March 21, 2019

MFA Acquires Three Pieces from HBI 2018 Artist, Tamar Paley

By Amy Powell

Tucked between the exodus of students at the end of the academic year and before the hum of the summer programs, May 23 started as a slow day. Things got considerably more interesting when curators from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts accompanied by Brandeis professors, visited HBI’s Kniznick Gallery Exhibit, Tamar Paley | A Fringe of Her Own: A Collection of Ritual Objects for Women.

That day kicked off a journey that saw the MFA’s acquisition of three pieces from the 28-year-old Paley’s collection in her first American exhibition, a notable accomplishment for an artist at any stage of her career. It was also a first for HBI, the host of 11 prior exhibits that showcased artists whose work represented HBI’s mission of fresh ideas about Jews and gender.

“The HBI exhibition has been an amazing career starting point, an experience that led to opportunities and growth that otherwise I probably would not have achieved this early in my professional life,” Paley said.

The timing, it turns out, was not a coincidence. Earlier that year, the MFA, in an effort to boost their Judaica collection, hired new curator from Israel, Simona Di Nepi, now the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Curator of Judaica. Di Nepi joined colleague, Marietta Cambareri, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture and Jetskalina H. Phillips Curator of Judaica.

The Exhibit

Paley, a jewelry artist who lives and works in Israel, focused on a complete reimagining of three basic Jewish ritual objects: tzitzit, tallit and tefillin, typically worn by men. Tefillin, traditionally seen as dark leather straps around the arms and head were transformed into sacred jewelry, beautiful silver cuffs, holding prayers that are meaningful to women and delicate necklaces that put the prayer close to the heart. With a growing need to provide a feminine interpretation of patriarchal religious practice, Paley’s work offered a reshaping of traditional patriarchal forms from using materials, text, and symbolism that acknowledge the physical and spiritual experiences of women in Judaism.

Di Nepi explained, “Contemporary Judaica is a key area of the MFA Judaica collecting plans. The fact that these Judaica objects are made by a young woman is significant in itself, as it shows that Jewish ceremonial art is not merely something of the past, but is actually occupying the minds and time of young artists.”  The MFA acquired A Sign Upon Your Hand arm bracelet, Hamavdil neckpiece and Between Sacred and Not pendant.  

Paley met with many students and public groups during the exhibit and found the process informative for her development. “These encounters challenged my opinions and what I thought I knew about my work and the subject matter. It is always so interesting to hear people’s interpretations of your work, and how it relates to the viewer.”

HBI selected Tamar Paley as the 2018 artist by a jury comprised of the directors of HBI, the Kniznick Gallery curator, Susan Metrican, and members of an Arts Advisory Board. Each fall, HBI accepts exhibition proposals through an open call that seeks work that speaks to HBI’s mission. The opportunity provides selected artists with a four-month exhibition at Brandeis University at the Kniznick Gallery, along with exhibition support, public programming, and an exhibition catalog.  

“We are thrilled to see MFA recognize this important art and the ways that it showcases HBI’s support of research and creativity at the intersection of Jewish studies and gender studies,” said Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, the Shulamit Reinharz Director of HBI.

HBI’s next exhibit, One Foot Planted | Ayelet Carmi & Meirav Heiman, opens Thursday, February 28. Through video works, it explores the impact that politics and conflict have on Israeli women in times of crisis. Both the ritual of processing the Israel Trail and counting the Omer become ungendered and labor-intensive sites of communication between bodies, land, machines, and the movement of time itself, explained Metrican.

Preparing and Delivering the Art

To prepare Paley’s art for delivery to the MFA, Metrican turned to the Brandeis archivists for assistance. Surella Seelig, Outreach and Special Projects Archivist, wrapped the work carefully, using special paper and boxes. Then, HBI delivered the work to the MFA’s basement staff entrance where we met with the appropriate staff who accepted the work. MFA staff explained that the work would be reviewed by experts in textiles, metals and other areas as it was accessioned.

In 2013 the MFA acquired the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Collection, a transformational gift of Judaica comprising 120 decorative and ritual objects. Now, the Museum’s holdings of Judaica feature pieces from the 18th through the 20th century from Europe, North Africa, Asia, Israel, and America — including metalwork, works on paper, textiles, ceramics, sculptures, and paintings. Schusterman also supported the gift of objects with funds for conservation, documentation, photography, and display.

