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Gender, Religion and State in Israel: The Myth of Equality

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  1. Gender, Religion and State in Israel: The Myth of Equality Kimberly D. Gouz

  2. Declaration of Independence • May 14, 1948 • THE STATE OF ISRAEL . . . will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex

  3. The Status of Women • The marginalized status of women has been maintained primarily through two elements: • Jewish Orthodoxy • National Security

  4. The Myth of Equality • Pre-state experience of widespread anti-Semitism • Labor Zionism commitment to social equality • “These young women Zionists dreamed of engaging in battle and sacrifice for the ideal of redemption, even while still in the diaspora” –Sara Malchin, a founder of the women’s movement • Golda Meir • Conscription of women into the army

  5. The Myth of Equality Jewish soldiers from Palestine who volunteered to serve in the British Army.Palestine, 1942 Member of Haganah, pre-state Jewish paramilitary organization David Ben-Gurion with Golda Meir at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 1962.

  6. Debunking the Myths: The Pre-State Experience • Value of collective • Women not permitted to fit into halutz role, relegated to second-class status • Problem of employment • Men’s jobs “unnatural” • The training gap

  7. Debunking the Myths: The Pre-State Experience • The kvutza • Secondary roles • Need for proof of economic validity, women viewed as less productive • In the early years, not full members • Contracts with the Zionist Organization • Women work for members of kvutzot • Zionist Organization concerned with farm not kitchen

  8. Debunking the Myths: The Pre-State Experience • 1909 • 165 Jewish workers in kvutzotin the Galilee • 11 were women • 1912 • 522 Jewish workers in kvutzot in Judea • 30 were women • Numbers rose during war years • Sources: Even Shoshan, Workers’ Movement; y. Shapira, Work and Land—Fifty Years of the Histadrut of Agricultural Workers; A. Maimon, Women Workers’ Movement in Eretz Israel

  9. Debunking the Myths: The Pre-State Experience • “My first six weeks in Palestine, I worked in Degania [a kvutza established in 1909]. I listened with such admiration as the men spoke of their work tools and sounded the names of corn yields. My soul yearned to be in contact with the soil, to work the land, but that was not granted me, nor to any other women.” (Quoted in “Zionist Women’s Movement in Palestine” by Dafna N. Izraeli)

  10. Debunking the Myths: But what about Golda? • Women and Political Power • For a long time, highest point of representation: Second Elected Assembly of the Yishuv, 1925 • 15% of delegates • Before women officially gained right to vote • Only matched in Sixteenth Knesset (2003) • 18 female Knesset members or15%

  11. Debunking the Myths: But what about Golda? • Women and Political Power • First 14 Knesset Governments (through 1999) • Between seven (5.8 percent) and 12 (10 percent) seats • http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts%20About%20Israel/State/Women%20in%20Public%20Life • Israel ranked 83rd of 135 countries in Inter-Parliamentary Union's ranking for number of women legislators • http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/964171.html • The current Knesset dropped to 17 women (14.2 percent) • http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mkindexbyknesset_eng.asp?knesset=17

  12. Women and Jewish Orthodoxy • The Status-Quo Agreement • “A compromise between socialist men and Orthodox men, at the expense of women” - Swirski and Safir, 1993 • Religious court system • women not judged by peers

  13. Women and Jewish Orthodoxy • The Status-Quo Agreement • Divorce • The get • Agunot • Mamzerim

  14. A Woman’s National Duty • “We are told that women are not drafted in any other army in the world. We, too, have no intention of putting women into combat units, though no one can be sure that, should we be attacked and have to fight for our lives, we would not call on the services of every man and woman. But the law in question deals with a peacetime situation, and we want to give women only the most basic training.” - David Ben-Gurion, 1972

  15. A Woman’s National Duty • Only about 1,500 women have combat jobs—2.5 percent of female conscripts, according to IDF figures • “Female” designations: Desk jobs, social work, teaching and secretarial positions • Men serve 3 years, women serve 2 • “The Old Boy’s Club”

  16. A Woman’s National Duty • The 1952 Military Service Law • Exceptions to women (but not men) from military service based on religious belief • 1977 coalition agreement between Likud and the religious parties • concession that women be allowed to receive exemptions from military service on the basis of sworn statements • About one-third of female conscripts (more than double the figure of men) are exempted on the grounds of religion

  17. A Woman’s National Duty • 1994 Alice Miller Supreme Court case • 23-year-old who wanted to be a pilot but was barred by air force regulations. • Won case • Failed the medical tests after getting high grades on the aptitude test. • Israel's first woman fighter pilot: Roni Zuckerman in 2001 at age 20

  18. A Woman’s National Duty • Sasson-Levy study • Ethnographic, 12 women serving in “masculine” roles • “The ‘good citizen’ is the Jewish male who has served in a combat role and has proved his willingness to risk his life for the collective good. Therefore, the masculinity of the combat soldier has achieved a hegemonic status.” • Women comprise only 32 percent of the regular army • 30 percent in secretarial jobs

  19. A Woman’s National Duty • Sasson-Levy study cont . . . • Those who do achieve high-status roles construct alternative gender identities • Mimicry of combat soldiers bodily and discursive practices • Differentiation from traditional femininity • Trivialization of sexual harassment • Dual meaning: • Assert identity, reject gender roles • Collaboration with military’s andocentric discourse

  20. A Woman’s National Duty • Producer of next generation of soldiers • The “war of the wombs” • “Increasing the Jewish birthrate is a vital need for the existence of Israel, and a Jewish woman who does not bring at least four children into the world . . . Is defrauding the Jewish mission” - David Ben-Gurion