By Jasmine Kirlew, Xavier University
Through history men are known for playing the dominant roles in making important decisions. The man has for many years have been the one to do the hard work and make the decisions that can help out his family or even the community. The balances of power between women and men have been unequal for years because the male have always been seen as the stronger gender. In Israel, the women have been striving for equal opportunities. Since the 1940’s the women of Israel have been guaranteed gender equality, Israeli women have been struggling to get positions in the Israeli parliament and underrepresented on many levels of Israeli politics and social aspects. For instance Brenda Gazzar, a news correspondent of Women E News interviewed Nissim Dahan a representative for the Knesset (the legislative branch of the Israeli government). He was asked, “When would women be placed on their candidate list?” which he told five hundred high school students that, a woman can be in 100,000 other roles but shouldn’t be exposed to the public front”.(Gazzar p.3). Even though women in Israel have had equal rights since the 1940’s their rights and opportunities are limited. Many men feel that the job of a woman is to be behind doors and not in a public atmosphere. With fewer women in the Israeli parliament there is less promotion on women issues. In order for the women in Israel to continue to have equal rights and opportunities there should not be a limit it what position a woman has.
Female representation in the Israeli parliament is scarce. in the article by Esther I. Wilder Gendering Society reviewing the book by Hanna Herzog , Gendering Politics: Women in Israel she states that,” …the figures of women’s representation in the Israeli formal political arena display a gloomy picture…although”Israel has a female Prime Minister Golda Meir, women’s representation in Knesset has stayed between seven and nine percent.”(Wilder, 701).This is a very low percent of women in the Israeli parliament and that is mainly because of the generalization of the man figure being in charge. In Arabic culture the man is considered the head. The men should take the public roles. Even though the Israeli women get to have places in parliament many people are not willing to vote for them of even put them on the ballot because of the male influence. Females are not respected as much a male figure in power. Since the male role plays a major in the culture of the country women are seen as the weaker gender. Men in the Israeli society feel that women are not strong enough or even smart enough to take on a high position in Israeli parliament. For women to take an authoritative role in a high position in government or any position in a political stance in Israel has been a major issue because of the beliefs in the Israeli society. The women of Israel who want to be or that already involved in the Knesset have not fully experience equal rights like they should be in the parliament.
Israeli women also struggle with the Israeli employment system. Even though the employment system in Israel supports gender equality there is still significant amount of discrimination against women. Looking at the distribution of all women among many occupational categories compared to men women is only balanced with the men in two categories and that’s academic and scientific occupations. There is also a pay gap between men and women in Israel. In occupations, especially in public employment there are still a large pay gap Israeli women and men mainly because the pay increases with seniority but, the women’s average work life is shorter. Since the establishment of the country the unemployment rate among women has been higher then men.” In 2003 11.3 percent of the Israeli women who wanted to work were unemployed compared to 10.2 percent of the men. Only 4.4 percent of Israeli women have executive roles compared to 11.6 of Israeli men and the average man makes 20 percent more money then a woman in Israel.”(Jewish virtual library, 2008 p.4) Still Israeli women are seen as less dominant then the male figure. Even when it comes to occupation stance the women are not equal and seen as not good enough to be on the same level as a man. In the Israeli society the teachers which are mainly female get more respect then the men in the same field because the women are more dominant in the teaching field but, Israeli women are still finding it complicated to get in employment in government occupations. Women in Israel are dominant in the education field but are still underrepresented. The Israeli society accepts women educators and other jobs where women stay behind the scene but when in comes to other jobs such as executive positions in the parliament, there are seldom women in those positions. Israeli men have a higher percentage in income and have better occupations that are known to be much more prestigious then the occupations that the women are dominant in. Many categories of jobs are male dominant and so many of the occupations discriminate against women. In the book Between the flag and the Banner :Women in Israeli politics the author Yael Yishai states,” Unrelenting vertical and horizontal job segregation and the persistent income differentials indicate that women have remained unequal to men in regard to one of the most important ventures of modern life: employment and career.”( Yishai 194). Israeli women are still today trying to make change to the inequality that is in the education system and the occupation system. Even the Knesset has declared that women and men are equal, many of the statistics show that Israeli men are treated differently then the Israeli women.