Di Nepi noted that while Paley’s work is not yet on display “we are already using her collection for students’ visits and discussions about feminist Judaica,” including a recent visit from Brandeis students.

Ellen Smith, Director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program and professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, who toured with the curators, noted that “Di Nepi has a specific vision evolving for building the Judaica collection, and it’s exciting to see they are focusing on contemporary Jewish artists as well as more historic pieces.”

Jonathan Sarna, Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and University Professor, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, lauded the “highly important role Brandeis plays, through the Rose, HBI, and Schusterman, in introducing Israeli artists to the world.”

Amy Powell is the assistant director of HBI.

 

Advancing the Rabbinic Prescription for Transgender Health Care

By Rabbi Mike Moskowitz and Joshua D. Safer, MD, FACP

Doctors and Rabbis are asked a lot of questions; it’s a big part of the job. We certainly don’t have all of the answers and so we continue to listen, research, and expand our understanding of the issues.  And, we have our own questions to help us get closer to the information that shapes our responses to the people who are asking for guidance. There can be no contradiction between science and religion when they both manifest the truth of the Divine intention. The struggle for that knowledge, and its application, is an ongoing and humbling process.

However, there are still many in both the medical and the Jewish communities who don’t yet understand gender identity and transgender experiences. They insist: “It can’t be that G-d put someone in the wrong body. G-d doesn’t make mistakes. It’s sacrilegious to change the body that G-d gave you,” and so on. No one would say this about a heart defect, deviated septum, or inflamed appendix – in part because the Torah teaches us in this week’s portion: “ורפא ירפא ” and be healed. The Talmud explains that this is the scriptural permission given to physicians offering treatment to change something that G-d has created.

Similarly, the wicked Turnus Rufus asked of Rabbi Akiva: If your G-d is a lover of the poor, why then does G-d not provide for them? R’ Akiva argues that the inequality experienced by many in this world doesn’t exist for us to sustain, but rather for us to change. G-d presents inequality as an opportunity for us to be in partnership, to heal the divide and emulate the Divine by supporting others.

Turnus Rufus replies that by changing the differential that G-d constructed, we are going against the Divine will and angering G-d. In response, R’ Akivah shares an interesting parable: To what is this similar? It is analogous to a king who, angry with his child, confines them to prison and orders that no one give them anything to eat or drink. Someone then disobeys and provides for the child’s needs and when the king hears about it, the king sends the person gifts in thankful recognition. R’ Akivah continues: We are all that child to G-d. When we improve the lives of those who are suffering, it brings pleasure and joy to G-d.

G-d, as our parent, wants us to support each other and make sure that we are all provided for.

We demonstrate to G-d that we see ourselves as G-d’s children when we take care of humanity as we would our immediate family. As a society, we have a responsibility to meet the needs of all, including our transgender siblings. We must make resources available, including all of the resources of modern medicine, whenever needed. It is not only permitted to provide transgender medical procedures, but we are obligated to do so when necessary.

The author of the Code of Jewish Law puts an additional responsibility on doctors to be available to help those in need of their services. He writes (Bais Yosef Y.D. 336): Any doctor who is competent in practicing medicine is obligated to heal and if they hold themselves back from providing treatment, it is considered as if they are a murderer.

Physicians are obligated to learn the optimal treatments for their patients and to continually extend their knowledge in the hope of ever greater good. Indeed, the scientific mission of the medical community is to develop an increasing appreciation of the complexity of life over time which can then result in better care of fellow human beings.

For many decades, physicians erroneously believed that transgender people suffered from a mental health disorder which required a mental health treatment. Over the past decade or so, the medical community has grown to recognize that gender identity contains a substantial biological component which cannot be altered by externally. There are simply some individuals for whom one part of their biology –  their gender identity – is not aligned with another part of their biology – their visible anatomy.

Although the specific biology of gender identity remains an unknown, the current medical approach that is most successful and the standard of good medical care for transgender individuals is to customize treatment to align their visible bodies with their gender identities. Failure to appropriately treat a transgender individual who seeks medical help would be a violation of a physician’s professional oath.

Jewish Law expects that rabbis rely on the medical opinions of doctors in order to accurately render a response to medical questions. The commentaries are also sensitive to concerns that some Jewish patients might have regarding constantly evolving and new perspectives in the medical profession. The rabbis teach “Don’t say that since medicine is just a vocation one shouldn’t listen to medical advice because perhaps it will only make the situation worse. It is in response to this that the Torah permits and mandates us to follow the guidance of doctors. One who is punctilious with this is praiseworthy” (Aruch HaShulchan 336.1).

