beautiful they all are. The emails don't lie. As opposed to the others here, he has apologized and said that he is embarassed by what he wrote then and has changed. He says he understands now what he didn't understand then, that this is wrong.  * MK Yael German has joined the ranks of the testimonies by sharing that she was sexually assaulted by her gynecologist.  * The late Tommy Lapid, who everyone knows was crass and gross -- though some considered those qualities endearing in the man -- has been posthumously accused of attempted rape of journalist Sylvie Keshet in London in 1063. His son Yair points out that we can't ask the father what really happened. True. So we'll just leave this there.  * An unnamed senior executive in the tax authority sexually harassed his colleagues and was fired for "medical reasons" rather than face the consequences.   If I missed a story on this, please share so I can add it.  To stay up to date on these stories, follow the Gender-in-Israel-List on Facebook#GamAni

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When ultra-Orthodoxy targets women in Israel: NPR podcast

"Radicalization is getting worse, for sure. At the same time, the vision of equal rights, equal participation and women's power — all of that is getting stronger around the world," says gender sociologist Elana Sztokman, author of a book called The War on Women in Israel.   Read the rest here. Or, listen to this NPR podcast about ultra-Orthodox battles against women in Israel.

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ABC Australia: Why misogyny and feminism are on the rise

Here is an excerpt of an essay I wrote for the ABC Religion and Ethics column in advance of my NCJW Scholar-in-Residence tour of Australia that commences next week:    There are some strange things happening around the world when it comes to gender. And I'm not just referring to the Queen of England driving around the Saudi prince in a Range Rover, just to prove that women can drive. I'm talking about the American presidential elections. The current American campaign is likely to be a race between the Neanderthal and the feminist, or between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In this bizarre reality, there currently seem to be roughly the same amount of people who believe that it is time for a woman to be president as there are those who believe that women are merely valued for the perkiness of their breasts. It is difficult to reconcile this dual reality, what I call the Clinton-Trump paradox. How can it possibly be that two completely oppositional views about the status of women have equal weight in the public mindset? Yet, this is the reality not just in the United States but in many places around the world. These two trends seem to coexist - one being a drive to advance women's economic and political opportunities, and the other a drive to send women back to the Playboy mansion. Inequality in Israel I see this paradox here in Israel, where I have been conducting research on gender issues in society for over a decade. On the one hand, there have been some interesting strides towards gender equality. The Knesset has a record 32 (out of 120) women legislators - a steady increase over the past 20 years - including many powerful feminists who are dedicated to advancing gender equality. Israel has had a female Supreme Court justice, a woman heads the Bank of Israel, and Israel was one of the first countries to have a female prime minister (although that was in 1969 and hasn't been repeated). The army, a notorious bastion of militaristic male machismo, has opened up many interesting roles for women - and in fact remains the only country in the world where all 18 year old young men and women have mandatory conscription. Israel has some of the most progressive feminist legislation in the world: mandatory 14 week parental leave, free state-funded child care from age three, a prohibition against firing pregnant women, and far reaching laws against sexual harassment. And interestingly, to its shame and credit, Israel is the only country in the world where a former president is sitting in jail for crimes of rape. It's a shame that a president can be a rapist, but enormous credit that he was caught, tried, convicted and treated just like every other sexual predator. On the other hand, many indicators show Israeli women falling behind. Women make a paltry 66% of what men make - a figure that hasn't moved significantly in over thirty years, placing Israel at seventy-first in...

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68 facts about gender and equality in Israel

overall rankings
gender wage gap 1
cabinet versus oecd
high profile sexual abusers

