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 1
Rwanda is 6
Philippines is 7
Nicaragua is 12
France at 15
Namibia is 16
South Africa is 17
UK at 18
Latvia is 20
US at 28
Canada at 30
Israel’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 three
It is illegal to fire pregnant women in Israel or to make pregnant workers do any lifting
Israel literally pays women to have babies
Abortion 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.
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 women
In 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 women
Of the top 500 companies, only 5.4% are run by women, down from 8% in 2010
Only 4% of boards chairs are women, down from 5% in 2010
18% of members of the boards are women.
Women hi-tech entrepreneurs receive half the funding that men do
Women 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 senior managers remain predominantly male, while administrators, teachers, and cleaners are still predominantly female.
The Knesset currently has a record 32 women MKs (out of 120), the most ever elected
Israel is tied with Australia for 54th place in the world with 26.7% women in parliament. (UK is in 48th place. US is 95th)
Only 3 out of 22 in today’s cabinet are women – 13.6%
The previous cabinet had only 4 out of 39 – a far cry from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s 50% women “because it’s 2015”.
The security cabinet has zero women, not even Tzipi Livni
Three of the four top-tier ministries have never been held by women: Finance, Defense, and Interior.
The only senior ministry ever headed by a woman is the foreign ministry (Golda Meir 1956–1966; Tzipi Livni 2006–2009)
Only 16 of the 243 people (6.5%) who served as Israeli cabinet ministers in all of Israel's history have been women. In fact, until 1995, after 47 years of Israel's independence, only five women had ever served in Israeli cabinets.
During the first 26 years of the State (1948–1974), there was only one woman cabinet minister—Golda Meir
During the talks to end the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, there were no women around the table, not even Tsipi Livni whose job title was “chief negotiator”. Bibi managed to replace her with a no-name yes-man guy from his inner circle.
Out of 34 OECD countries, Israel ranks 6th from the bottom in terms of gender equality in the cabinet.
Of the 256 municipalities in Israel, women head six(2%), DOWN from 8 in 2010
Women make up 13% of municipal council members.
MK Gila Gamliel is the first ever “Minister for Gender, Minorities, the Elderly, and other groups”.
The Prime Minister has an “Advisor for status of women”, Dr Vered Sweid.
Many municipalities have Advisors for Status of Women as well as Municipal Committees on the Status of Women or Gender Equality.
The Knesset has a very active Committee for the Status of Women. In the previous Knesset, it was headed by MK Aliza Lavie, the first Orthodox feminist in the Knesset. It is currently led by MK Aida Touma-Sliman, the first Arab woman MK to head the committee.
Violence against women
One out of every 7 women in Israel is abused – there are 200,000 battered women in Israel today.
600,000 children witness violence at home.
Israel has 14 battered women’s shelters, 2 for Orthodox women, 2 for Arab women, and 100 women were turned away from shelters in 2015
Israel is the only country in the world where a former president has been convicted of rape and is serving a prison sentence.
This past year has seen a record number of investigations or exposés of high profile cases of sexual abuses: senior police commanders, senior IDF commanders, rabbis, actors, Knesset members, and even the legendary Rehavam Ze’evi who has been dead for 15 years but was allegedly a serial sexual predator and manipulator.
Eighteen women killed by their partners in 2015. In fact, between 1991-2016, 491 women murdered by family members or intimate partners.
There were 10 “honor killings” in 2015 – that we know of. One family in Ramle has had ten murders of women over the past few years, all unresolved cases despite women’s insistence that these are so-called “honor-killings”.
Agunot, divorce and marriage
One in three women in the process of getting a divorce in Israel is subject to extortion or threats for a "get" (Jewish divorce), according to research by the Rackman Center
In the religious and ultra-Orthodox sector, one in two women are threatened with a "get" refusal or blackmail.
One in four Jewish women in the process of a divorce is afraid of becoming an agunah
In Israel, verbal or physical abuse does not qualify as grounds for divorce.
Muslim women have more control than Jewish women in getting divorced, but still face a power imbalance in the Shariah court system
Greek Orthodox women in Israel can only divorce if they are subject to life-threatening domestic violence
Israel is the only western country in the world where Jews cannot freely get married according to their religious/spiritual affiliation or conscience.
Israel is the only country in the world where rabbis can get up to two years in prison for performing a wedding – if they are not on the list of “approved Orthodox male rabbis” who are allowed to perform weddings. The bride and groom who get married this way may also be imprisoned according to the law, which was written by MK Eli Ben Dehan of the Jewish Home party, former head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court – although as of yet, this law has not been enforced by the police.
Mamzerim or suspected mamzerim (suspected of being born in forbidden relationships)
People born out of rape or incest
Children of an agunah
Children of women suspected of adultery
Kohen with a divorcee
Children of a kohen who lived with a divorcee
Over 80% of converts to Judaism are women.
In Israel, all conversions are controlled by ultra-Orthodox male rabbis on the state-backed Rabbinical Court, making Israel the only country in the world where Jews cannot freely choose the rabbi who they wish to convert them, the only country in which conversions are not recognized by the government authority unless they are conducted by “approved” orthodox male rabbis.
For the first time in Jewish history, rabbinical courts have begun overturning conversions, a practice that goes against a previously revered Jewish tradition of embracing converts and accepting their status without grilling them about their past.
Mikveh -- ritual immersion
Israel is the only country in the world where ritual immersion (mikveh) is controlled by the state, regulated by a state-payroll of rabbis who dictate to vastly underpaid mikveh attendants who may or may not use the mikveh.
Israel is the only country where Jewish women must prove to the state that they immersed – naked and supervised – in the mikveh in order to register for marriage.
Israel is the only country in the world where women can get arrested for public displays of religiousness – where wearing a tallit and reading from the Torah can land women in jail.
Israel is the only country in the world where religious freedom for Jewish women is dependent on the work of lobbyists, lawmakers, High Court petitioners and NGOs fighting tirelessly to protect gender equality, religious freedom, and democracy.
In Israel, hope and rage compete for the spirits of the people. For now, hope is winning. For all the warriors out there fighting the good fight, Happy Independence day!
Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman is a feminist thought-leader, anthropologist, and writer whose research and ideas help shape a vision for a compassionate society. She has published five books on gender in society, and today helps women amplify their own voices and find their power through Lioness Booksand Media. She coaches women through the writing process, edits, and ghost-writes women's books, and publishes women's writing through Lioness. She also speaks and consults with groups and organizations around the world on gender issues and women's experiences in the world. Would you like to schedule a chat? Contact her at email@example.com