Israel is 70: Women’s Greatest Achievements

Israel is 70. There is so much to be proud of. We have come such a long way in a very short period of time. And yes, that is true across the board, even when we look at what we have achieved for women.

And yet, most days, the 364 days of the year that are not Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we cannot and should not allow ourselves to bask in the glory of our accomplishments, because there is still so much work to be done. We are far from the society that we should be, far from reaching goals that will make us a fairer and more equal society. We must continue to demand more – of ourselves, of our society. 

In this post, 7 thoughtful women answer two questions:

What would you say is women’s greatest achievement in Israel in the past 70 years?

What do you hope women will accomplish in the next 70 years?

We cannot possibly continue to be the great givers that we are without ensuring that we have what to give. The women before us taught us the importance of standing up for ourselves, for wanting and achieving more. And just as they have achieved for us, it is up to us, to achieve for our future generations.

This Yom Ha’Atzmaut may we be grateful for what we have and in the days and years ahead may we continue to demand and work towards a better, fairer and more equal Israel.

Happy Yom Ha’Atzmaut!

 

1. Mindy Ajzner – Founder & CEO Chaim BePlusChaim BePlus

Women’s greatest achievement:

One could easily point to our outstanding women leaders in government, medicine, justice, banking, industry, education, religion, military, etc. However I believe that our greatest achievement is that of the “ordinary” women who succeeds in raising more than the average number of children on less than an average family income. We successfully combine work and family, professional achievement and community activism, worrying about and caring for our soldiers, physical fitness, creative hobbies, intellectual pursuits, travelling, hostessing,  gemilut chasadim, nurturing and chilling out. I don’t know how we do it all, but we do. Kol Hakavod to us!

Hope for the future:

I’m concerned about our large numbers of youth-at-risk (estimated at 300,000), whose parents are unable to provide their physical and emotional needs. I would like to see young people, teenagers, getting the preparation and real-life skills they need so that this phenomenon is reduced in the future. This means a lot of work on self-esteem, how to choose and live with a partner, how to make decisions together, spend money within a budget and be financially transparent. Troubles in the couple relationship need to be addressed early on. Parenting requires education and a lot of supportive wisdom from older people. Since the founding of the State of Israel, women have been at the forefront of establishing and supporting youth villages. If women now take the lead and ensure life-skills training and support, less children will be born to suffer in broken homes and require youth villages. Prevention is the key.

2. Linoy Bar-Geffen – Journalist

Israeli Journalist

Women’s greatest achievement: 

I think that the greatest achievement is that more and more women have become financially independent. Independence is purchased with money. Without money women will never have the ability to have their own space; nobody will buy it for them. According to the most comprehensive study on financial inequality, which was done in collaboration between the Finance Ministry and the University of Tel Aviv, women and men receive equal pay, more or less, up until the age of 29. But at age 29 something goes wrong. Sure, we can point to the fact that for most of our lives we are not financially equal, but let’s not forget, that just a few years ago, we weren’t even equal until age 29. So there has been some improvement. And if I look at everything that women accomplish, ultimately, it’s easier to accomplish them if you have money; people hear you more and you’re able to make better decisions. As women have grown more financially independent they’ve been able to be the decision-makers in their own life – to decide who they’ll marry, what type of family they want to have and if they’ll want a family. It’s not a romantic statement but ultimately independence is determined by shekels, dollars and cents – how much you can put on the table. No one disparages people with money.

Hope for the future:

…I want to see a different hierarchy in professions. As women dominate more professions the value attributed to those professions decreases. Because women make up the majority of paramedical professions, their work is not as valued as much as a stupid tennis app. I want to continue seeing women in paramedical fields, and I want to see more value attributed to their professions. 

….I want to see women get back to work. I see many of my friends who have the desire to stay at home for a year or two with their little one. They say that their child won’t have the time to be a baby again. That’s true. But it’s also true that the second they leave the workforce for such an extended period of time, they won’t be able to return; certainly not at the same terms, or the same place or with the same opportunities to get promoted. Not going back to work directly influences a woman’s ability to be financially independent and her ability to support her children. If something happens – if her marriage comes to end for whatever reason, or if her spouse is injured somehow. Shit happens and it happens far more frequently than we think. And that’s why financial independence is the key to everything. Everything.

3. Elinor Davidov – Director of the Women’s Exclusion Project & Campaign Coordinator of the Early Childhood Custody Law, Israel Women’s Network Israel Women's Network

Women’s greatest achievement: 

I think that one of the biggest of achievements of the State of Israel in the context of women, is the law for the prevention of sexual harassment…It’s one of the laws that deal with sexual harassment and sexual assault and it’s among the most advanced in the world. It was written by a woman, Orit Kamir, a brilliant woman and she fought for it though it wasn’t easy. Without the law, many social battles, including the recent #metoo campaign would have been impossible to pursue in Israel. The law is very specific. It’s very clear. It clearly defines the types of behaviours that are unacceptable. And it sets a very clear boundary that’s very progressive in comparison with other places in the world…Orit Kamir understood things then, things that are a little more clear to us today – the issues of authority, power and conduct with respect to authority. She didn’t leave any lacunas.  

