Jewfem Blog

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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War on Women in Israel named Noteworthy Book for the New Year

The Jewish Journal named my book The War on Women in Israel a "noteworthy book for the new year"   '....likely to interest anyone whose attention has been caught by headlines about gender-segregated buses or the Women of the Wall: Elana Maryles Sztokman’s “The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism Is Smothering the Voice of a Nation” (Sourcebooks). Originally from Brooklyn and now living in Israel, author and activist Sztokman is careful to note that the subject’s importance extends far beyond Israel’s borders. As she explains in an introduction: “This book tells the story of the rapidly spreading religious radicalism in Israel and the phenomenal ways that religious feminists are leading the struggle for women’s freedom against this increasing oppression. It looks at the different places where this struggle is taking place: on buses, on streets, at the holy site of the Western Wall, in courtrooms, in rabbinical courts, in the media, on the Internet, on billboards, and in the Knesset. It’s a war that is still unfolding. Perhaps when you finish reading the book, you will discover that you have a place in this story as well, because as you will see, the war on women in Israel is a war on women — and men — everywhere.” '

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Notes from my book tour: My first Barnes and Noble book signing!

I'm on my book tour for The War on Women in Israel. I spent Shabbat at Kol Sasson synagogue in Skokie, Chicago, where I gave a talk in the morning to a packed and deeply engaged crowd, and then gave an afternoon learning session on gender images in the Rosh Hashana liturgy. I was invited by Rebecca Minkus and hosted by Audrey and Simi Chavel. Thank you to everyone in Chicago who made this event so special! From there I traveled to St Louis Missouri, invited and hosted by Phyllis Shapiro and Maharat Rori Picker-Neiss. First I had my first ever book signing at Barnes and Noble, which feels like such a tremendous accomplishment. And then had a lovely and engaging event at Bais Abe Synagogue, where i gave two talks -- one about The War on Women in Israel, and one about my previous book, Educating in the Divine Image. It was very interesting to draw connections between both bodies of research, between what's happening with religious extremism and what's happening in Modern Orthodox day schools. Rabbi Hyim Shafner was full of vision and wisdom, as were all the members of the audience. Bais Abe is also a very special community, and I feel privileged to have been invited. Now I'm on my way to NYC (typing in the airport lounge, waiting to board the flight to La Guardia). I have a few media appearances and two more talks before heading home to Israel for Rosh Hashana. For more details on my trip, check out  my itinerary or check out some of my book reviews (including Publisher's Weekly -- another major milestone in my writing career!). Thanks to all who have made this possible, and who have supported me with likes and comments on my FB page.   And if you would like me to come to your neighborhood on my next trip, just shoot me an email -- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

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Publisher's Weekly gives The War on Women in Israel a glowing review

Great news to share!  Publishers Weekly gave The War on Women in Israel a glowing review.   “Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action…”  “Cutting, candid, and lucid, Sztokman’s account of injustice makes an eloquent plea for “the assertion of a secular-democratic vision for Israeli society” and will inspire more dialogue.” Full review: The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism Is Smothering the Voice of a Nation Elana Maryles Sztokman. Sourcebooks, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0459-4 Combining a chilling warning with a rousing call to action, feminist activist Sztokman (The Men’s Section) documents the places in Israel where “a radical religious misogyny has been gradually creeping into public spaces.” With outrage and bewilderment, she chronicles how Israeli business leaders, lawmakers, politicians, and police have caved to the demands of an ultra-Orthodox minority to remove women’s faces, voices, and even their physical presence from public venues, creating “female-free zones” in the name of modesty. She exposes the “entrenched culture of sexism” in the Israeli army and legislature, and explores how the Orthodox rabbinical courts cause disproportionate harm to women in their governance of “personal status” issues (marriage, divorce, and conversion), among other concerns. Sztokman rejects the “false claim of moral equivalence” that regards a woman’s basic human rights as equal to “a man’s right to silence her.” Instead, she implores the public to set aside the “distanced reverence for religion” that tolerates such practices and enjoins support for the “powerful alliance” among Orthodox feminists, religious pluralists, and human rights activists. Cutting, candid, and lucid, Sztokman’s account of injustice makes an eloquent plea for “the assertion of a secular-democratic vision for Israeli society” and will inspire more dialogue. Agent: Fern Reiss, Publishing Game Literary. (Sept.)

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