Overview Israel was one of the first countries to elect a female head of state – Golda Meir – but that hasn’t happened again since 1969, the year I was born.Israel ranks 53rd in the world out of 135 on the Gender Index of the World Economic Forum – ahead of the Arab states, but way behind most Scandinavian and European countries. Other countries that might be of interest : (see chart on the right)Iceland is number 1Rwanda is 6Philippines is 7Nicaragua is 12France at 15Namibia is 16South Africa is 17UK at 18Latvia is 20US at 28Canada at 30Australia 36Israel’s ranking on gender has gone DOWN over the past decade – in 2004 Israel ranked 35… Motherhood and fertility Israel offers paid parental leave of up to 14 weeks, for men or women. Israel has free childcare above age of threeIt is illegal to fire pregnant women in Israel or to make pregnant workers do any liftingIsrael literally pays women to have babiesAbortion is legal under certain conditions, but all women who seek abortions have to be evaluated by a panel.A heterosexual married woman in her childbearing years usually cannot get a legal abortion without a medical reason unless the abortion panel declares her effectively insane.A woman who wants an abortion because she doesn’t want to have children also has to be declared by the panel mentally unwell.Abortion is free for secular teenage girls, but religious girls in national service have to pay for it. Economic equality On the rank of economic equality alone, Israel ranks 71st out of 135 countries.Women make, on average, 66% of what men make, a statistic that hasn’t significantly moved in over three decades.Arab women are on the bottom of Israel’s economic totem pole:  According to the Adva Center, the average Jewish man makes 11,833 NIS per month; the average Jewish woman makes 7,414 NIS per month; the average Arab man makes 6,383 NIS per month; the average Arab woman makes 4,956 NIS per month – less than half of what a Jewish man makes.The average monthly wage of women managers is 73% that of male managers.Even though 65% of state workers are women, less than a third reach the level of senior management.Of the 106 government authorities, only four have a woman director.Only 1 in five hi-tech workers are womenIn academia , 48.3 percent of Israeli women have 13 or more years of schooling compared to 45.4 percent of men.Only one in every five Israeli professors is a woman.Almost six times more men than women run their own businesses.Of the 100 top traded companies, only six are run by womenOf the top 500 companies, only 5.4% are run by women, down from 8% in 2010Only 4%  of boards chairs are women, down from 5% in 201018% of members of the boards are women.Women hi-tech entrepreneurs receive half the funding that men doWomen and men in Israel are still primarily consolidated in professions by gender. According to the Adva center, jobs such as builders, engineers, computer technicians and...

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I'm going to Australia, as NCJWA Scholar-in-Residence

Well, it's official: I'm going to Australia, as the NCJWA Scholar-in-Residence!! I will be giving talks on topics related to the status of women in Israel to groups in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra, as well as participating in the Melbourne Jewish Writers' Festival! And visiting Shira, yay, as well as some of the schools..... I have not been back to Melbourne since we moved back to Israel in 2005. That is a long time..... Looking forward to catching up and reconnecting with family and friends. Thank you Shirley Krause Glance and Di Hirsh for believing in me and making this happen. And to those of you who want to catch up, send me a note -- looking forward! May 18-June 3. Really really excited

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In ‘Earthquake’ for Israeli Feminists, Military Cancels Promotion for Alleged Rapist

  Acting against type, the Israeli military canceled the promotion of an Israeli general after he was accused of raping a female soldier and sexually harassing another. Brig.-Gen. Ofek Buchris, a highly praised commander who received a citation for bravery during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and was reportedly shortlisted for the next chief-of-staff. He was about to become head of the prominent Operations Division when one of his alleged victims filed a complaint with the police. After polygraphs with both the accused and the complainant, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot recalled the nomination. The prosecution told the court martial that the brigadier general is suspected of five counts of rape, sodomy and indecent assault over a long period. Buchris denied having sexual relations with the soldier and his counsel submitted to the court a polygraph. Nevertheless, the court was not convinced of his innocence. “Sufficient evidence has been gathered to provide a basis for the suspicions against the officer,” the judge ruled, in a special court martial convened at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv.   Buchris was initially suspended for two weeks, but Eisenkot extended the suspension by another month while the investigation continues. MK Merav Michaeli, a key feminist legislator from the Zionist Camp party who has been working on the issue of sexual violence against women for three decades, posted a vlog on Facebook describing the significance of these events: “This is an earthquake for us. This is the best response to those who have been trying to blame the victim, again – even though she went straight to the police and not to a trial of public opinion or Facebook. It is the best response to those who conduct their own trial of public opinion against the victim. So it’s true that it is seems far-fetched to cancel an appointment ‘just’ because of an accusation. But it is also far-fetched to appoint someone to such a senior position while he has such a heavy cloud over him. True, it wasn’t long ago that being accused of rape wasn’t considered a ‘heavy cloud.’ Today, the Chief of Staff cancelled an appointment because of a rape accusation…… This is a huge step towards justice and equality. And it is a massive step in the fight against rape.” One in three women in Israel experiences sexual violence in her lifetime, Michaeli added, and the rape hotlines in Israel receive 43,000 calls per year. The IDF says the number of sex crime investigations it has undertaken has been around 125 annually over the last two years, but thenumber of rape complaints has risen each year from five in 2013 to eight in 2014 to 12 last year. Read more: 

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I'm off to Limmud Toronto!

