Women in Israel


Women in the Workforce

In Israel, approximately 50% of women participate in the workforce, as opposed to 62% of men, However, for the Israeli Arab population, severe unemployment is a major issue for women only 22% of Arab women work. Women residing in peripheral regions and middle-aged women aged 45-64 suffer from low unemployment as well. Women also face a large salary gap.  The salary discrepancies between male and female workers are approximately 25% in public sector and 35% in the private sector. However, women’s rights in regards to pregnancy and birth are far from ignored.

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Women in politics

In Israel, the representation of women in the Knesset, the government, and municipal authorities is very low in comparison with other democracies. Although it passed the 10% barrier in 2000, the maximum representation of female members in the Knesset was 18%. Israel is ranked 100th place among the nations of the world, falling far behind European, South American, Asian, and African countries. Aside from having a woman Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in the 1970s, Israel is still far behind its competing countries in the progression of women in government. It is important to note that Meir while breaking the barrier for Israeli women, was an exception and did not advance a feminist agenda as Prime Minister.

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Women in the IDF

The patriarchal worldview views men as fighters and nurturers. Women’s movements have called this “social order” into question, with two main objectives:

  • On one hand, the feminist movement generally opposes war and militarism, and instead emphasizes values of humanism, finding common ground, and mediation.
  • On the other hand, women have claimed that as long as countries have militaries, service should be open to women as well to ensure equality and to refine the behaviour of combatants in training and in battle.

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Israel is the only country in the world with compulsory military service for all men and women when they reach the age of 18, or complete their studies. Men serve 36 months and women serve 20 months. The 1986 Defense Service Law establishes that religious women are exempt from military service. Those who wish may enlist in the National Service, where they are active in community service. In 1995, Alice Miller, together with the Women’s Lobby and women Knesset members, led a campaign against the IDF over her right to join flight training. The IDF argued that women were physically incompatible for the flight course and that the State would have to shoulder a large cost to adapt the program for women. The High Court of Justice ruled that the principle of equality, which comprises one of the state’s cardinal values, justifies and demands the financial investment since 1995, the flight course, and in its wake, the Shayetet Naval Special Force Unit now enlists women. In 2000, a law was passed requiring the IDF to open combat service roles to thousands of women.

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Achievements in the Advancements of Women in Israel

  1. The entry of women into the labour market broadening their importance in all sectors
  2. Israel’s legislation is amongst the world’s most progressive, raising awareness, oversight, and institutionalizing supervision
  3. Providing greater protection to women by intensifying the struggles against violence towards women, sexual harassment, and the trafficking of women
  4. Strengthening the voice of women in social-cultural formation; women in literature, the media, religion, peace, and war
  5. Approaching equality in the number of students in higher education, including doctoral students, and instituting Gender Studies
  6. Advancement of sexual equality in the military; this constitutes the jumping-off point for women into their civilian lives
  7. Supreme Court rulings on representations of women in religious councils, a flexible retirement age for working women, affirmative action and others precedents that have expanded women’s rights

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Until next time…

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