Anti-Woman Israel

I haven’t written as much as I planned in the past two weeks. I had a (too-long) list of topics to cover: Princess Culture, Why/how women are not taught to say NO, “Sitting at the table”, teaching girls to be smart rather than pretty, and more.

But while my sort of intro-level feminist posts were boiling in my head, things were happening around me that I just couldn’t deal with, and which affected my ability to focus on my planned posts. I live in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m not sure how much coverage there is internationally about what’s been going on here… The international press is famously inaccurate and biased (in all sorts of directions) in covering this region. So I’ll give a snapshot.

The (very) short version is that there are two related and very frightening trends happening here:

The first is a growing wave of nationalism, which includes increasing violence towards minorities, a surge of anti-democratic legislation designed to silence protest and opposition, curtail the activities of human rights groups, promote settlement in West Bank territories, giving enhanced rights to orthodox Jewish minorities at the expense of, well, everyone else…

The second is an increasing exclusionary and discriminatory attitude towards women. This has manifested in several ways, including government support for segregated buses and public transportation in Jerusalem, the removal of women from public images (such as billboards and posters) in response to orthodox pressure, separate sidewalks for men and women (as a matter of fact – even when the supreme court ordered this to be stopped, the municipality refused, and when the one woman on the city council protested this, she was fired)… Male soldiers walked out of a military ceremony because women were singing, behavior they were not punished for, and as a matter of fact they seem to be getting the support of the powers-that-be, meaning that women will be further silenced and segregated in the army. (One leading rabbi says soldiers should “choose death” rather than listen to women sing). Women are being excluded from judiciary committees, and several leading female news professionals are being fired from their jobs – based on age and appearance (keep in mind the female presence in Israeli news is minimal to begin with). Teachers’ faces are blotted out of educational campaigns. And more.

An ad in its original form (right), and cropped for publication in Jerusalem

(Well, there are also economic trends, with the government passing laws that put more money into the pockets of cartels/tycoons, and take more away from the rest of us. And more stuff. But how much can I possibly focus on? Or deal with, without just keeling over??)

I haven’t been covering any of this in my blog, keeping my activism to my local community and Facebook. Because I didn’t feel I could do the topic(s) justice in the amount of time I have to write. But the fact that I got as overwhelmed as I did made me realize that if I didn’t write something about it, I would never get back to my personal blog agenda – which also includes queer/LGBT topics, which are falling ever-further behind.

So for now, I’d like to share some of the actions that have come (primarily from women) in response to some of these anti-woman trends. (read more here)

1. Poster campaign:

Following the literal erasure of women from public advertising (including, by the way, from the entire campaign for organ donation), several women conceived a campaign consisting of a photo shoot of women, and printing posters that people could hang from their windows or balconies, creating a female presence in Jerusalem in spite of the religious pressure for erasure.

The campaign’s taglines were: Not Censored and Bringing Women Back to the Public Spaces

2. Photo Shoot

50 young women pose for nude photo in identification with, and support of, Egyptian blogger Aliaa El Mahdy

"Love Without Boundaries"

3. Women Sing!

A public singing event was coordinated in four different cities (including Jerusalem) where women declared in the most direct manner possible: We will not be silenced!

The Jewish proscription against women singing is based on the idea of “Kol B’Isha Erva” or, “the voice of a woman is nakedness”, where the word for nakedness actually means literally  “the pubic region”, and is used for “lewdness”. Therefore, immodest/impure/prohibited. The protest event was promoted as “This is not what “pubic” looks like”, and subtitled “Don’t Stop Singing!”.

(I looked but couldn’t find myself in any of the photos…)

4. Women journalist campaigns

(mostly In protest of the firing of Keren Neubach):

  • “Mute Protest” today, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (FB event is in Hebrew. Here is the Occupy Israel protest post. ) (The idea being, of course, that women’s voices are being silenced. Neubach is one of a very few women in journalism who actually has a POV)
  • Petitions: There are several. Here’s one (in Hebrew).
  • Return Women to the Screen campaign (on the Paucity of Women in Israeli News): http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/146101/

5. March and Rally for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

See photos here

5 thoughts on “Anti-Woman Israel

  1. Tsipi, thank you for the overview of what is going on in Israel right now. Makes me cringe inside and also not wanting to believe that this really happens in the 21st century.
    Reading about the segregation on buses makes me think of Rosa Parks (to be honest, where’s the difference?!?) and also brings back this weird memory of a flight from Tel Aviv to Munich, when an ultra-orthodox Israeli refused to sit on the empty seat between me and another woman after I had refused to give my aisle seat to him.
    SING LOUDER and say NO more often! :-)
    Cheers from Munich, Sandra

  2. It appears that myopic conservatives are ruling critical areas of the world. The whole gamut of ridiculous religion-inspired legislation that happens, may it be anti-abortion laws or downright discriminatory laws is sometimes hard to face given that we have a tendency to think “Ooh, it’s the 21st century, all postmodern and everything”. It is my observation (and some aspects of it may be incorrect) that countries or societies which imbibe gender equality tend to be more peaceful and culturally productive (compare Scandinavians, to well, almost anyone).
    However, I must give you the greater credit, Tsipi, for being a voice from Tel Aviv for these issues. It is nigh on impossible to find an acceptable account of what happens in Israel or Palestine given the obvious problems associated. Perhaps feminism will bring more pragmatism and empathy to the decision-making in your country. The neighbouring Arab Spring also holds such hope. Looking at the bigger picture, a solution to the conflict may well be achieved by those forces which I hold most dearly to my heart: feminism and secularism.
    Judging by the name of your blog, I need hardly recite “Out of the night that covers me…” to you; my best wishes.

    • Thank you for the vote of confidence :)
      I think that we have a long struggle ahead of us before pragmatism and empathy become the driving forces here, but I certainly share your hopes!

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