Israel also shows inequality within marriage rights. In Israel it is unlawful for women to be under the age of 17 and married but there is no age restriction for men to get married so they can marry at any age they feel is necessary. Jewish women can not divorce their husband in Israel which, in the article, The status of Women in Israel “70 percent of the women in Israel are Jewish and majority of the citizens in Israel practice Judaism”. (Albeck, 698) This is another barrier for majority of Israeli women. The government of Israel continues to have unequal laws against the women of Israel. Having policies that are favorable to men and not women makes the economy more focused on men more then the Israeli women. In marriage the government has the interest in the men since the wife has no right to divorce the husband and also giving the power in a marriage to the male figure. Since women that are married do not have the option of getting a divorce in a marriage it also gives her no option of getting out of bad relationship unless the husband agrees with her of getting one. Limiting the rights of Israeli women gives them even smaller chances in getting their voice heard about problems they might have or even speaking out on the inequality they might face. Marriage is an important event in Israeli society and the men have many obligations to fulfill after the marriage is final however, the women also have marital obligations that the Israeli society sees as the women’s duty to look after the domestic task of the relationship. Women are seen as the nurturers and the homemakers so the men are supposed to take care of the family by working and providing for the family but many Israeli women want education and have occupations where they can be seen as intelligent and power as men in the Israeli society.
There is still more changes the Israeli government is going through to make women’s rights in Israel much better and also have equal opportunity for the women of Israel. For many years the women of Israel have been making many efforts to change the way the Israeli parliament has treated women’s rights. Some efforts were successful such as the gender equality law that was established in the 40’s however, that was not enough was done because of the fact that the women of Israel are still experiencing inequality. Women in the Israeli parliament are making important changes to improve the Israeli government for the future women of the society. In the article Unequal occupational distribution of Women in Israel by Judith Agassi she states that “Most women in Israel are not equally represented in the nine branches of the government” (Agassi 884). Equal opportunity and equal representation for Israeli women are not shown in any of all of the branches of the Knesset so Israeli government has centered most of the society focusing on men issues.
In conclusion, the women in the country of Israel have always believed in equal opportunity like in the article by Hanna Herzog Gendering Politics: Women in Israel she states that “As anyone acquainted with the political history of women in Israel knows, there have always been women who believed in equal opportunity and took their fate in their hands, even if they do not define themselves as feminists.” (Herzog 85) .Inequality has been shown threw many aspects of Israeli society yet women are progressively attaining jobs in the parliament. Women in the Knesset play a major role shaping the Israeli government specifically in the domestic front such as violence against women. Israeli military high paying positions that were not open to Israeli women has been made available to them since spring of 2000. The Israeli Knesset still has a larger percentage of men then women and the women are still underrepresented in the Israeli parliament but despite the job opportunities and the unequal percentages between the men and women of Israeli women have been making some progress in Israeli society. Many Israeli women are now increasingly entering occupations that previously were not available to them.
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Agassi Buber, Judith. The Unequal Occupational Distribution of Women in Israel, Signs, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer, 1977), pp. 888-894. Published by The University of Chicago Press, April .24, 2008<http://www.jstor.org/stable/3173218>
Albeck, Plea. The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn, 1972), (pp. 693-715) American Society of Comparative Law ,The Status of Women in Israel April.25, 2008< http://www.jstor.org/stable/839037>
Gazzar, Brenda. Israeli Women Push to Change Knesset Politics. April.25 2008, http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2675/context/archive
Wilder, I. Esther. Gendering Politics: Women in Israel by Hanna Herzog, Gender and Society, Vol. 14, No. 5 (Oct., 2000), pp. 701-702, April 24 2008<http://www.jstor.org/stable/190458>
Herzog, Hanna Gendering Politics: Women in Israel. University of Michigan Press, 1999