This JewFem blog focuses on feminist issues in Jewish life. It tackles Jewish education, synagogue life, Israel, Jewish community, bits of pop culture, and more. This blog is written by Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman, writer, educator, and researcher, contributing writer at the Forward Sisterhood, author of the book, “The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World”.
While people all around Israel have spent the past two weeks scrambling for cover during rocket attacks, it seems that in some places, only men’s lives are considered worth protecting. In the Ashdod rabbinate building, the bomb shelter has a sign on it reading “For men only,” and women who happened to be in the rabbinate during recent raids were not allowed into the bomb shelter. Thus reports MK Stav Shaffir, whose staffer happened to be at the rabbinate this week when all this was taking place.
Orit, an Ashdod resident who was also in the rabbinate this week with her husband, told Yediot Ahronot about the “insult of trying to impose gender segregation on us even at times like this,” and her shocked discovery that the “women’s” shelter was just a regular room, with windows and plaster walls and no indications of protection from rocket attacks. Her husband added that...
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.”
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...
I was meant to give a 2-minute presentation about my book, The War on Women in Israel, at this week's Jewish Book Council "Meet the Authors" conference. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my trip to NY. Instead, the JBC asked me to create a video, which they would link to on my author page on their website. Here is the video I made. My first ever video-preview. What do you think?
The book is scheduled for release in September. Contact me to receive an advance review copy, or pre-order your copy from Amazon...
In advance of this week's Jewish Book Council conference, I wrote a series of posts at the JBC blog as their "Visiting Scribe". (Don't you just love the Jewish Book Council...) Two of the posts are sneak-peaks of my upcoming book, The War on Women in Israel, set to be released in Sept (pg), and one is with Dr Chaya Gorsetman about our award-winning book Educating in the Divine Image. Take a look:
7 Places Where Religious Radicalism Threatens Women’s Well-Being in Israel
Women being arrested for praying out loud at the Western Wall – it’s a story so shocking that it has managed to make headlines around the world. But the Western Wall is just one piece of a larger picture of religion and gender in Israel today. In fact, the threat to women’s well-being in Israel today, which comes from an increasingly radical religious power structure, finds expression...
The following is the introduction to a paper I wrote for the Argov Center comparing the Orthodox feminist movements in Israel and the US:
The women’s movement arrived at the American Orthodox community long before it arrived among religious women in Israel. Already in the 1970s, American women were gathering for all‐female prayer groups and holding protests outside the homes of agunot (“chained women” – women denied divorce by their recalcitrant husbands), while these issues did not reach Israel until the 1990s. Yet, when feminist consciousness finally reached religious Israeli women, the issues were no less burning, although often in a different order of priorities – or different altogether – than those in the Diaspora. Issues of women’s study and scholarship were more central in Israel than women’s prayer groups, which never fully took off in Israel. Women in Israel also contended with new issues, such as whether religious girls should...
Criticism of the right of women to pray openly at the Western Wall supports the monopoly of a radical fringe of Orthodoxy that believes that women should not be seen or heard anywhere.
By Elana Sztokman | Oct.26, 2012 | 5:42 AM | 3
Reform Jewish women doing a practice run for a bat mitzvah. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Baubau
When a woman is arrested, shackled, strip-searched, and held in a cell, one might expect to learn that she committed a horrific crime of some sort, like a terrorist attack or breaking into the White House. The fact that Anat Hoffman’s crime for which she received this treatment was singing at the Western Wall has left many people reeling – but apparently not David Landau. In an opinion piece here, Landau tried to justify the police's attitude, dismissing women’s prayer at the Kotel as a “cynical charade” and nothing...
As Israel’s military becomes more religious, women are having a really hard time showing men how to hold a rifle.
A soldier from the 'Karakal' Battalion during training near the Israeli-Egyptian border in 2010 near Azoz, Israel.
Female soldiers have made tremendous strides in Israel over the past two decades. According to the IDF, women make up 33 percent of the whole armed forces; female officers with the rank of colonel grew by 100 percent in the past 13 years, from 2 percent of all colonels in 1999 to 4 percent today; and the share of female officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel has grown by 70 percent in the last decade, from 7.3 percent of all lieutenant colonels in 1999 to 12.5 percent today. Perhaps most significantly, in March 2011 the IDF appointed Brig. Gen. Orna Barbivay as the first-ever female major general.
