Being a woman in Israel is not a simple thing.
Although Israel is the only democracy of the middle east, I don’t think we can call it completely gender equal.
Recently there have been a few events that brought up this issue several times and made it a part of the public discourse.
In Israel, the inequality starts from a young age.
The Shorts Protest started about two weeks ago, when the children and youth of Israel went back to school. A few girls went to their highschool wearing short pants, claiming it was too hot outside (40 degrees Celsius, imagine that!) and were sent back home. The upsetting part is that boys are allowed to wear sports shorts, without complaints. The reason girls are not allowed to wear shorts to school is because it is “not respectful”. But why is it respectful when boys do it?
I understand the intention to convey respect, but if that is the wish of the superiors they should enforce it for everyone, not only girls.
I believe this is an objectifying act that makes a woman's body a sexual “tempting” object, when it should be just a body.
And with this perspective, the youth of Israel are educated.
The inequality in Israel continues as you finish school and head towards your army service.
In the IDF, an army representing Israeli society, there are many positions not open to women, mainly field positions.
Over the years, women have fought against the inequality, and have been able to make the pilot’s course and other field positions available for everyone.
The IDF is progressing in the field of gender equality but the sayarot units, the prestigious combat units, are still unavailable for girls.
Recently, a group of four young women, one of them a close friend of mine named Mika Kliger, decided to protest and turn to the Israeli court. They are asking for the sayarot such as shayetet 13 and duvdevan to be open for women too.
This topic is very controversial because, on one hand, the IDF wants to give equal opportunities to men and women. But on the other hand, it does not want to send women across the Israeli border in case of war, from fear of what the enemy might do to them sexually.
Many women in the IDF feel like there is a glass ceiling preventing them from progressing and achieving accomplishments, and that is why there has never been a female commander-in-chief of the Israel Defense Forces.
The inequality continues even when you finish your army service and turn to get a job.
The average income of men in Israel is 30% higher than it is for women, and research shows that men will often receive get a bigger salary for the same job.
It continues when getting married and starting a family.
The violence toward women in Israel is a huge problem our society is facing. About 20 women are murdered each year, and in most cases the murderer is their husband or boyfriend. Since the beginning of 2020, 11 women have been murdered, sadly indicating the violence towards women is a rising issue.
This problem is the most severe in the Arab population in Israel—about 50% of the murdered women are Arab, while Arabs make up only about 20% of Israel’s population.
Last week, around 1000 people protested in Tel Aviv about the government's toward this important and painful issue, claiming that the existing systems of handling domestic violence are not working, the victims are being blamed and excuses are made for the offenders and murderers.
Objectifying from a young age.
A limiting glass ceiling.
Apathy from the government and society.
And I ask, how is that the situation in the year 2020?
I believe a part of it lies in the fact that our society is very diverse, and different streams and religions have different perspectives about the position of women in society.
I love the variety of beliefs and opinions we have in Israel, but I believe women, about a half of the society, shouldn’t feel oppressed due to beliefs and world-views of smaller groups in society.
I believe another reason is the monopoly of the Rabbinate on the religious aspects of life in Israel, dictating the orthodox philosophy, which is many times not gender equal, on the entire Jewish society.
This creates a problem on that field, and also on the field of LGBTQ rights, accepting different streams of Judaism in Israel and many other issues that Israeli society cares about.
I believe each person has the right to have their own values and beliefs, but not to step on other people’s rights.
In this complex situation, I choose to see the positive side as well. There are many organizations that take care of women’s rights and women who've been violated and abused, such as Vizto, an organization supporting battered women, Naamat, an organization that is helping and supporting women all around Israel, Lamed-Alef, an organization that's battling to stop violence against women and many other organizations.
All of those organizations are run by caring people who see a problem in Israeli society and choose to take action.
I love Israel with all of my
heart, and I know I want to raise my children in Israel even with all the
difficulties we are facing. I hope that by the time I have children, the
reality will be different and their life will not be affected or harmed by
Alona Laufer, the shinshin