So excited to be visiting Toronto this weekend -- snow and all! I'll thrilled to be giving a talk at Limmud Toronto called, "Gender, Religion and Politics in Israel". Will also be giving two talks at the Toronto Partnership Minyan -- one on "Gender issues in the half shekel", and one on "Did the partnership minyan kill the women's tefilla group". I'm also doing a women's oneg on Friday night. If you're in the neighborhood, say hello!

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The War on Women in Israel: Round-up

  I haven’t written in a while about the war on women in Israel, but that’s not for lack of news. Unfortunately, this week alone has seen a whole bunch of new fronts against women. Here is a quick round-up: [Links are in blue] Exclusion of female paramedics. Tenth grade girls completing their mandatory volunteer service with the Magen David Adom emergency services in Ramat Gan were forced to go home or remain inside the office because a few religious ambulance drivers refused to allow them to ride with them in their ambulances. This was the culmination of a gradual build-up of exclusion. First they were given fewer shifts than the boys. Then they were asked to stop their activities in the middle of a shift and do office work or go home. Apparently male ambulance drivers were not willing to ride with girls in the vehicle, citing religious observance. It is worth noting that the men are not “ultra-Orthodox” but religious Zionist, illustrating the spread of the war on women to places that used to be considered “moderate”.“Unity Day” excludes girls.  The commemoration of “Unity Day” to mark the anniversary of the murder of three boys last year included events where girls were forbidden from singing. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Makor Haim high school in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion specifically requested that no girls be allowed to sing at the event, which took place at the Dror high school in the Lev Hasharon region. The school apparently also insisted that the dialogue circles taking place between the students be separated by gender. So much for a vision of unity – unity among males, perhaps. This is not the first time that calls for so-called unity applied to men and boys only. Religious women are often told to subsume their own ideas and concerns for the sake of “unity” or “community coherence”. I wrote about this at length in my first book, “The Men’s Section”, about the many ways that opponents of women’s advancement cite “community coherence” or “unity” as a justification for excluding women. Even former Education Minister Shai Piron, who was a congregational rabbi before becoming a Knesset Member, forbade women  from even holding a Torah scroll on Simchat Torah claiming the need for community consensus – that is, consensus among men.  Beware of the “unity” smokescreen for women’s exclusion.Intersectionality: Racism and sexism in the Rabbinical Court.  “Apparently there is something worse than being a woman in the rabbinical court: being an Ethiopian woman,” wrote attorney Batya Kahana Dror this week about an experience she had representing an Ethiopian agunah (“chained woman”) who has been waiting for seven years for a get. The rabbinical judges mocked her repeatedly, mocked Ethiopians generally, implied that Ethiopians are stupid and money-hungry and do not know Hebrew, and more.Women excluded from health conference on women’s health. For the past five years, the Puah Institute for fertility and women’s health has been running conferences on women's health without women. Despite tremendous protests, this practice...

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Be inspired by 67 amazing women in Israel 2015 – TWICE

