At the start of the summer, Israel’s social protest movement looked like it would represent a real turning point for women in the public sphere.
The face of the movement was indisputably female. The story began when a young filmmaker, 25-year-old Daphne Leef, pitched a tent in downtown Tel Aviv to protest the lack of affordable housing. The movement she kicked off lasted all summer and culminated in a massive countrywide march that drew 450,000 protesters demanding that the government take steps to ease the cost of living in Israel.
But over the course of the summer, it has seemed to some Israeli feminists that the women are being left behind.
Some say it’s because Bob Dylan and Paul Simon performed in Israel this summer. Others say it all started with the Facebook message urging Israelis to stop buying cottage cheese — a daily staple in the Israeli diet that has become outrageously expensive. I prefer to see it as the culmination of many decades of work on the part of NGOs, here in Israel and abroad, which have helped to pave the path to a healthy democracy in Israel.
Some might question my depiction of Israel as a “healthy” democracy when only two weeks ago the Knesset passed legislation banning boycotts. It leaves people who organize or publicly endorse boycotts against Israel open to litigation. It was approved in the Knesset by 120 politicians who are clearly out of touch with the Israeli grassroots. It will undoubtedly be struck down by Israel’s Supreme Court when it hears the case.