Women are still a small...
This Sukkot, there is a religious battle going on in the city of Modi’in, Israel, and as often happens in such battles, it is being fought over women’s bodies.
It actually started this past Passover, when the open, mixed city of Modi’in was inundated with visitors from the neighboring ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in Illit, also known as Kiryat Sefer. The primary attraction for the visitors was Park Anabe, a beautiful expanse that sits 200 meters from my house. While it’s taken 10 years to complete, the park is now filled with playgrounds, grassy knolls, treks, a bike-path, an amphitheater and most importantly, a 14,000 square liter lake with fountains, fish and a variety of boating. Park Anabe is a central part of Modi’in life — members of my family visit regularly — and contributes significantly to the sense of quiet tranquility that characterizes Modi’in.
Since the lake opened in 2010,...
[crossposted from the Lilith Blog]
Photo courtesy of the author, Avigayil Sztokman is third from the right.
It was a two-hour drive, mostly through endless desert on all sides, to get to my daughter’s army base. She had been inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces only a month earlier, as part of Israel’s compulsory service, and had just finished basic training. We were on our way to her swearing-in ceremony, and were thus looking for a compound that was not listed on any map and had no road signs indicating its location. We took a wrong turn about five minutes too early, and landed at a different cluster of unmarked army bases heavily guarded by kids in uniform holding big guns. I suppose I should stop calling my 19-year-old daughter and her contemporaries “kids”, since they are now charged with protecting the entire nation from attack. “Look for the row of...
Women, Religious Freedom Groups Stake Victories
New Jerusalem bus ads featuring women read, "It's Nice to Know You: Jerusalem is a Town for Us All."
Grass-roots campaign in Jerusalem reverses some haredi-imposed gender segregation and discrimination.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Jerusalem — Passing through Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station a few months ago, Rachel Jaskow decided to stop at the station’s synagogue and pray Mincha.
Making her way to the very end of the departure level, Jaskow, a Modern Orthodox Jerusalemite, found the synagogue but only men praying there. Then she noticed a tiny room — separate from the shul and the size of a walk-in closet — designated as the women’s section. When Jaskow, who is active in the Israeli women’s movement, entered the room, she was “absolutely appalled” by its condition,” she told The Jewish Week.
“There was trash; it was dingy, dirty, and...
Ido Plazental, a history and civics teacher at Ziv High School in Jerusalem, has an innovative way of raising gender awareness among his students: He addresses them all as female.
Native English speakers who are not familiar with Hebrew may miss the inventiveness of this form of speech. In Hebrew, as in many European languages, there is no such thing as a gender-neutral way of speaking. In Hebrew, you can’t say, “I’m playing with my friend” without revealing whether your friend is male (haver) or female (havera). All objects, people, pronouns and verbs must be in either male or female. This means that in order to address a group of people, “you” has to be either the male “atem,” or the female “aten,” which generally leaves one part of the group excluded.
Although some people play with the generally awkward he/she combinations, the predominant custom among most Hebrew speakers is to...
Dr. Hanna Kehat’s mother did not ride her local bus for three years. The 78-year-old lifelong resident of the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood Mea Shearim lost her bus because Haredi extremists would stone the bus every time it rode down her street. So Egged simply stopped the route, forcing her and many of her car-less neighbors to walk distances to find a different bus.
“Women in her community are being completely neglected – they are at the mercy of the sikrikim,” Kehat told The Sisterhood, referring to one of Israel’s the most extreme ultra-Orthodox sects.
Today, however, the bus has returned to its route, thanks to one change: Police intervention.
The question about what role the government plays in protecting Israeli citizens from Haredi violence came to the fore last week, when the Interministerial Committee to Prevent the Exclusion of Women, headed by Minister of Sport and Culture Limor Livnat, released its...
Pretty women are like “candies” to their male bosses, and if they are sexually harassed, the pretty women should switch jobs rather than ruin the careers of high-powered men who can’t control themselves. This is the infuriating opinion expressed last week by leading Israeli current-affairs radio presenter Ayala Hasson.
The conversation took place during Hasson’s radio program in which Hasson described a case that took place at a leading government office in which a woman who was sexually harassed by her boss was “discreetly and quietly” removed from her position and given an alternative post. “He wanted her like a lovely piece of candy,” Hasson said. “Every time he walked by her, there was a little pinch on the cheek or something.” Hasson argued that this is an excellent solution because, this is the only way to protect the man from getting into trouble (histabchut).
