Sisterhood Blog

Housecleaning Is a Dirty Business For Israel's Political Wives

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Ehud Barak and Nili Priel-Barak

Good help is hard to find, especially if you are the wife of a top-tier Israeli politician.

First it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who has had serial crises with various disgruntled former nannies and housekeepers. First, with two nannies back in 1996 and then a housekeeper last year she was vilified and mocked after they ran to both the media and to the courthouse with harrowing stories of mistreatment and unfair dismissal, laced with juicy and highly unflattering details of their private lives.

And now it is the turn of Nili Priel-Barak, the second wife of Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is taking the brunt of the couple’s decision to employ an illegal worker from the Philippines to clean their house. Like many of the illegals in Israel, the worker originally came to Israel with a legal permit to work as a caregiver to the elderly, but stayed on after that permit expired, and turned to housecleaning.

The saga recently returned to the headlines after nearly a year-long hiatus. It was last December when Israel Radio first broke the story of the Defense Minister’s illegal maid and legal proceedings were initiated against the Baraks. After the lengthy hushed-up investigation, came the announcement this month that the case would be dropped for lack of evidence, supposedly because the housekeeper was impossible to locate for questioning. The flimsiness of the excuse was exposed after the same radio reporter who broke the story, Carmela Menashe, easily located the housekeeper — who is still in the country — and interviewed her. And now it looks like criminal proceedings may be back on, despite Priel-Barak’s newly declared willingness to pay a fine.

Admittedly, it is hard for the average Israeli woman — myself included — to work up much sympathy for either Sara or Nili. Neither was a particularly sympathetic public figure, even before their household help smeared them.

And yet, particularly in the case of the Baraks, it is still pretty infuriating how male politicians so quickly offload the blame and the shame of a joint decision and weakness for the good life, onto their wives, pleading ignorance of the facts. After all, aren’t household chores women’s work, and by extension, the employment of household help? After all, they’ve got much more important things to worry about.

Ridiculous. Employing a housekeeper or a nanny and the manner in which it is done is a decision of all adult members of that household. If the Barak household compromised ethics, public responsibility and national security with their decision (the illegal worker, who uses several different names, was never formally screened by the state security services and presumably could have easily spied on, poisoned or otherwise harmed the Defense Minister.)

If only one member of the household is going to shoulder the blame, it should the one who is elected by, draws their salary from, and is held accountable to the public.

And that person is not Nili.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nili Priel-Barak, Housekeeper, Ehud Barak

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.