We, rabbis and doctors, must continue to ask questions so that we may better answer the questions we are asked. Some may find it challenging and unfamiliar to respond to new understandings about gender identity, transgender experiences, and treatments.  But, it is our obligation, as the field of transgender medicine progresses, to also advance the rabbinic prescription for quality transgender health care.

 Rabbi Mike Moskowitz is a Scholar-in-Residence inTrans and Queer Jewish Studies at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York. (Pronouns: He/Him)

 

 

 

 

Joshua D. Safer, MD, FACP is Executive Director, Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, Mount Sinai Health System and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

New York, NY

 

To learn more about God and Torah from a transgender perspective, join HBI on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. for a lecture and book talk by Joy Ladin. See details, here.

 

No Country for Love

By Tally Kritzman-Amir

Recently, the Israeli ministry of interior announced in Court that a ban on relationships between couples who are migrant workers has led to the deportation of dozens of migrants. This ban requires migrant workers to choose which partner will stay in Israel, as the other is forced to leave the country. Needless to say, in the context of the gender pay gap and gender role assignments in families, this will typically mean that women will leave Israel while the higher earning male partner, who also has more available time to work, remains in Israel.

But, it’s more onerous than that. The ban seems designed to purposely disrupt the family life of migrant workers in senseless and demeaning ways. The Israeli Ministry of Interior justifies these policies by arguing that families are more likely to settle down in Israel, and yet there is no path or possibility in Israeli immigration law for migrant workers, their foreign partners or children to naturalize. They are by definition temporary and liminal.

The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State (United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 1948). To most of us, there is nothing more sacred than our family. We go to great length to keep it together, and family unity is a value that we make sure we pass on to our kids. Families are important for individuals as a source of meaning, acculturation, identity, mutual support and unconditional love. But families are also important for states. States privatize roles to families, especially when it comes to protecting the vulnerable among them. Families are asked to provide for women in a market infested with gender pay gaps; families are required to assist children in their development, fulfillment of their rights and promotion of their best interests. Families are expected to take care of the elderly when they suffer from illness and old age. For these reasons and others, the right to family life has been widely acknowledged in several international human rights documents. States typically refrain from intervening within families, considering the family a private space and reserve such interventions only to rare cases of abuse towards the weaker members of the family, typically women and children.

What should draw our attention is the ease with which the Israeli society parts from the ideal of the sacredness of the family, and the commitment to the right of the family, when it comes to non-Jewish families. With families of migrants, we seem to deviate from this notion of the family, a deviation which perhaps hints that migrants are not perceived as full persons, but rather as a workforce. It appears as if the migrants, in states’ eyes, gave up their right to family life when they left their country of origin. The reality is, off course, very different. Migrants are as entitled to their right to family life as anyone else under international law. Since most migrants are between the ages of 20 to 40, it is to be expected that they will start families and have children. The gendered effects of these interventions in the families should draw our attention. As explained above, often these interventions impact the women more than the men. If Israel seeks to be a country that is committed to gender equality, it should refrain from such intervention in families, which anyhow serve no purpose from an immigration exclusion interest point of view.

We often see that the sacredness of the immigrant family is trumped by the interests of the sovereign state to limit migration to its territory. We all witnessed the manner by which the family transformed to be of secondary importance when the United States government applied a “zero tolerance” policy, detaining parents who entered the United States in an undocumented manner and separating them from their children.

This was also evident in Israel. A few years ago, the Israeli High Court of Justice decided a petition, which challenged a procedure as it was applied to migrant workers. According to that procedure, a migrant worker who gave birth to a child during the course of her employment in Israel needed to either return her baby on its own to her country of origin or return together with her baby, but could not stay in Israel with her child and work. Migrant workers who were wrongfully terminated on account of their pregnancy were not allowed to return to Israel to work for the remaining duration of their visas if they had left to give birth in their country of origin, until a migrants’ rights organization intervened. The Israeli High Court of Justice invalidated this procedure as it breached the right to family life of migrants. Unfortunately, this did not result in an outcome that upholds the right to family life. The procedure which followed was also problematic from the point of view of the right to family life.

