On July 24, the Knesset voted to pass the first of several controversial proposed judicial reform laws that weaken Israel’s High Court. In the absence of a constitution Israel’s High Court is the only check on the governing coalition’ power – and an entity that the organizations that the Hadassah Foundation supports have long seen as a critical ally in promoting gender equality.
Many American Jewish organizations, including our partner, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, are speaking out against this legislation, which is opposed by 66 percent of Israelis.
At the same time, the Israeli government (which has a record low number of women in leadership positions) is taking additional actions that will harm women, including:
- Dismantling the nonpartisan government agency, the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women, which had been collaborating with a number of our grantees, including the Adva Center, on key projects
- Giving more power to all-male rabbinical courts to determine various aspects of family law
- Increasing gender segregation in public spaces
These actions turn a political conversation into one that is based in the necessity of democracy and gender equity. Mazal Shaul, CEO of our Visionary Partner grantee We Power, which aims to increase the number and influence of women in government positions, made the focus of gender equity clear during a webinar last week when she said, “This is not a right or left issue. It’s about women’s rights and how we are going to protect them.”
Across the board, leaders of the organizations we support in Israel are sharing that the new challenges are not deterring them but are instead fueling their determination to fight for gender equity. “Gender awareness has never been so strong .I hope we are reaching the bottom of this and that we have the strength to shift this country to a better trajectory,” Elah Alkalay, Chair of Israel Women’s Network, told us. (Click here for more of what we’re hearing from our grantees.)
Amid the historical setbacks and turbulence in Israel’s government, our Israeli grantee organizations are determined to keep fighting for gender equity. The Hadassah Foundation’s almost 25 years of grantmaking has helped cultivate and grow a vibrant community of women’s leadership in Israel, people and organizations advocating for better laws, speaking up about threats to women and girls, and mobilizing diverse communities.
- Recording of webinar hosted by our friends at Elluminate (formerly the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York), featuring Hadassah Foundation grantees WePower and Itach Ma’aki, as well as Forum Dvorah member Shanie Reichman)
- ‘It’s Already Happening’: Ex-Gender Equality Minister Says Women’s Rights Under Attack (Times of Israel)
- Women Will Be the Biggest Victims of Israel’s Judicial Reforms (Foreign Policy)
- Opinion: Israel’s Government Has Declared a War on Women (Haaretz)
- Government Excludes Women from Mechanisms of Governance, Data Shows (Ynet) [quotes Hadassah Foundation grantee Forum Devorah]
What Some of Our Israel Grantees Are Saying
“We’re troubled by how this legislation could affect our community, our ability to promote gender equality, and the status of women in Israel. However, we’re committed more than ever to our cause and certain that, with the help of our partners, we can protect past achievements and strategically build our ability to promote women in foreign policy and national security, and more broadly impact Israel’s future for the better.”
“We are focusing in particular on the potential adverse effects of the overhaul on women from marginalized backgrounds like the Haredi and Bedouin community, and women living in economic precariousness. The current political crisis illustrates more than ever, the importance of bringing women’s voices to the center of Israeli public discourse, and the need for collective feminist action in response to deeply harmful government policy.” —
“We feel that the situation makes our work even for important for women of all populations, and we hope to continue helping women become more and more economically independent with your support.”
“What you do in the U.S. and by supporting organizations acting in Israel is just as important as us protesting in the middle of the street with flags in our hand. This is a group effort with multiple fronts.As we all know, it’s impossible to kill Israeli chutzpah. We lost a battle, but we will win the war.”