Hope for the future:

I’ll divide my answer into two. The first part is that there needs to be a reform on the entire subject of marriage and divorce in Israel. Religion needs to be taken out of the equation. One of the biggest problems in the State of Israel today is that marriage and divorce are still subject to religious law which essentially turns women into hostages. On the civil side of things, women are heavily discriminated against and as a result hundreds of thousands of women are negatively impacted, many fall into poverty and many men do not pay any child support.

The second issue is that the reform needs to be all-encompassing, taking into account that traditional gender roles have not really changed. If women work and raise their children there must be some sort of compensation for it, not financial compensation, but some sort of compensation that recognizes that most of the burden is on women. Despite the community spirit that wants to decrease child support, the reality is that most of the burden is women. Women don’t stop working after they divorce; they work harder. There are still large disparities between men and women and they need to be addressed and bridged through reform.

4. Rogette Hinawi – Business Woman, Owner & Chairperson – Wine&MoreWine&More

Women’s greatest achievement: 

I’m 61.5 years old and I can tell you that there’s a very big gap between where my mother was and where I am today. My mother was a housewife; she didn’t work out of the house at all. I finished high school, I went to seminars, I did a bit of university and a receptionist course. I would finish work at 11:00pm and have to be back at 7am. It wasn’t easy. But it was a huge development from my mother’s situation. And even after I got married, I made sure that I should be independent, that I have my own car, that I pursue my own things and that I shouldn’t be dependent on anyone.

Today, if a woman wants to go her own way and develop her own things, it’s possible because we live in a democratic country. We live in a place where many women have been successful and those are the women that you have to constantly look at. Today women can read about other women who have succeeded, find them on TV, and the internet. Today if a woman has an idea she can very quickly find out what’s going on in the world and decide how to act on it.  

Hope for the future:

I surely won’t be here in 70 years, but I hope that every woman – it doesn’t matter where she’s from – will be financially independent. I don’t want any woman to be dependent on others. Of course we’ll always rely on our families, but every woman must have financial independence or at least have an income that belongs to them. Because if a woman has that, she can continue to develop. For me, wearing the most modern clothes and to be on top of the latest fashion, that’s not development. It’s not about clothes or how you look. That’s just a show. I want women to actively develop and do things that help them move forward. And the only way to do that is to develop economically.  

5. Hilla Ovil-Brenner – Managing Director Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars & Founder of YazamiotYazamiot

Women’s greatest achievement: 

I think that the greatest achievement of women is in the field of entrepreneurship. I think that we’ve made a lot of progress in the world of entrepreneurship. I think since women were given the right to vote, they’ve become more independent and it became clear that we deserve equality. From there women were able to take the leap out of the home and into the world of entrepreneurship and technology, and make a huge difference, the effects of which are global.

Hope for the future:

What do I wish for in the next 70 years? That we should become truly equal. That the equality we desire should be represented in numbers and that the statistics show that we’re truly equal – 50% women in companies, in academia and in all spheres.  

6. Tal Schneider – Journalist

Plog

Women’s greatest achievement: 

The greatest achievement of women in Israel are their battles for representation, in the Knesset, political parties, the army, the media. It’s the absolute demand by women to be present and active in every forum, from representation that was achieved through the laws of public representatives on boards of directors, through to their demand to be represented in commissions of inquiry, on the healthcare basket committee and battles that have not yet been won, specifically full and equal representation in the Knesset.

Hope for the future:

To be both represented and equal members of Israeli society in every industry, field and profession and to teach our daughters and sons the values of equality, justice and mutual respect.   

7. Orly Vilnai – Journalist, Channel 10 & Haaretz

Women’s greatest achievement: 

Channel 10
photo credit:
Benny Bachar

I think that the achievement that changed the situation for many women in the State of Israel and also dictated a new reality, is the achievement of Alice Miller in that she opened aviation in the IDF to women. We’re still not in a good enough place; we still argue about the capabilities of women to fight on the battlefield. But some things in the IDF act as symbols and that’s why her battle was so important though ultimately she didn’t succeed at becoming a pilot. She paved the way for many great women after her, and primarily altered the view of people who thought that a woman can’t be like a man. We hear many statements, like that of Rav Sadan from the pre-military preparatory program, and of other rabbis and other chauvinists. We understand how difficult our position could have been had she not fought and not appealed to the [Supreme] court and ultimately succeeded in changing the reality.

Hope for the future:

My hope for women is that we shouldn’t have to commemorate [International] Women’s Day anymore. There shouldn’t be a debate about whether or not we’re discriminated against or whether or not there’s inequality…I think that the minute women begin leading the world and we conquer all the senior positions, the world will become better place; we know how to manage many things simultaneously and apart for a few days during the month, most of the time we’re more tolerant and nicer than men. Mostly what we need to do is to remove the humiliating wage gaps and stop the blatant discrimination so that we shouldn’t have to commemorate [International] Women’s Day.