This policy of preventing family life for migrant workers is a violation of human rights, but even more importantly – it is dehumanizing and unfair to the migrant workers who are such a large part of the Israeli society and economy. Israel should work towards acknowledging their humanity and the rights which derive from it, rather than merely seeing them as workers.

 

Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir is an Israel Institute Visiting Associate Professor, Harvard Department of Sociology, and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Law and Business, Israel. She is a 2018 GCRL Scholar-in-Residence at the HBI.

Building Bridges Across the Black and Jewish Communities

By Amy Powell

Sabrina Howard and Ariella Gentin both attended high school in the Bronx, N.Y. at schools approximately five miles away from each other.

It was not until they met at Brandeis that they had another surprising realization: Neither had ever sat in class through grade 12 with someone who looked like the other. Howard, who is Black, grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. and attended public schools, graduating from KAPPA (Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy) International High School in 2015. Gentin, who is white, grew up in nearby New Rochelle, N.Y. and attended private Jewish day schools, graduating from SARS Academy (Salanter Akiba Riverdale) in 2016.

Both say their inexperience with the other led them to Brandeis Bridges, a campus group started six years ago with the mission of creating a space for Black and Jewish students to have dialogue and build connections. The centerpiece of the Brandeis Bridges experience is an annual trip that includes visits to Black and Jewish sites. This year, the group will visit Morocco in February. They chose it to get a sense of the culture and history, but also to get away from the paradigms of U.S. race relations.

“We wanted to go where it might look different, where there will be a Jewish community that is not white. That’s a big impetus for us,” said Howard, a senior majoring in Health, Science, Society and Policy and Anthropology and minoring in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies. They will visit Casablanca’s famous Hassan II Mosque and the Jewish Heritage Museum, the only Jewish museum in the Arabic-speaking world. Other stops include the Koutoubia Mosque, the iconic sight of Marrakech, the Bahia Palace, a stunning example of traditional Moroccan architecture), the medersas or religious schools, the Jewish quarter, the Souk and more. The itinerary notes that “Morocco’s rich history includes a long period of Arab and Jewish communities accepting their differences and living and working together to bring success to their respective businesses.”

Last year, Gentin and Howard were part of a Bridges cohort that traveled to Chicago. There, they realized that experiencing each other’s culture and heritage could cause them to question their prior understandings. For example, Howard found herself completely unfamiliar with everything during a Shabbat dinner at a private home. She and the other Black students watched while the Jewish students seamlessly fit in even though they had also never met the hosts of the dinner.

The situation flipped when the group attended a Baptist service at a Black church. “That was a comfortable space for me, like being home, like my childhood of going to church with my mom and sisters. It’s a different vibe from synagogue because we are up talking, singing. It’s a lively and animated experience and it was interesting to see how other people reacted,” Howard said.

As the group debriefed after each experience, they struggled. Finding the language to “unpack everything we do” challenged Gentin, a sophomore majoring in politics and Near East and Judaic Studies. “This was a big transition for me in college generally and creating a space to talk about identity is why I made my way to Bridges.” Gentin found it challenging to “explain movements that are not fully egalitarian or not fully consistent with Western values without sounding like an evil person. I learned to adjust what I say about a movement I feel empowered in, that is my lifeline, in a way that is understandable to others.”

Howard agreed that it is hard to find a common language. “I’ve never been asked to explain. People around me knew, had same understandings. Trying to explain it to an outsider allowed me to grow in many different ways. You question yourself and what you know, where you got the information and how clear you are being. You have to develop language to explain to others. You want to avoid speaking for entire population of people, but you want to do the explanation justice while making clear it is your individual perception.”

Gentin, Howard and the 10 Bridges fellows will be joined by Allyson Livingstone, Ph.D, Brandeis’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Education, Training, and Development and Alex Kaye, the Karl, Harry, and Helen Stoll Assistant Professor of Israel Studies from the Near East and Judaic Studies Department. Livingstone noted that the experience Gentin and Howard had in high school is not so far from some experiences at Brandeis.

“These students are side by side, they are in parallel worlds and they are not connecting, but it’s not their fault. There are institutional processes that might not fit 2018 that prevent all of us from learning along with each other,” Livingstone said. “I keep hearing from faculty and students — we want to be able to talk to each other about things that make us different, that separate us, but we don’t know how.”