For Yom Ha’Atzmaut -- Israel’s 67th Independence Day – I decided to create a list of 67 inspiring women in Israel. To do this, I crowdsourced this assignment, with a simple Facebook status update, “Who are the most amazing Israel women that you know? The ones changing the world for good?” Well, the answers came fast, with the most beautiful, loving energy. I was so moved. And once I started collecting them into a list, the numbers far surpassed 67. In fact, the list became closer to TWICE 67. So actually, here is a list of 134 amazing Israeli women for you to get to know this Yom Ha’atzmaut – and at a certain point I really just had to stop (apologies in advance to those I left out who deserve a place here. There are many of you….). The women on this list are activists, educators, artists, scientists, rabbis, writers, and “firsts”, and leaders in a whole range of fields. Some of the women I know well and love, and some I am meeting myself for the first time in this list. They are all worth getting to know. Get ready to be inspired. [PS Feel free to leave comments with names of other women who should be on the list!] Social activists "Firsts" -- Breaking Glass Everythings Thought Leaders Artists Politicians Jewish educators and scholars Lawyer-Activists Rabbis Scientists Writers Miscellaneous  Social activists Linor Abargil. Israeli beauty queen who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, shortly after being raped. Since then, she has become a global advocate in the fight against sexual violence with the film “Brave Miss World”. Daphni Leef. Social activist, video artist, and editor. In July 2011 she was one of the organizers of a tent camp in central Tel Aviv, sparking the 2011 housing protests in Israel. Beth Steinberg. Executive Director and co-founder of Shutaf, Inclusion Programs for Children with Special Needs in Jerusalem. As a parent of a child with special needs, she struggled to find workable, appropriate activities for her child. Beth believes that a well-run inclusion program can help educate and change values, creating meaningful and lasting social change.Rachel Schitskovsky-Ivker. Founder of Hadadi, Breast Cancer support center, a comprehensive center that combines both emotional and material support for women coping with breast cancer – everything  beyond the medical - a supportive community, information, support for family members, specialty accessories for coping with the side-effects of treatment, and other services. Ilana Pinshaw. Director of Microfy, an Israeli based NGO that helps Israeli and asylum seeker entrepreneurs living in the Tel Aviv area become economically independent through loans, training and mentoring. Efrat Degani-Toperoff.  Programme Officer at Yad Hanadiv,  Co-Founder and Chair of Bema’aglei Tzedek and Co-Founder of the Good Neighbour Association and the Psifas Israeli Fund, and a member of the Youth Forum of President Shimon Peres. Avigail Sperber. Filmmaker and activist advocating for religious lesbian women. Founder of Bat Kol organization for religious LGBT community, and creator of award-winning film, “Probation time” about her adopted sister. Phyllis Heimowitz. Founder of “The...

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Shouldn't Zionism Prioritize the Rights of Women?

It’s hard to be a feminist in Israel today. You walk around thinking that it should be obvious that women are equal human beings, fully capable of living independent, free lives. But that belief is challenged in every corner of your life, every day. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Michal Patelle Sure, there are some signs in Israel that women are doing great. We have women pilots, women as heads of the Supreme Court, and even a woman Nobel Prize winnerin science. We once even had a woman prime minister, elected back in the sixties. Indeed, today more bachelor’s degrees are handed out to Israeli women than to men. All these are nice little snapshots of a country where there is a possibility of women to make real advances. But these snapshots are only part of the picture. Looking deeper, they do not reflect the reality on the ground. Take the issue of women in academia, for example. The bachelor’s level is where equality ends. There are more women than men in universities, but fewer female professors. In fact, as the professional level rises, men outnumber women in increasing proportions, like an inverted pyramid. Men are promoted more and more, despite a larger pool of women. This obnoxious pattern has persisted for decades. Or take women in politics. Although the number of women Knesset members has increased gradually over the past 15 years, we are still below 30% female representation. What’s worse, on the municipal level only two out of the 230 cities in Israel have women mayors. It is an appalling statistic. And by the way, even though we have had several women heading the Supreme Court, all told only 10 out of 64 Supreme Court justices. The issue of women in the army is also a problem. Although the army has also been slowly including more women in coveted positions many of the most elite units are still all male. Women’s positions are also under tremendous threat from the pressure to conscript more religious soldiers – whose first demand is always to remove women’s presence. The army is reportedly building an all-male base, and already a few weeks ago women soldiers were asked to leave the mess hall when religious soldiers needed to eat. Get ready for more of that. All of this somehow makes sense to the army establishment. And that’s because in general there is an entire sexist culture in the army which assumes women to be weaker, lesser, not serious. My daughter, a Captain in Intelligence in the IDF, constantly tells me stories of the grassroots sexist culture she experiences. Sure, women can rise to certain places, but the sexism remains ubiquitous. This in turn affects the entire culture of women in business. Israel is heralded as a hi-tech haven, and yet women are systematically excluded from that world, where business relationships are usually culled from those elite army units where women are usually absent. Women head fewer than 8% of top hi-tech companies in Israel and are a mere 16.6% of board members all told. Women are often just not seen, like in the bestselling book...

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