Women of the Wall has in recent months attracted lots of press and public support, from Members of Knesset to rabbis and laypeople, particularly since police stepped up arresting women leading Rosh Chodesh services at the Kotel. Women of the Wall then ramped up its own efforts to illustrate that current policy there — which prohibits women from praying wearing tallit or tefillin or with a Torah scroll — is discriminatory. Now there is an additional party to the conflict: a new group called Women for the Wall.
Women for the Wall — abbreviated as W4W — was co-founded by Ronit Peskin, a 25-year-old mother of three, who opposes Women of the Wall’s goals and approach. On its website, Women for the Wall describes Women of the Wall’s efforts as “political battles” turning the Kotel into “a media circus”: They “do not belong at a place such as the Kotel. Their monthly activism threatens to turn this holy place into a site for a media circus rather than prayer, and is disruptive for all that come there to pray peacefully and connect to G-d.”
The minute I saw that new MK Merav Michaeli’s inaugural (some call it “maiden,” but I prefer “inaugural”) speech to the Knesset on Wednesday had gone online, I immediately remembered a Sisterhood post I wrote prior to the recent Israeli elections about Ha’aretz political writer Yossi Verter’s sexism.
In a piece on the Labor Party list, Verter had made fun of a particular feminist trait of Michaeli, a successful journalist: “One thing she is going to have to cure herself of immediately is her silly and childish habit of speaking in the feminine gender. If she chooses to speak in the legislature and committees like that, she will quickly become the laughing stock of the 19th Knesset.”
In her unmistakably feminist speech, the newly minted MK Michaeli did speak using the feminine gender (she actually used both feminine and masculine genders, always mentioning the feminine first). And guess what? No one laughed. Rather, her fellow MKs all sat and listened to her with rapt attention.
Hillary Clinton has made some important people in Israel angry. But she has made a whole bunch of other people, especially women, really happy. I, for one, am grateful to Clinton.
I’m referring, of course, to her now viral comments that she is “worried” about Israel democracy, and about the status of women. Both issues should give all of us pause, and she gets a special kudos for linking the two issues, something no public figure had effectively done until now.
Clinton’s democracy concern stems from a series of troubling legislation that has recently been discussed and in some cases passed in the Knesset, led by several key Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parliamentarians. The bills that have been tabled over the past few months include: the Defamation Bill that, as the Forward explains here, would make life difficult for journalists reporting on activities of Knesset members; the Supreme Court Justice Appointment Bill, which gives Knesset Members increased powers in the process of appointing Supreme Court justices; the NGO Bill, which prohibits “foreign governmental bodies” from donating to “political” NGOs in Israel — followed by the tax bill that also proposes enormous taxes on foreign donations, and the Basic Law — The Judiciary, which aims to restrain NGOs from bringing lawsuits to the High Court of Justice.
The proposal sounds pretty good on the surface – a Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the Israeli government, dedicated solely to promoting the issues, concerns, and interests of Israeli women and improving their status in society.
Likud MK Gila Gamliel, who recently unveiled the proposal for creating such a ministry, is convinced that it can only do Israeli women good and she is confident that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is behind her. She told the Jerusalem Post that “the decision on whether to create a ministry for women must come from the prime minister, but I believe we are heading in the right direction. I am pretty sure that the first chance he has, he will take up this issue.”
Gamliel, an up-and-coming ambitious young Likud party member and Netanyahu loyalist, currently holds the position of deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office for the Advancement of Young People, Students and Women (a job she is apparently considered triply qualified for because she is both young and female, with a background in student leadership. ) Something of a political prodigy, she was elected to the Knesset twelve years ago at age 29, and has been there ever since, except for three years, when Likud’s poor showing in the elections knocked her off the Knesset list. She returned to the parliament in 2006.
Israel can point to one indisputably successful international export, which so far, no one has shown any interest in boycotting: drop-dead gorgeous models.
Sports Illustrated bikini-wearing, DiCaprio-dating Bar Rafaeli may be the current the leader of the pack, but she is part of a long and glorious tradition, following in the high-heeled footsteps of those who went before her like Shiraz Tal and Michaela Bercu, who conquered and occupied the covers of fashion magazines and billboard before her.
The unrealistically slender proportions of fashion models often further reduced by photographic touch-ups, the international culture of fashion and music videos and the simple fact that Israel is a coastal bathing-suit wearing culture means that at any given moment, most of the female population here is on a diet. Like the rest of the world, body-consciousness develops at an alarmingly young age and eating disorders are a growing problem among Israeli youth, just as they are worldwide.