Livingstone said that we lack “explicit dialogic frameworks to have people engage in mutual learning without getting into argument, trying to convince someone of something else, or talking at people.”

That’s why both Livingstone and Kaye welcome the opportunity to learn from each other and from the students as they all strive to reach the important goal “building the community they seek,” Livingstone said.

Kaye joined because of his deep beliefs in the goals of the trip. “Today, perhaps more than ever, it is so important for us to be able to encounter and connect with people who may have different life experiences and ways of thinking. This process requires intellectual openness and emotional bravery. It is also exhilarating, edifying and fun,” Kaye said.

As they approach the February departure date, the group is raising money for the trip. HBI is one of the financial supporters because “it is a wonderful example of inter-religious and inter-racial dialogue led by students at Brandeis. HBI’s mission to support innovative thinking about Jews and gender seeks to support these opportunities to build understanding and to affirm the leadership of young women,” said HBI Director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe.

Kaye noted that, “Today, politics around antisemitism and structural racism in the United States, different ideologies pertaining to the State of Israel and Zionism, and varieties of identity politics more broadly, make it all the more important that we all get to know each other, learn from each other, and listen to each others’ perspectives and life experiences and ultimately collaborate in making a positive difference in contemporary society.”

Gentin noted that ahead of the trip, this year’s student cohort of nine women and one man seems a bit more comfortable than last year’s, maybe because gender is less of an issue.

Howard added, “We all have intersections of our identity and some are more visible and prominent than others.” Without gender being as much of an issue, they may be able to get comfortable more quickly and get to work on other identities, she said.

Ideally, they would prefer more perspectives in the group and hope to bring that in the future, they said.

“It can be emotional when we talk about lived experiences,” said Howard. “I was crying so much — even on the airplane. I didn’t know why I was so emotional, I didn’t have the words. I’m very connected to my identity as a Black woman and as a Black woman, I navigate through this world very differently than people around me.”

Livingstone said the trip fits into her role of helping to support dialogue that makes the Brandeis experience better for everyone involved. She summarized by saying,  “I need you and you need me for this to be a better place. I need to know about your perspective, your life, where you struggle, your strengths to build a really strong community. Then, hopefully we go forth in other social networks and share the experiences.”

Donors can support Brandeis Bridges by clicking here and specifying “Brandeis Bridges” in the text box.

Amy Powell

Amy Powell is the assistant director of HBI.

Speaking Up Against Femicide in Israel

By Tally Kritzman-Amir

Today, Dec. 4, women in Israel are taking to the streets to protest the unprecedented violence against women this year. The Women’s Strike, a bottom-up and spontaneous initiative, has roots in similar protests over the years all over the U.S., Europe and Latin America. These are over issues regarding sexual abuse and harassment such as the #MeToo movement that is sweeping the world and issues of gender wage disparities, access to abortion or the general policy towards women.

The tipping point for this action stems from the murders of two young women. On Monday Nov. 26, the remains of the body of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub were found in a trash bin in the Palestinian village of Jish in the North of Israel. Several hours later, in the South of Tel Aviv, a 13-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker, Silvana Tsegai, was found murdered at her home with signs of violence on her body.

The two girls did not know each-other and had little in common, but the few characteristics they shared are very much related to their almost simultaneous death. They were both suspected to have been murdered by men they knew. They both belonged to disempowered minority groups – Ayoub as a Palestinian National and Tsegai as an Eritrean asylum seeker. Despite the fact that Ayoub was a citizen of Israel and a part of an indigenous minority group, and that Tsegai was an undocumented black asylum seeker, both existed in a liminal sphere, in the margins of the Israeli society, where they were subjected to double subordination – as women and as members of a disempowered minority.

 As members of disempowered minority groups they were less likely to receive any assistance from the authorities. Perhaps the most striking evidence to this is the fact that Tsegai had repeatedly complained about being subjected to violence by her alleged murderer, her mother’s former partner, but had not received protection, according to an account in Haaretz.  Since Tsegai was an asylum seeker and not a citizen or resident, she was not eligible for access to social services, which are not extended to undocumented persons in Israel.

In addition, Ayoub and Tsegai belonged to distressed groups. Asylum seekers are often traumatized from the occurrences they endured in their country of origin and their experiences en-route to their country of asylum. In Israel they find themselves lacking any formal status or any stable protection, living in abject poverty, with no job security and with a feeling of constant threat. Much like them, Palestinians in Israel are marginalized and discriminated against (in structural forms of discrimination as well as spontaneous forms), and often also live in poverty, with limited access to education or the job market.