This entire discussion occurred against the...
While the Israeli public has been getting rightfully agitated about the exclusion of women from public spaces, there are other gender-segregated locations in Israel that are barely noticed but have far-reaching implications for all women. The Committee to Appoint of Rabbinical Judges (dayanim) is, for the first time in more than a decade (since women’s groups started protesting the issue), is an exclusively male panel. Yet the government is wringing its hands, as the coalition remains hostage, once again, to the entrenched sexism of religious parties.
The rabbinical courts are one of the most fiercely gender-segregated institutions in Israel. Women are not only forbidden from being judges — a viciously anti-democratic regulation that might go unnoticed save for the fact that every single marriage and divorce in Israel needs the approval of rabbinical judges — they are also prevented from taking administrative roles in managing the system. And the absence of...
Israeli women are stirring. For the first time in Israel’s history, we are witnessing a mass women’s protest movement using some fascinating and inspiring tools of civil disobedience. This sudden eruption of sentiment for gender equality is perhaps simply late in coming, a generation or two behind its American counterpart from the 1960s and 1970s. Or perhaps it is not merely a late arrival but an entirely different animal. It is both similar to and vastly different from feminist revolutions that preceded it, a product not only of the universal need for equality but also of the particular, local cholent that we call Israeli society. The movement is in some ways fueled by classic feminist spirit, but in some ways driven by diverse and perhaps dubious motives that may have little to do with women’s issues.
To be sure, the grass-roots activities of nonviolent protest that are emerging from dozens of...
Imagine a medical conference dedicated to women’s bodies in which no women are allowed to speak or even sit in the audience. No, this is not a Victorian novel or the back room of an old-fashioned gentlemen’s club. This is Israel 2012.
For the fourth year in a row, Pu’ah, a publicly funded organization dealing with gynecology, fertility and Jewish law, or halacha, is set to hold their annual medical conference on January 11 in a setting completely devoid of actual women. Women are excluded as conference presenters on fertility, medicine, or Jewish law, and barred from even sitting in the crowd. Over the past three years, Kolech has written petitions, gone to the media, and turned to medical professionals asking them not to participate “This year, for the first time, people are taking an interest, and maybe something will happen,” Kolech’s founder, Dr. Hanna Kehat, said.
“Women of knowledge, understanding...
I would like to take a moment to consider provocative women. After all, those of us who are following events in Beit Shemesh have heard a lot about this subject. A woman trying to hail a taxi in Beit Shemesh and then spat upon was called “provocative” by Haredi men around her. Tanya Rosenblit, who sat in the front seat of a segregated bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem, was accused of being “provocative” by those men who stopped the bus from proceeding on its route. Even 8-year-old Na’ama Margolese was accused of being “provocative.”
In my doctoral research, in which I spent three years in a state religious girls’ high school in Israel working on decoding girls’ identities, I came upon accusations of “provocative” in some telling moments.
One day, the school held a special “Tzniut Day” in which there was an assembly and special classes on the issue of...
The troubling phenomenon of excluding women from cemeteries in Israel appears to be getting worse. Last week, Tal Yehezkeli of the IDF radio station Galei Tzahal broke the story of Rosie Davidian, who was not allowed to deliver a eulogy at her father’s funeral. Yehezkeli then reportedly received dozens of calls and emails from women around the country who have had similar experiences. In Jerusalem, women have been prevented from delivering eulogies. In Yerucham, Yavneh, and Elyachin, women were not allowed to accompany the deceased to the burial. In Petach Tivka, Nahariya and Tiberias, the crowd was forced into gender segregation despite the protestations of the families. All of these incidents are against the law, specifically the High Court (Bagatz) 2007 ruling that prohibits the exclusion of women from any aspect of funerals and burials. No less than eight cities are breaking the law, according to Yehezkeli,...
The history of modern Israel can arguably be told through its trees.
Forested landmarks mark battles, settlements, roads and monuments, each of which has a piece of the narrative that together weaves the story of the Jewish people in the modern era. Trees are also swamped in the history of the Jewish collective, with forestedareas” providing living testimony to worldwide collaborations of the Jewish people through the Jewish National Fund.