Credit: Elana Sztokman

Femicide and Violence Against Women on the Rise as Restrictions to Gun Access Are Relaxed

Ayoub and Tsegai are far from the only victims of femicide in Israel in 2018. The past year marked a dramatic increase in femicide, from the already-too-high number of 17 in 2017 to a shocking number of 24 in 2018, with a month until the year ends, according to a report published by WIZO, (Women International Zionist Organization), on November 25, just one day before the bodies of Yara and Silvana were found. The same report highlights the following findings:

  • In the past decade, 192 women have been murdered in Israel
  • About half of the women murdered in the past two years had filed complaints with the police
  • More than 13,000 women have been treated for abuse in battered women’s centers across Israel
  • In total, 200,000 battered women live in Israel along with a half a million children who witnessed their abuse
  • The police open an average of 50 domestic violence cases each day.

This data indicates a troubling situation, especially if we consider the general problem of underreporting, often the case regarding violence against women.

Several women’s rights groups voiced concern that a plan recently pushed forward by Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan to relax the country’s restrictions on gun licenses will exacerbate the problem. This policy is especially concerning in light of the fact that since 2002, the off-duty arms of private security firms have taken at least 33 innocent lives in Israel as documented by Isha.org.  A coalition of women’s rights organization filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice, challenging the legality of this policy.

Not only has the current government pushed forth a policy that might put women’s lives in danger, but also refrained from implementing the protective policy from an interministerial committee whose recommendations were approved in 2017 by the cabinet.  Though the recommendations were endorsed, they were not funded or implemented. A recent initiative led by the opposition parties to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry on the issue of violence against women was not supported by the Coalition. After massive public condemnation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to initiate yet another ministerial committee to look into the matter, ironically led by Erdan. The issue of femicide has turned divisive, voted on along party lines. The government does not seem sufficiently committed to do anything substantive to prevent the victimization of additional women.

Femicide and the Double Standard on Women’s Rights and Agency

This recent increase in femicide should also be considered in the context of dramatic changes in the prevalence of women’s rights in Israel. While Israel is committed to gender equality in its Proclamation of Independence, and in a long series of laws, gender equality has not been reached. There are several structural barriers to obtaining gender equality in Israel. Two examples include the jurisdiction of religious courts over issues of marriage and divorce and that equality is not an explicit constitutional principle. The Israeli legal system has two basic laws covering human rights issues: Basic Law Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) and Freedom of Occupation (1992, amended in 1994) make up the human rights charter in Israeli constitutional law. Both do not include an explicit reference to the idea of equality in general, or gender equality in particular.

Credit: Elana Sztokman

These structural barriers to gender equality translate to the daily experiences of Israeli women. Just last week, the Israeli High Court of Justice upheld a Rabbinical Court decision denying property rights of a woman over the joint apartment where she had lived for decades because she committed adultery. A few days later, the Israeli Council on Higher Education approved a plan to hold separate campuses for men and women, allegedly in order to meet the demands of Ultra-orthodox men, who would not agree to study alongside women, or from women professors. The overall trend, referenced in a Haaretz editorial, is even more concerning as segregation and marginalization of women becomes more widespread in academia and public schools, public office, public space, and in family life. It conveys a message which is received loud and clear by the perpetrators of femicide: a message about the inferiority of women to men, the lack of actual commitment to women’s rights and liberties, and the vulnerability of women in absence of meaningful protections from the state.

The Response of the Civil Society

Today many employers, including municipalities, major corporations, and civil society organization announced their support of the strike. While this support of corporations is impressive, it should also be understood as an attempt of various employers to gain legitimacy by supporting this cause and co-opting the struggle.

While it remains to be seen what impact the strike will actually have on the fight against femicide or the broader battle for women’s rights in Israel, it represents an impressive effort to fight back to preserve and regain women’s rights. Today, take a moment to think about Yara Ayoub and Silvana Tsegai, and the other victims of femicide, who received no state support for their attempt to navigate the harsh reality of their violent lives.

 

Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir is an Israel Institute Visiting Associate Professor, Harvard Department of Sociology, and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Law and Business, Israel. She is a 2018 GCRL Scholar-in-Residence at the HBI.

 

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